Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way about Aston Villa and quite honestly, I don’t think it’s the first time I’ve referenced Simon & Garfunkel’s "The Sound of Silence" in a story for 7500.
But damn, I think it’s finally time to let go.
Villa are going to do something they’ve never done in my lifetime and there’s very little they can do at this point to prevent it. The earlier the club admit that relegation is set to happen, the better off it’ll be.
The transfer window opens Friday, and for most clubs at the wrong end of the table, it represents an opportunity to improve their current squad, to make that crucial signing to save them from the drop — like Villa did in 2011, signing Darren Bent.
But Villa’s position, 11 points from safety at the midway point, is so miserable that Villa shouldn’t be using January to boost survival hopes that are nearly non-existent.
And it’s sad, because Rémi Garde has been linked in the past weeks with a host of encouraging signings, both from Ligue 1 and the Premier League. Perhaps with a few more points this month, maybe even a single win, Villa could’ve brought in Steve Mandanda or Mathieu Debuchy and battled their way to safety.
Who knows? Maybe this could’ve been the window that launched Villa out of the relegation scrap and into the top half, alongside Watford, Crystal Palace and Stoke City, three clubs involved in a European fight.
But it won’t be. Because no matter how hard this team fights, it’s going to take a massive second half to claw out from safety.
Let’s say the survival target is 38 points. Given the volatile nature of this year’s Premier League, it’s a very realistic spot — especially considering that Swansea City, currently in 17th, have 19 points from 19.
That means Villa have to get 30 points in the second half of the season. And midway through their campaigns, just six sides in the Premier League have accomplished that this season, with Liverpool having a shot at 30 midweek against Sunderland.
So for Aston Villa, their best long-term move is simple: Give up.
Forget a survival push and resign yourself to relegation. Throwing money at the problem isn’t going to fix anything. It might’ve helped in July, or could’ve helped in any window over the last four seasons. But Randy Lerner didn’t, and we’re past the point of no return.
Forget that the last two teams bottom at the midway point, Leicester City and Sunderland, have survived despite looking miserable as the calendar turned for the new year. They were both bad, but neither were as far astray as Villa sit right now.
Forget that Jordan Ayew looks set to hit double digits in goals or that Jordan Veretout is turning in solid performances. They weren’t good enough to play when Villa had favourable fixtures early — and they’re quickly becoming too good for this rubbish side. Thanks, Tim.
Garde and Villa are set with an insurmountable task on their hands at this point. To concede relegation is the smart thing to do.
Because instead of trotting Alan Hutton and Leandro Bacuna out each weeks as your fullbacks, you can see what you’ve got for the promotion push next year. Can José Ángel Crespo show he’s worthy of sticking around after relegation? Might he play a factor?
Or instead of playing Ashley Westwood in midfield, who simply isn’t good enough to take Villa forward, let’s see if Gary Gardner can amount to anything: He did well at the Championship level last year, by all accounts. Jack Grealish, irrespective of Garde’s thoughts on his lifestyle, should get another run in the squad, and Villa can do some experimenting.
I can’t shake the feeling that Micah Richards couldn’t be a competent defensive midfielder. Same goes for Ciaran Clark. Why not try it? Let’s find our best defensive pairings and attacking combos.
Let’s see what we’ve got with our highly-respected youth players. Villa have a really good track record of having these great youth players who never put on for the club at senior level — Daniel Johnson and Samir Carruthers immediately come to mind.
A lot of smart people think highly of Jordan Lyden, who made the bench today. If he’s good enough to be in the 18, what’s the harm in giving him a start? Lewis Kinsella is 20. It’s worth seeing if he can be Jordan Amavi’s backup next year at left back, no?
Riccardo Calder. Jerell Sellars. Callum Robinson.
Play them. The veterans can’t get it done, so why not see what we have? It takes a deep squad to succeed in the Championship. Garde would be wise to start examining his team from that standpoint.
And when the window opens Friday, Villa don’t need to sign a token 30-year-old with Premier League experience, bring in a veteran on loan or spend seven figures for someone who’ll have a "relegation clause."
If Villa make moves at all this winter, it should be with the Championship in mind. Find some nice League 1 players who might want to make the jump or a couple French kids who could be ready to go once the club’s back in the Premier League.
But don’t waste your time, squad space and money trying to chase survival.
It’s time to accept the inevitable. Villa are down. It’s time to start preparing for away days to Preston, Nottingham and maybe a short trip to Walsall.
In the league, that is, not the summer.