Sunday, September 13th: the moment Villa's season turned as a sunny day in Leicester turned from unbridled joy to explosive contempt. 4 games into the season, Villa were off to a distinctly average start: A nice win away to Bournemouth, an expected defeat at the hands of Manchester United, a heartbreaking but hard-fought loss to Crystal Palace, and a tantalizing but promising draw with Sunderland should have signaled promising things to come.
On the back of these four results Villa traveled to apparent Premier League strugglers Leicester City. After continual outcry from the fans to see both Carles Gil and Jack Grealish in the lineup together, Tim Sherwood finally gave in and his move worked marvelously. Grealish opened the scoring in the first half, celebrating with an outpouring of joy for his manager, followed by Carles Gil tucking away a sublime finish in the second half to put Villa 2-0 up. Sherwood had his men in pole position for victory. But, after a sloppy corner goal, redundant substitutions, and before anybody realized what was happening, Jamie Vardy equalized and Nathan Dyer gave Leicester the lead in what felt like a matter of seconds. On that afternoon, the significance of this game seemed to be just a difficult defeat to swallow, but looking back with what we know now, it meant much more.
The most important trend which the Leicester match made clear was an inability to capitalize on extended periods of dominance, and a parallel inability to resist and defend resolutely when opponents found a period of success. Villa's collapse in the final third of the Leicester match was astounding to say the least, but it confirmed something that had been an issue since the start of the season. Villa completely outplayed Sunderland the week before, but were unable to win, went toe-to-toe with Manchester United but failed to come away with a point, and were unable to protect a point for 15 minutes away to Crystal Palace. This meltdown, however, was by far the worst we had seen, and served to send an unmistakeable message to the players: regardless of how well one period or half of the match went, there was the possibility, even the probability, that it would all go to waste. That single realization was the most crippling step towards a losing culture that Villa took all year.
Leicester also marked the day that everybody who knows a thing about football realized Tim Sherwood didn't really know what he was doing. His substitutions were inept, and much of the blame for the collapse rightly fell at his feet. This match illustrated both Sherwood's appeal and his drawbacks - the emotion and connection he can create with the players was illustrated by the jubilance of Grealish after scoring his first senior goal, but Sherwood's overall immaturity and naiveness were exhibited in equal measure when all was said and done. Because that September afternoon marked the onset of Villa's inability to stand resolute, illustrated Villa's tendency to submit in the face of adversity, and proved the tactical ineptitude of Tim Sherwood, Leicester 3 - Villa 2 was the distinct turning point in this painful season.
What do you think? Let us know!