I've had a window open to write a story for almost the entire day now. I've looked for news, I've looked for an angle to analyze, and I've come up with nothing. This Aston Villa team inspires absolutely nothing in me at this point, and writing something about them that is thought-provoking could be challenging. What I keep coming back to is the fact that I don't want to write about this team. Heck, I don't even want to think about this team or watch them. At the end of my instant recap on Saturday, I wrote this:
Now go do something else with your day. If you spend any more time thinking about Aston Villa you are wasting that time.
And I took my own advice. For the remainder of the day I didn't think about Aston Villa, not even a little. I watched the surprisingly entertaining Seattle Mariners get their fourth win of the season, I went to a friend's house for a sumptuous homemade dinner (4-hour roasted lamb served with french beans), and I had a far better afternoon than I did morning.
I've started getting into the habit of not doing much for this site on Sundays, as I find I go insane if I don't take at least one day a week off. And without Villa in my mind, Sunday was quite nice, too.
But it's Monday. I want to give you guys something to read. Anything, really. I know that many of you are feeling the same thing as I am, and that's comforting in its own way. I'm sure that there are plenty of you reading this right now who don't really want to be reading about Aston Villa, just like I don't want to be writing about them. But we're all slightly stupid when it comes to sports. Villa are an obsession, and it's impossible to push them out of mind forever. I'm here writing and you're reading. So let's talk about what we've been through.
Villa have had some unquestionably high moments this season. Things started off so well when they beat Arsenal. Then we had the stunning come-from-behind victory against Manchester City. And from there we've had, what... three memorable victories? The 4-3 win over West Bromwich Albion was fun, but that's been dampened by the spell of play that came after. Norwich City led to the 1-0 over Chelsea, but true to form Villa have disappeared again.
Every time this team gets our hopes up, they follow it up with insipid performances. Lifeless showings that, at their best are bad and at their worst are barely watchable. If they could play at half the level that they did in the aforementioned memorable wins, this club would be in the top half of the table. Especially in a year when that distinction takes so little. Beat Crystal Palace, Stoke, and Fulham at home -- all three tasks should have been easy -- and Villa are 10th by three points. If they can throw in the ability to hang on to matches in which they open well -- at Liverpool, at Manchester United -- or matches that should have been winnable away -- Cardiff -- this club could have 52 points right now.
But they didn't and can't, and as a result they are sitting on 34 points. There's a very real chance that they could lose out and still avoid relegation this year, but that is no reflection of the club. And to be honest, they probably won't lose out. Knowing how this club works, they'll probably win a couple of matches that they shouldn't, end our season on a high note, and then lose ten straight to open next year.
Did the loss of Christian Benteke, Gabby Agbonlahor, Karim El Ahmadi, and Fabian Delph hurt the club on Saturday? Of course it did. But they were still playing Fulham. A club they should have beaten. They still allowed Fulham to score by leaving players unmarked around the box. They still made bone-headed decisions. Christian Benteke wouldn't have been able to prevent Nathan Baker from passing the ball with grace and beauty directly at someone in a white kit.
And now we all get to be fans of the first Villa team to lose 10 matches at home in the club's history. And really, that's disingenuous. They've lost 12 at home when you count the two cup exits, including a humiliating exit from the FA Cup as soon as possible at the hands of a League One side. As someone watching from afar, the difference between a loss at home and on the road is negligible, but for those in the stands it's hard to imagine a worse scenario. Fans have seen 20 matches at Villa Park this season, and in that stretch have only gotten to watch six wins (five in league, one in the League Cup), two draws, and twelve losses. The only other team to give their home fans twelve losses this season have been Fulham, and God knows that's not a comparison we want to make.
There needs to be a change. I don't know if it's with the manager or the players or something else. But this team has hit the point where they are a tedious part of my week, rather than two hours that I look forward to. And it's worth noting that I don't even necessarily mean changed results. If this club were at 34 points but had gotten there through hard-fought entertaining football, that'd be different. But they haven't. They've gotten there through giving up possession, avoiding the midfield as if it were a minefield, and being incapable of stringing together two good halves.
This team is no fun right now, and the end of the season cannot come quickly enough. At that point, it's not hard to imagine something happening that will give us hope again. That is, after all, the nature of sport. We're fans because we want the communal feeling of striving towards something. The vicarious joy of victory when a few 20-something footballers manage to put a ball in the net more than they allow another rag-tag bunch of footballers to do the same. We will be back. If you say otherwise, I think there is a very high chance that you are lying. Sports just don't work like that. As hard as we try, we can't make a clean break.
But dammit, sometimes I really wish we could.
- Instant reaction: Aston Villa a shambles in 1-2 loss to Fulham
- How Benteke's injury will affect Aston Villa's transfer strategy
- How will Aston Villa be affected by Benteke's injury for the rest of the season?
- Aston Villa confirm Benteke injury - no World Cup for Christian
- Aston Villa Podcast: Breaking Benteke news, and a preview of Villa-Fulham