The Good, Bad and Ugly as Garde sees Size of Villa Task

This is now statistically the worst start to a season in Villa’s 141-year history with four points from a possible 33.


Talking of despairing over team selection, MacDonald’s lineup was one of the most uninspiring we have seen in the dreadful last few years at Villa. I genuinely think that our seven-man bench would have beaten the starting XI.

How on earth it can be seen as justifiable to play Kieran Richardson at left-back is beyond me, particularly when you have Jordan Amavi on the bench. Amavi may not be the best full-back in the world, but he has the distinct advantage of competence. Richardson’s complete lack of positional sense had a big hand in the Swansea winner last weekend, and it allowed Spurs in down the right flank on multiple occasions on Monday, highlighted by their third goal in injury-time.

Despite an impressive 10-minute spell or so late on, Bacuna was utterly lost in central midfield on account of, you know, not being a central midfielder, whilst playing Ciaran Clark at right centre-back was a huge mistake, even when you take into consideration the late announcement of Micah Richards’ immediate one-match suspension. However, as so often in recent years, the majority of talk on team selection has to be devoted to one player in particular.

Recent Villa managers’ perseverance in picking Gabriel Agbonlahor’s in their side really does continue to boggle the mind. His eight touches in the first half, two of which were from kick-offs, led to even the Sky Sports Monday Night Football panel laughing at his lack of impact before he was hauled off at the break. MacDonald claimed after the match that the poor showing was because the ‘attacker’ (loosely defined, in this case) was playing with an injured calf. What?

First of all, why? If you have Ayew, Gil etc on the bench you shouldn’t be picking a fully-fit Agbonlahor, let alone an injured one. Secondly, I seriously doubt that Gabby being injured makes his performances any worse – I’m sorry to say it, but he could play on two broken legs and carry just as much goal threat.

The decision to play him was made worse by the fact that MacDonald then went on to reveal that he left the uninjured Idrissa Gana out of his squad because the midfielder ‘looked tired’… Alright Kevin, thanks for coming. Agbonlahor may be our record Premier League goalscorer (something which is faintly embarrassing in itself, considering the quality of strikers that we have had at the club at times in the last two decades), but he has outstayed his welcome in the starting XI for about five years, and hopefully Garde will finally be the man in the dugout to realise it.


As soon as you saw the team selection you knew that Villa were going to struggle to keep the score down, let alone get a result, and we got off to the worst possible start after little more than two minutes. Ciaran Clark’s attempt to win the ball off Moussa Dembele was like watching a Year 7 kid try to tackle a sixth-form rugby player, and in allowing the Belgian to drive his shot between his legs Brad Guzan gave Dembele pretty much his only chance of scoring from such a tight angle.

Clark was culpable alongside his partner in the centre of ‘defence’ (again, I’m being liberal with these definitions) Joleon Lescott for Spurs’ second goal too, the pair showing a complete lack of positional awareness in the penalty area as the ball fell to Dele Alli to take a touch, pull up his socks, wave to his mates in the crowd, and then fire home.


It was only due to the incredibly pedestrian pace of Spurs’ performance that Villa did not take a battering, but nevertheless, this is now statistically the worst start to a season in Villa’s 141-year history with four points from a possible 33. Not only that, Villa are currently on the longest losing streak in any of Europe’s top five leagues after their a seventh defeat (not including the League Cup exit to Southampton) on the bounce.

Garde has got a monumental job on his hands, make no mistake about that. Not only does he need to bed himself in and find his best team (some help: it includes Gil), but Villa do not face a team who are currently lower than 11th place in the table until 19th December.

However, Villa are only four points off escaping from the relegation zone, and if he starts by dropping players such as Agbonlahor and Richardson, restoring Ayew and Jordan Amavi to the side and giving outcasts such as Gil and Jordan Veretout a chance of a run of games, there is the possibility to pick up some crucial points and start slowly building some much-needed momentum ahead of the festive period.

Follow Tom on Twitter at @tdnightingale

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  1. In Gabby’s defence – he has been virtually the only constant in the last six seasons. How would your morale and motivation be after seeing this clownstick up close and personal allthe way through? Being Villa and all ? O’Neill ruined him by insisting he bulk up – he has gradually lost fitness ever since. Needs to go on the Adkins or something and have a rest for a month or two. We may need him after January.

    • I agree that bulking up was Gabby’s undoing but there are 2 ways of doing it and Gabby chose the wrong one by going to a muscle gym and piling on the pounds when in fact he should have followed the route used by athletes & male Ballet dancers who need muscle strength but not the excess weight
      But Gabby is club Captain and has been fighting hard to keep the dressing room focused , but like a peace time general he’s not very good leading the team into battle

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