The Good, Bad and Ugly of the Last Day of the Season
If the nerves, build-up and celebrations for finishing seventh and qualifying for the Europa Conference League are as good as those seen on the last day of the season at Villa Park, then just imagine the levels they could reach in the future.
The feeling before the final game of the season was that Villa were in a win-win situation. If they beat Brighton, European football would have been secured despite the unlikely start. On the other hand, if they lost, Villa would have a clear run at the Premier League next season.
However, something changed in the minds of Villa fans during the course of the final day.
Perhaps it was the competitive nature of Brighton, the desire to finish above Tottenham Hotspur, or the sudden threat of a 9th-place finish due to Brentford. Almost without warning, the final game became a very significant event for everyone involved.
It was a day that showcased why NSWE bought Aston Villa when the club were at their lowest. It was the first glimpse of the potential realised after their investments. This is the kind of potential Randy Lerner never got to witness, despite finishing one position higher.
Lerner’s Villa made big investments and twice found themselves in a promising position under Martin O’Neill, only to falter and finish in sixth place. Then it was Champions League or bust, and that later scenario almost happened, after he sold up.
Emery’s Villa has ended the season like the Delorean from “Back to The Future,” leaving fire trails behind them. The question now is, where will this future take them?
The Really Good
The match against Brighton wasn’t a dead rubber by any means.
Brighton aren’t stupid, as well as being one of the best teams in the league since upgrading their manager, they will realise Aston Villa are a rival moving forward.
If Brighton could’ve denied Villa, they would have set a marker down for the seasons to follow.
Instead, it is Aston Villa who have done the double over Brighton.
The squad, staff and fans have that mentality for next season.
Villan of the Week – Ashley Young
Even though he didn’t play, it’s the last chance to salute Ashley Young, as it was announced that Villa would not be offering him another contract extension.
Young has been a complete success in his second spell at Aston Villa and should leave with everyone’s thanks.
It takes a monumental effort to maintain the level of fitness and performance that Young demonstrated at his age this season.
Despite my personal feeling that he deserved another year, perhaps it’s best that he leaves on top rather than fading out through age or lack of minutes.
Check out the Villa End of Season Sale Below
Aston Villa has finished ahead of two teams, Chelsea and Spurs, who attempted to break away and form the European Super League.
They have reached the level where the club sets benchmarks for wages, and unfortunately, it is also where they will set benchmarks for ticket prices in the future.
While success on the pitch is certainly welcomed, there are downsides to being at a higher level, such as increased media coverage and transfer speculation.
A prime example is Marco Asensio. Despite being a very talented player and a multiple European Cup winner, the mere rumor of Villa’s interest in him was hyped and exaggerated.
The truth is that Villa could potentially be used by agents to negotiate better deals elsewhere (and by the football media for clicks). It’s as simple as having a Spanish manager, a Spanish player out of contract, and an ambitious Aston Villa.
It would be negligent if Villa and Unai Emery didn’t try to acquire players they believe will take the club to the next level, but they will be aware that they could be manipulated to secure better offers for players elsewhere.
Approach this transfer window with caution until things are confirmed, regardless of how tempting it is to dream about rumored players and spend hours consuming online content based on random tweets.
A few weeks ago, the Ugly column was dedicated to Jurgen Klopp’s reaction to the referees after the Liverpool vs Spurs game.
At the time, there was sympathy for Klopp but the fact he had reacted in an aggressive and abusive way worked against his complaints about the standard of refereeing in the Premier League.
Now we have this same scenario taken to extremes after the Europa League Final. The PGMOL’s Anthony Taylor and his team of officials were in charge of a controversial game.
In the match, a neutral could say that the decisions favoured Sevilla, who won on penalties against Roma.
There was no excuse for the abuse that Taylor suffered the next day, while in the airport with his family, but there needs to be questions asked of UEFA.
If a match has been controversial, there needs to be some kind of protocol that allows referees to safely travel separately from fans who will naturally feel aggrieved at decisions that were made in matches due to the aloof and blameless refereeing.
In many amateur leagues, referees are kept as separate from players and fans for this exact reason, you would expect that the top level would have better protection in place.
Without any transparency in the VAR process, or explanation of decisions made, fans will continue to view every decision as a personal slight against their team.
The issue moving forward is that an ugly incident such as this can set back necessary improvements and critique of referees, and the standard of Premier League refereeing as a whole.
Follow Phil on Twitter here – @prsgame