I'm sorry that we have to do this. I'm sorry that you have to read this. And I'm sorry that we all had to live through this.
But we're an Aston Villa website, and we do our best to cover this club. With that comes the responsibility to look back at the season that was. So I apologize now for bringing up bad memories, giving you traumatic flashbacks, and making you angry all over again, but here we go. If you're looking for a more detailed breakdown of the season, we'll have articles on the defense, midfield, attack, and managers in the next four days.
For now, though, this is just the emotional side of things. And from that perspective, this was the worst year I can ever remember as an Aston Villa fan. What's strange is that I'm genuinely surprised by that sentiment. By the Everton match I was starting to think that this was my favorite Villa squad in ages. Under Tim Sherwood they played exciting football, they had a cohesiveness that we hadn't seen, and they seemed to be feeding off of the fans. It was fun! It reminded us what it was like to enjoy football. Sure the club were still miserable, but you could see hope.
And logically you still can. Tim Sherwood will, regardless of what happens, give us a side who will be equal parts maddening and entertaining. Many of the pieces are there, and even if some of the big ones (Benteke, Vlaar, etc) leave, we know that Sherwood can get a lot out of young players. Logically, even as built, this should be a team who could finish around 13th or so, but who could do much better.
But all of that optimism was shot to hell by this: 6-1, 0-1, 0-4.
Southampton, Burnley, Arsenal. A team we should have been competitive against, one we should have beaten, and one who it would have been nice had we even shown up.
Emotionally, I find myself just about where I was after Ron Vlaar stupidly gave away a draw against Stoke in February. Things are unquestionably better than they were in the final days of Paul Lambert, but that may not be enough. Let's take a look at how we got there. We'll go from least successful to most:
Ah yes, the Paul Lambert special: a loss at home to a lower league side. Aston Villa 0-1 Leyton Orient. We got beaten by something called a Romain Vincelot, which I can only assume is the salad of choice in some backwater castle. Do you know where Leyton Orient finished in League One this year? IN LEAGUE TWO.
We should have all taken note. We shouldn't have been fooled into joy by the victories over Hull and Liverpool that came shortly after. We should have rioted and demanded Lambert's head right then and there.
But we did not.
Okay, perhaps that's an exaggeration. But it's not much of one! You want to agree to all of it, you know it. Villa finished with 38 points, a goal differential of -26 (second-worst only to QPR), and having only scored 31 goals. What's frankly amazing is that 19 of those goals came in the final 13 matches. When Paul Lambert left, the club had 12 goals in 25 matches, on pace for... 18 in the season.
At one point, between September 13 and December 2, the club went eighty days without a win. To put that in perspective, the entire offseason is only sixty-nine days. Villa went longer without a win in the middle of the season than they will go without playing a competitive match this summer (insert "not like they played any competitive matches in the season" joke here).
Actually, I'm sorry, we'll get back to things in a minute here. But let's talk about eighty days. That is so many days. Nine matches without a win. But you know what makes it worse? They got that win (against Crystal Palace) and then put together a streak by beating Leicester five days later. And then? THEY WENT TWELVE LEAGUE MATCHES WITHOUT GETTING ANOTHER. That was eighty-six days.
So, in 171 days, nearly 50% of an entire year (61% of the season), Aston Villa managed two Premier League wins.
I think you'll forgive me if I don't go into any more detail. This Premier League season was an abject failure in every sense except survival.
If you ignore the last match of the FA Cup this was not only the best part of Villa's year but also probably the best part of this decade. Home wins against Blackpool, Bournemouth, Leicester City, and West Brom were a joy, and then a win at Wembley over Liverpool was positively sublime (to put things into perspective, that win was somehow better than beating West Brom for the second time in five days and securing a trip to Wembley).
And heck, if the final had been a 0-1 or 0-2 loss to Arsenal in a well-fought match, I think we'd have all been happy. There would have been a positive feeling from something this season.
But instead the club decided to not show up and pissed away 90 minutes in an 0-4 loss that actually somehow flatters Villa. It could have been much much worse.
Worse than the loss, though, is the fact that it robbed us of the one joy we had. Instead of being able to look back at a great Cup run that ended against a superior foe we now have to look back at a good Cup run that was ended by our own incompetence. Sort of feels like the League Cup a couple of years ago.
Elsewhere, Randy Lerner failed to sell the club and continued to show an alarming lack of interest in his investment. But he did appoint Tom Fox as CEO so at least there was one person in upper management who knew what was going on. And Fox was able to convince Lerner to finally give Paul Lambert the sack, ending one of the worst experiments in club history.
So we head into the summer, now in full swing, with our eyes on next year. Micah Richards already appears to be a done deal, the club may be on its way to being sold, and we get to see what Tim Sherwood can actually do in a role that isn't "save us" but rather "prevent us from ever getting there." We'll wrap up 2014-15 in the coming week. Then, if it's okay with you, let's never speak of this festering turd of a season ever again.