It could have been so much worse.
Stoke City didn't even have to get out of first gear to grab a 2-0 lead early in the second half against Aston Villa on Saturday, and the hosts completely let off the gas after earning that advantage. Even when Villa scored out of nowhere to pull it back to 2-1, Stoke cruised to victory in the final minutes.
In what felt like the very last match in which a victory could perhaps propel Aston Villa to a remarkable escape from the now surely guaranteed relegation from the Premier League, this instead looked more like an end-of-season, mid-table battle between two indifferent teams. The thing is, only one team on the pitch at the Britannia Stadium could make such an excuse for the lackluster play.
On a scale of 1 to 10, here are the Aston Villa player ratings, along with stats and analysis, from a dire contest that somehow saw three goals scored:
GK: Mark Bunn, Rating: 5
Played well except for somehow getting caught in the net on Stoke's second goal. Made two great saves to prevent Okore from deflecting in own goals, and handled the ball reasonably well in other moments. That stumble for Stoke's second, though, further demoralized Villa and ended up costing his team a probably pointless point.
RB: Alan Hutton, Rating: 4
Given a torrid time by Marko Arnautovic. Didn't make a single tackle, but did have a few decent blocks and was an improvement (I guess?) on Micah Richards in this role. Who would've thought some Villa fans would miss the days of Matt Lowton? I know I do.
CB: Jores Okore, Rating: 5
Okore had a weird game. His passing was absolutely dreadful and put his team in bad positions, but he recovered well at times with seven tackles, including one brilliant challenge in the box, and 12 clearances. Atypical for him.
CB: Joleon Lescott, Rating: 6
It felt like Lescott was playing really well throughout the first half, but then he somehow allowed Arnautovic to chest a ball into the net from one yard out for Stoke's second goal. Did a fine job against Walters too, showing that he still might be one of Villa's best players, which is unbelievably depressing.
LB: Aly Cissokho, Rating: 4
Blah. Not sure what to say about him. Pretty anonymous game. Didn't help Lescott at all on the decisive Stoke goal. Played in one or two decent crosses. Please get healthy and stay for next season, Jordan Amavi.
CDM: Idrissa Gana, Rating: 3
Felt like a pretty awful game from Gana, who was completely bossed by Imbula of Stoke. I don't know. The stats say Gana played decently, with five interceptions and three tackles. But I can't get the image out of my head of a moment late in the match, with Villa needing a goal, when Gana ignored or didn't recognize Cissokho in 30 yards of space down the left wing and instead passed it to the right, where Villa immediately lost possession. Seriously, go back and watch that play. Actually don't.
RCM?: Leandro Bacuna, Rating: 2
Yes, Bacuna earns a rating of 2 even after scoring. After he made three rapid mistakes in the second minute of the match, I decided to keep an eye-test tally of how many noticeably good things Bacuna did compared to how many noticeably bad things he did. The final count? Good: 3 (goal included). Bad: 14 (and that was generous).
LCM?: Ashley Westwood, Rating: 3
Notice a trend here? The Villa midfield was horrifyingly bad on Saturday, and Westwood in his continuously strange left midfield role was useless again. Had more fouls committed (3) than tackles, interceptions, blocks and clearances combined (2). Westwood is an average role player and nothing more.
RAM?: Jordan Veretout, Rating: 4
Was alright on the ball with his mostly sideways passing, completely 90-percent of his passes. Beyond that? Nothing.
LAM?: Carles Gil, Rating: 3
Continued to be muscled off the ball regularly and didn't really have an impact. Was another midfielder strangely deployed in an inconsistent position, which is becoming my biggest grief with manager Remi Garde. Anyways, I get the feeling that Gil could probably be awesome for a team with fast strikers and wingers and great holding midfielders. Aston Villa isn't that team.
ST: Gabby Agbonlahor, Rating: 4
What is a striker -- any striker -- supposed to do when his "supporting" midfielders have no defined roles, no pace, no strength and minimal ability on the ball? Sure, Gabby had a couple of laughably bad touches, but I don't really blame him. It seems like it'd be impossible to have any chemistry in Garde's current system.
LW: Scott Sinclair, Rating: 7
Another strong substitute appearance from Sinclair. Made several driving runs that could've led to something if any Villa midfielders had any idea how to support teammates in attacking positions.
ST: Rudy Gestede, Rating: 6
Gestede's arm has been Villa's most prolific player/body part in 2016, with two assists now.