The Good, Bad and Ugly as Villa Miss Huge Boxing Day Opportunity


What is certain, though, is that we need some cutting edge if we are to build on the last two games. Ayew has scored five of Villa’s last seven goals in the Premier League, but the side badly needs Gestede and some of the midfield to start contributing in front of the net. Gestede showed more in the way of linking up with his teammates on Saturday than we have come to expect from him, but he continues to fluff his lines in front of goal – if he could start getting on the scoresheet more regularly alongside Ayew, Villa would have something to build upon.

The game has been described as an even contest by some media outlets, but in fact, apart from West Ham’s good spell in the closing minutes of the first half, Villa always looked the more likely to take control of the game. As has happened so often this season, however, we threw away our positive intent by switching off in defence at a crucial point.

The team looked as though they were already in the dressing room for half-time when Cheikhou Kouyate flicked a header onto the crossbar, and the visitors’ left-back Aaron Cresswell was allowed far too much space to run at a retreating Alan Hutton and fire home seconds before the whistle.

As in recent weeks, Villa’s bench was packed full of attacking-minded players the like of which you would want to see on the field with your side dominating but struggling to break down the opposition’s defence. Carles Gil, Adama Traore, Scott Sinclair and Jack Grealish were all there to be called upon. Gil did come on in 38th minute for the injured Carlos Sanchez, but that change coincided almost exactly with the pendulum swinging in West Ham’s favour, and Remi Garde was likely wary of taking another central midfielder off in a push for three points.


Adama Traore was again given a late cameo as Garde made just one more change in the 83rd minute. The former Barcelona winger was, just as in defeat to Arsenal in the last home game, given a rapturous welcome, and every time Villa had the ball the Holte End screamed for whoever was in possession to pass it to the winger, even when a patient attack was being launched on the other side of the pitch.

There is a cautionary tale here: nothing good comes of overhyping such a young player so early in the career (has anyone heard from Jack Grealish in the last couple of months?), and though the 19-year-old should undoubtedly be getting more time on the pitch, you can almost feel his head starting to inflate with every hero’s welcome he receives.


The most frustrating part about this latest failure to win was the fact that West Ham were absolutely there for the taking. With a bit more quality in the final third we would have taken a bigger step towards building some momentum, and would be within touching distance of overtaking Sunderland at the bottom.

Going unbeaten in our last two is undoubtedly progress of sorts but we are now midway through the run of four games during which we desperately needed to get the ball rolling with at least a victory or two. We drew at Newcastle when we could – no, should – have won, and Boxing Day was another huge opportunity.

If we don’t beat Norwich and Sunderland – certainly if we don’t beat Norwich or Sunderland – and we find ourselves as far or further adrift in a week’s time, I would suggest that it may be time to start planning for life in the Championship during the January transfer window rather than breaking the bank to attempt to overcome a double-figures points deficit.

This is not pessimism, it is realism – simple acknowledgement of the serious, desperate situation that the club is in. At the end of the last of these columns was a call for the Villa players to realise what needs to be done and fight. To their credit, they have done that – now, they must continue to do that but also take the chances that will surely come in the next few weeks. A couple of wins and we’re right back in it; no wins, and the curtain may be falling.


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