Well, that was depressing.
A week after losing 1-4 to Manchester United, and two weeks after losing 1-4 to Stoke, we lose 1-2 to Fulham in a winnable game. We had a reasonable penalty shout denied, and Fulham had a goal not given because, apparently, one centimeter of the ball had not crossed the goal line, so I guess we’re even on the intangibles. Fair play to Fulham, they came out and played with the effort you’d expect from a team desperate to climb out of the relegation zone. As we edge closer to the drop, you’d think we would be doing the same.
I don’t know, I’m not sure I can fault the effort, but, in the end, we just weren’t good enough. If there’s any consolation to be found, it’s that we haven’t been held scoreless in any of the losses—but that’s cold comfort indeed when the overall scoreline over the last three has been 10-3. Our goal differential, which once wasn’t actually too bad for a team in the bottom half of the table, has taken a beating.
Other sources of chilly consolation include Holt scoring and Tonev putting a shot on target. I honestly don’t know which one I thought was more unlikely. But with Benteke out for this season and part of next, and Weimann still fluttering in front of goal, and Gabby out in the short-term, the goals have got to come from somewhere. And next week we face Crystal Palace, who actually aren’t looking too bad of late. If we fail to take any more points again nerves will be stretched even thinner.
What are our chances against Palace? Well, we play away, so that’s positive. But Palace, despite their better form of late, are not a top team, which means we’ll have trouble with them. If there’s any consolation for fans of the teams Villa has beaten this season, if we’ve beaten you, it means you’re a good side. (Manchester United’s dominance of Villa this season is clearly evidence that they’re a bad team.) Our utter inability to compete against the teams closest to us and below us in the table continues to mystify me.
Leaving for the pub on a sunny Saturday morning, I felt, not for the first time like Andy Capp telling Flo he’s off to the pub. Yes, that charming primer to English life was a daily read for me growing up, although I still wonder how on earth the newspaper editors thought a comic about a boozing, brawling, smoking lout belonged next to Peanuts. Still, with my younger son’s birthday sleepover starting later that afternoon, I felt it was high time for some me time, a little outing with the grownups before I had to ride herd on the kids.
And, at the Globe, with nine Villans—Simon, Cat, Tyler, Lesley, Mike, Greg, Saul, Bill, and me— gathered to watch a game against lowly Fulham, I felt, not for the first time, a little bit smug about the quality of our support. In Chicago, at the Globe Pub, Villa has to be the best-supported team with no chance of playing in Europe. As I looked over at the lonely Hull fan, singular, wearing an old Altidore jersey and muttering to himself, I felt sorry for him.
Hull Guy, however, had one up on all of us: his team won. And Hull—Hull!—has now passed Villa in the table.
On Sunday, the team Hull beat, Norwich, fired their manager. Our manager used to manage Norwich. Norwich is in 17th place, which is clearly unsatisfactory for their fans. Villa is in 13th place, which sounds ever so much better until you realize that only 2 points separate the two teams.