Who really cares at this point?
Aston Villa’s board have decided to not throw money at the problem that is their squad — a move I advocated for back in December — and while Villa have played well, they’re not surviving this season in the Premier League.
Effectively-relegated Villa now play European-chasing West Ham United.
What to know about Villa
In their last three league outings, Rémi Garde’s side has gotten three good results. A home win over Crystal Palace was obviously one, but drawing league-leading Leicester City at home and West Bromwich Albion away are also really solid solid results in a vacuum.
But the Claret and Blues have picked up just one point on 17th place over the last three outings.
Realistically, it’s hard to see this squad playing better than they have the last three times out over the course of the remaining 15 matches. It’s why I’m not too bothered that the board haven’t spent this window: Villa are down, and the sooner we accept that fate, the better.
At this point, what are we trying to get out of the year?
Well, eventually I’d like to see Jordan Lyden given a proper run in the squad and Jack Grealish needs to step up and re-claim a spot in the XI. Both should be important parts of any promotion push next term.
But above that, I’d like to see a side that plays the way it did against Leicester, even if it doesn’t get the quality of results that come from it. That side clawed and fought for that draw a couple weeks ago, and if Villa do that the rest of the way and still go down, I’m not going to be that upset.
Figure out who’s willing to put that shift in each week — even after we’re mathematically down — and jettison the rest. The club will be better for it next year.
What to know about West Ham United
We all laughed at the Hammers for sacking Sam Allardyce last summer after a solid year, but they’re the ones laughing now as Slaven Bilić has the other side wearing Villa’s beloved colours flying high.
Of course, 13 months ago, we said the same thing about where Allardyce had West Ham. I’m very interested to see how they finish the campaign.
They’ve been pretty balanced in attack, so there’s not a true target of their attack — Dimitri Payet would be the guy I‘d focus on defensively, but they’ve got other dangerous options.
It’s easy to remember how poor the Hammers were in the return fixture a couple months ago at Villa Park in what was, quite honestly, the result that showed Villa aren’t surviving. But at home, properly in a race for European spots, I’d expect Bilić’s side to be much more attacking than it was a few weeks back.
Bovada: West Ham 4/5, Villa 18/5, Draw 49/20
Paddy Power: West Ham 4/5, Villa 15/4, Draw 5/2
SkyBet: West Ham 17/20, Villa 10/3, Draw 5/2
I don’t see it. At this point, the squad knows that no real boost has come to the club and that the board thinks relegation is inevitable.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing — it is reality — but it probably doesn’t create an amped-up squad for a crucial fixture. The run of form in the league comes to a close.
West Ham 2, Villa 0.
One more thing…
This is the last time Villa will play at the Boleyn Ground, which really makes me sad. Any time an old, historic ground goes by the wayside it’s an unfortunate circumstance. I fully understand the Hammers’ move to the Olympic Stadium, even if I don’t agree with it, but… it’ll still be sad to see it go.