By the time Anwar El Ghazi bundled in his late consolation goal, his first in an Aston Villa shirt, the writing was already on the wall. Well, that’s a lie. There was an aura about this game - one you’d expect that Villa would lose, no matter what. It’s always the case with the odd away game - you just can’t see a win. Frankly, it’s something we’re all becoming very familiar with - and today’s result, a 4-1 loss against Sheffield United - it doesn’t seem at all that surprising.
That’s not to see that Villa are at all that bad. Any team can get shellshocked more often than deserved, and some of the best managers in the world can endure horrific absences of glee and ecstasy. It’s just that Aston Villa are entirely predictable. They are streaky, capable of amazing football, and turgid football. They can go without conceding for ten games, then fail to find the net in another four. It’s been a long time since Steve Bruce rehabbed Villa, they’ve kicked their bad habits, they’ve stabilised, they’ve fallen off the wagon and climbed back aboard - but they need a future. Bruce’s obvious credentials are there for all to see, especially at this level; but other teams are punching well above their weight on a basis due to sound planning, can you say anything other than that Villa can manage a sucker punch before they receive a sucker punch?
Count today as a latter. Sheffield United under Chris Wilder would obvious force-feed Villa the football at Bramall Lane, and they did - to the tune of four goals past Ørjan Nyland. Villa looked tired, lost and adrift. Tom Hanks clinging to Wilson? That may as well be most of the sides outfield team, who just have no idea what to do when their instincts are shut out by the other side. Anwar El Ghazi gave Villa a faint slice of hope, but all rays of optimism seemed to bite the dust after reports of infighting in Villa’s away support. Somehow, it all seems to be going so wrong.
It’s really horrible, because I can actually feel the apathy. The predictability of it all is loud. In our internal slack chat channel - for the first time in recorded history, we turned the game off. At half-time, we canned it in. We’ve never done that before. That’s something that, no lie, we should almost feel personally ashamed of. But I guess we don’t. You can just see it all coming, can’t you? We’ll be back - bright and bouncy and optimistic and ready to back this side to the hilt, once more; but my god, why? It’s all so tired.
There will probably be no team more thankful of an international break than Aston Villa. Despite starting off in good style, Villa quickly became transparent and the luck - as it always does - ran dry. Today’s crushing loss against Sheffield United follows a midweek knockout blow delivered by Burton Albion that sent Villa reeling out of the Carabao Cup. Villa will now have to wait to play their next match - a clash with recently promoted Blackburn Rovers. Steve Bruce asserts that he’s the best man for the job, and we can do naught but believe him until this train runs aground. Only a win, followed by a win, followed by a win is going to do any good.
UTFV. Let’s get back to it.