All is not lost, but Aston Villa was second best to Chelsea yesterday, however; we have still closed the gap over our relegation rivals. The result against Chelsea is not the most important thing. Our performances relative to the relegation teams around us is the most important thing. Yes, the result yesterday was disappointing, and particularly so having taken the lead but all is not lost (yet).
Many will argue that yesterday was a must-win game, I understand why people say this, but I tend not to agree with it. Why must we win? Is the objective not to finish 17th and avoid relegation? Looking at our results objectively, since the restart it is clear that we have improved our position. Yes, we need to continue to do this, and yes, a win yesterday would have made survival a whole of more comfortable. But, we need to remember that we are participating in an 8 game race and not a 1 game sprint.
Aston Villa offered a lifeline
Luckily though, Aston Villa has been thrown a lifeline in our bid to avoid relegation. As we all know, to survive in the Premier League, we only need to finish ahead of 3 other teams. If Premier League survival was based solely on our individual performances, then I would concede to life in the Championship next season.
However, in a race to the bottom, Norwich, Bournemouth and West Ham are playing their part and are leading the way. They and doing us a favour by trying their best to be relegated. All three were awful on Saturday, each looking like relegation fodder, and this is why I believe all is not lost for Aston Villa. Villa can avoid relegation if we continue in this vein of just doing better than these teams. Ideally, we would have loftier objectives, but if we are realistic about our situation, then we need to be realistic about how to avoid relegation too.
A disappointing performance
Unfortunately, Aston Villa was without question the second-best team yesterday and yet again losing a game we took the lead in. This was horrible, and we need to learn from it. Our football, at least our attacking football, was not good enough. Villa was second best, and Chelsea was clearly the better team, and the final result looked inevitable.
Should we sack Dean Smith?
If I asked every Villa fan if we should sack Dean Smith, I expect everyone will have an answer. And ‘Sack Dean Smith Now’ may be a popular response from our fans. Is it really the right time to be changing our manager now? If we sack Smith now what are our options?. By appointing a manager like Mauricio Pochettino it would be progressive, but right now that appears to be unrealistic. Furthermore, maintaining continuity teamwork is vital as we still have 8 games to play this season. Our position has improved relative to our 3 relegation rivals, and we need to build on this.
Second best, but Smith getting something right
Having watched both the Sheffield United and Chelsea games, it does look like we are showing improvement compared to before lockdown. I feel our defence is improving, and so too is our discipline and our ability to keep our shape. A result of this improvement is that we no longer looked like rabbits caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. It is for this reason, I believe all is not lost, and therefore Aston Villa can survive. Douglas Luiz is a prime example, back helping Konsa in the Sheffield game and then again defending against Chelsea too. Plus the added bonus of a beautifully weighted pass for Hause’s goal.
The attacking side of our game could be much better, and against Sheffield and Chelsea, we did not do enough. Davis had a job to hold the ball up, we failed to let him do his job as we simply didn’t get the ball to him enough. If Davis had more time with the ball, he would be gifting more time and a little more space to our midfield. If we did this, then it would also take a bit of the pressure off our defenders by giving them a bit more time. To avoid relegation this season, we need to improve these aspects of the game.
Where do we go from here?
The games are coming thick and fast, next up is a trip to Steve Bruce’s Newcastle on Wednesday night. Without doubt, completing the double over Newcastle and taking the 3 points will move Villa out of the relegation zone. This will also be a game Smith has targetted. I understand and appreciate that many fans will be dejected. Many fans will want to throw in the towel. And no doubt many fans will call for a kneejerk reaction in the form of sacking Smith. Relegation for Aston Villa can be avoided, but we must focus on the objective of finishing ahead of three others and not be trying to play like Barcelona (or even Palace for that matter).