I took the afternoon off work to watch the game with Simon and Kristen at the Globe—best decision I’ve made in a while. My recent schedule has forced me to watch games at home, but why suffer alone when you can suffer with someone else?
I was expecting us to lose. Maybe badly. Southampton may be depleted by injury, but so is Villa, and Southampton’s not in second place for nothing.
And, honestly, I thought Gabby would fuck it up, that tantalizing breakaway one more opportunity rued, one more chance come to nothing. He may have been aided by Fraser Forster’s indecision, but it was a nice finish in the end. Despite what the commentators and the naysayers and the erstwhile supporters say, not every Villa success comes down to another team’s failure. They do occasionally do something right.
Why suffer alone when you can
suffer with someone else?
It was a boring first half made brighter by the goal, by the company, and by the Monday-afternoon Guinness I was enjoying. A bad game of soccer is still better than a good day at work. But as the game went on and we began to believe that, hell, we might just be able to take all three points, the commentators couldn’t get over their shock that Southampton couldn’t put Villa away.
Judging from the outrage on Facebook and Twitter, Simon and I were more or less alone in thinking it a good idea to take off Sanchez for an attacker. As Simon observed, Sanchez seems to tire and lose concentration late, and as anyone who’s watched our team is aware, a one-goal lead is our signal to start falling back further and further until we’re practically inviting our opponents to walk into the goal.
Whether Bent was the right attacker is certainly up for debate. He tends not to hold the ball, preferring to wait for a fast, accurate cross he can flick in at the near post. And as I recently observed, you have a better chance of surviving Ebola than Villa does of scoring from a cross.
So yes, I would have preferred Grealish, too. But hindsight is all. Had Lambert pulled Weimann for a defensive sub, some people would have been outraged at our defensive mentality. And had Weimann scored his chance, the whole question would have been moot.
At any rate, it was Gabby’s poor marking that led to the equalizer, and it’s possible Sanchez would have been in that position had he been on the field. It’s equally possible he would have committed the kind of late-game gaffe he’s prone to. And who would have thought to pull Gabby? He was having a pretty good game.
If you would have offered any sane Villa supporter a point before the game, they would have gladly taken it. The feeling that we dropped two instead of winning one certainly makes it hard to celebrate this result. But with even Crystal Palace winning on the weekend (granted, it was only Liverpool) and with other previous bottom-feeders Newcastle scaling the heights to fifth, it’s clear we can’t count on having three teams worse than us to survive. A positive result was essential and that’s what we got.
Now, Villa is certainly capable of losing to anybody, but with Burnley (19th place), Crystal Palace (15th), West Brom (13th), Man Ure (a very flattering 4th), Swansea (7th), and Sunderland (14th) coming up, and Benteke coming back, and hopefully some of our beat-to-shit back line returning to fitness, you’d have to think there are some points to be had by New Year’s. And it’s Palace and Leicester City again after that.
So here’s to a cup half full, no matter how bitter it tastes.