Aston Villa opened the festivities against Stoke City with a dominant spell that was punctuated by a Christian Benteke goal just five minutes in. Then they promptly forgot how to play football, allowing three Stoke goals before the half and another in stoppage time, following up two of the season's best performances with one of its worst. Peter Odemwingie, Peter Crouch, Steven N'Zonzi and Geoff Cameron (Geoff Cameron!) scored for the Potters, giving Stoke their first ever Premier League win at Villa Park. It was also the club's first Premier League away game with 4 goals scored and their first away win since August. So many firsts! Good for Stoke.
The win moves the Potters into 10th with Villa slipping one spot to 11th, a point ahead of Hull City. Villa remain 9 points clear of 18th placed Sunderland (who hold two games in hand) and 6 points clear of 17th placed Crystal Palace, so the loss isn't really all that damaging from the perspective of staying away from the relegation battle. But that doesn't mean it wasn't frustrating. After seeing Villa show so much growth-especially defensively-over the last few months, for them to revert back to all of their worst habits with a chance to move well clear of the bottom three was disappointing.
Adding to the misery, both Karim El Ahmadi and Andi Weimann were forced to leave the game in the first half due to injury. Having to endure over an hour of Yacouba Sylla was bad enough, but El Ahmadi in particular has been a very important player for Villa these past few months; here's to hoping neither injury is serious. In better news, Villa's 5 bookings weren't enough to push them ahead of Stoke for the dubious honor of "Premier League's most carded team" so at least there's that ray of sunshine.
Just an awful, miserable day at Villa Park thanks to a garbage performance from the home side. Losing is one thing but to be completely undressed by a side that shouldn't be dominating anyone is another matter. Next up is Manchester United at Old Trafford, which luckily never, ever turns out terribly. If you have any good coping strategies, feel free to share them in the comments.