That's it. That's all it took. I should explain. I have a DVR, which is increasingly a necessity in modern life. Particularly the part of modern life in which European football matches take place at tremendously inconvenient times for people like me, who live on the other side of the Atlantic. Of course, as you know, a DVR will record television for you while you're at work, so you don't have to conspicuously hunt down a dodgy feed to catch your favourite club facing off against a depleted Liverpool side. For that, I am incredibly thankful.Because I have a DVR, I watched fifteen minutes and fifty-five seconds of Liverpool's comfortable 3-0 defeat of Aston Villa. I'd seen all I needed to see. Stephen Ireland's interest in the match had long since ended. Our defence had made stupid mistakes and cost us two goals. Our plan of attack, if any existed, seem to involve aimless crosses and Gabriel Agbonlahor trying way too hard to make something happen without anyone's help. And then I hit fast-forward. Because this is what Villa does now. I can say pretty confidently that this is the worst I've ever seen Villa play, and yet it was completely unsurprising. Nothing's changing.
The kids were awful. Usually, that's the one thing we can cling to after Villa lays down for another beatable opponent. But none of them were any good against Liverpool. Albrighton can run and run, but Paul Konchesky - exemplar of defensive mediocrity, who handed Tottenham a win last week - manhandled little Marc. Ciaran Clark was completely anonymous, and I've yet to see Jonathan Hogg play well. Kirsten's Scottish Prince was notable by his absence, but I don't think "Barry Bannan" isn't the answer to any of Villa's questions.
Perhaps even more distressingly, Ashley Young isn't the answer either. For me, he has been one of Villa's biggest disappointments this season. Not because he's been especially bad, because I don't think he has. But he's the best we've got, and he's not making a difference. And let's face it now, he might be gone in a month. He has worked his ass off for Villa (he led the club in appearances last year with 50, which is insane*), and gotten precious little in return. Could you blame him if he thought "screw this, I'd rather not spend my prime putting a mediocre club with no aspirations on my back. I could go play for Liverpool with Gerrard and Torres, who will make me look a hell of a lot better than Stephen Ireland and Robert Pires." Young is at least the equal of Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott, who play with much better players, and don't have to start all the time, and still are generally considered to be better than him. Can you imagine how frustrating that must be?
The worst thing about all of this is the absence of a real "bad guy." I'm seeing some Villa blogs calling for Houllier's head, but doing that would make me just as bad as those Liverpool fans who called for Roy Hodgson's head and those Newcastle fans who got Chris Hughton sacked (wait - I seem to have mistaken the people who run Newcastle United for Newcastle supporters. My mistake.) I'm reserving judgment on Randy Lerner until after the transfer window, but every time I hear his name, I remember that he owns the Cleveland Browns. So who's left? I don't hate James Milner, because he did all he could for us, and probably saw this coming from a mile away. Hell, at least Manchester City is doing something. At least they're trying, even if it is in a manner that most football fans find distasteful. I'd hate Martin O'Neill, because what he did was genuinely classless and awful, but by all accounts he has gone underground or possibly even died. I genuinely don't know. Give me something to blame, Villans. Give me something to be mad about. Or at least a reason to care.
*It's worth mentioning that the two people behind Ashley Young on Aston Villa's 2009-10 appearances list are, in their own ways, no longer playing for Villa: James Milner and Carlos Cuellar.