This isn't going to be as incisive or as detailed as your traditional Aaron-style post-match recap. That'll come tomorrow. But, in the meantime, I thought we all might like a place to grieve after what was, unquestionably, one of the worst Aston Villa performances of the season. Going into Saturday's tilt at Emirates, I think we all probably expected Villa to lose to Arsenal. After all, the home side have been on their best form all season and Aston Villa have been... well, Aston Villa.
But I can't imagine many of us expected what we saw. Remember that the last time Villa were on the pitch--almost literally the last seconds--Andrea Weimann was crawling to the goal like a mad-man to give Villa a win against Fulham in the closing seconds of that match. Sure, it had been two weeks, but I was confident that the team could parlay the momentum into some good play this weekend.
But then the squad was announced. Ignoring the good results that had come with Gary Gardner and Andreas Weimann in the lineup, Alex McLeish started both of them on the bench. In their stead, he chose to play Emile "I Haven't Made a Positive Contribution Since Before 7500 to Holte Began" Heskey. Additionally, we found out that Charles N'Zogbia hadn't made the trip to London due to injury. If you believe the injury, I've got some oceanfront property in Wyoming I'd like to sell you.There was also the depression stemming from the falseness of rumors that Enda Stevens would be on the bench today. I'm dying to get a chance to see our young player, and there seemed to be hope we might. Alas, it was not to be, though we did get a glimpse of Samir Carruthers.
And once play began, things went downhill quickly. Arsenal had the run of play entirely in their favor, except for a couple of Marc Albrighton counters. The fact that I said "Marc Albrighton" and not "Aston Villa" is not a coincidence. I can remember at least two times where the speedy youngster got down the field only to find that the rest of the squad were watching him from afar, presumably offering encouragement, but not much else.
It wasn't just a poorly executed counter-attack that was frustrating today, though. It was everything. Many people might say that the defense leaked like a sieve, but that's only true if you think of a sieve as merely tying a string across the bottom of a tube. Shay Given looked terrible at least twice, which is totally outside of his nature. I saw one person on twitter argue that we ought to waste a sub on Guzan, and though I didn't entirely agree, it wasn't the worst idea ever.
The upsetting thing is that there was almost nothing good to take from the match. If Villa are going to lose--and it seemed obvious that they were--why not run out a young squad? Why not let Weimann, Gardner, and Eric Lichaj (who also came in) start, and perhaps use Carruthers and Stevens off the bench? It doesn't feel like Villa really have to fear relegation anymore, and there are a few matches we should all probably expect to lose. Let's make something of those! Run out a young squad. Let them know "don't worry if you lose, we're just trying to let you see what it's like at the highest level." You don't want to crush their spirit, but that should be easy to avoid.
I'd be interested to hear what you think in the comments. From my view, it was unacceptable, maddening, and downright sad to see Villa play the way they did. If you're going to get crushed, do so with the youngsters. If you're going to send out a theoretically veteran squad, then don't play like junk. Either of those would have been preferable to what we all saw today. Then again, not watching would have been too.