American Born Villan

Aston Villa, From Chicago to the Holte End of the World


January 2015

Aston Villa 2 – Bournemouth 1: I’m Still Not Seeing It

So yesterday, Villa did that thing where you kick the ball into the back of the other team’s net. It’s been so long since that happened that I forget what it’s called . . . “scoring a goal”? Is that the correct terminology?

Not only that, they did it twice! If they keep this up, I won’t even have to write the words on the back of my hand to remember them.

“Scoring a goal”? Is that the correct terminology?

After the 0-2 loss to Liverpool, I was too depressed to write anything—I had completely run out of new ways to look at losing and failing to score. I do feel better after yesterday’s result. Pending the results of the fifth-round draw, in which it’s entirely possible Villa could come up against another side from a lower division, progression in the FA Cup could provide an antidote to regression in the Premier League—as long as we don’t go all the way down and get relegated.

Wouldn’t that be an irony? An unlikely Cup run followed by a drop down to the Championship? I don’t even want to think about it.

There are a few reasons for hope: Carles Gil looks like a real player (and what a goal he scored!), Delph has signed, and a two-goal game against top Championship side could help the team find some much-needed rhythm.

If only the next game wasn’t away to Arsenal, and the next one after that, home to Chelsea.

The thing of it is, I still haven’t seen Villa score in live time since Benteke’s goal in the 1-1 against Manchester United on December 20! Due to scheduling issues (mine) and broadcasting issues (others’) I haven’t watched any of the Cup games live. And the last win I watched in real time was the 2-1 against Leicester City on December 7.

The sheer goallessness during that period has made it impossible for me to even enjoy Match of the Day. Watching other teams score with abandon while waiting for Villa’s pathetic recap at the end of the show, knowing your team’s 90 minutes haven’t produced a single worthwhile highlight . . . well, it makes it hard to appreciate even the most stunning goal by anybody else.

The win was nice but I would happily trade it for three points in the league. And the embers of hope have yet to truly rekindle in my chest. For that to happen, we’re going to have to start scoring goals in the Premier League and moving up the table.


Leicester City 1 – Aston Villa 0: We’ll Score Again, Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When

We're number one in worst disciplinary record!
We’re number one in worst disciplinary record!

I watched the nil-nil against Crystal Palace with a handful of supporters at the Globe. The sound was off, we were seated in the wrong part of the bar, and the game was so boring I couldn’t stand to write about it.

I didn’t watch the FA Cup game against Blackpool—not even sure I could have. But I wish I had seen it, as the sight of Villa scoring a goal ranks up there with spotting an ivory-billed woodpecker. Or has our ability to score a goal truly gone extinct? Only time will tell. Those who claim to have seen Villa score may soon be regarded with the same skepticism of those who claim to have seen Bigfoot strolling through their backyard.

Or has our ability to score a goal truly gone extinct?

But winning that game and staying alive in that competition, and then drawing Bournemouth in the fourth round, put me in a very tolerant mood. Yes, Villa are boring, and no, they don’t score goals, but I found myself nodding in agreement with a couple of blog posts I’d read about how patience is required, we’re building, and all things considered we’re doing well. I mean, in all competitions, the last 5 games had seen 1 win, 1 loss, and 3 draws—not the worst, all considered.

We're number one in goal efficiency!
We’re number one in goal efficiency!

And the lack of goals has been so—bizarre—I figured that, you know, at some point Villa would go hog-wild crazy and score two of the things. I mean, why not? And if ever there was a team to do it against, it would be Leicester City. Yes, they’ve improved a bit, but they’re not dead-last in the Premier League for nothing.

So how bizarre to watch Villa well and truly beaten by the worst team in the league. Despite what sounded like solid support from traveling Villa fans, the team deserved nothing for their efforts, and nothing is what the fans got. I’m looking for signs of hope and, barring some revelatory moves in the January transfer window, I just don’t see any. On the whole, we do defend well, and Guzan is still keeping us in games. But we have no ideas in midfield and no teeth on attack. We’re now keeping the ball better than we have in ages, but it doesn’t matter, because we clearly don’t know what to do with it. It’s tempting to blame Benteke’s lack of service, but even with players lobbing the ball at him desperately, he tends to run lukewarm and cold this season.

In sartorial terms, Villa is wearing a stout pair of shoes and a nice pair of pants but lacks a belt, shirt, and anything above the neck. Cleverly isn’t, N’zogbia doesn’t, Cole can’t, Richardson used to in September, and Westwood probably never will. Delph might be a wee bit overrated, but if he goes, what are we left with? Sanchez, who’s solid enough but still doesn’t offer anything going forward.

It occurs to me that my notion of “winnable”
is several years out of date.

We need someone to help create goals and we need someone who can score goals. And if Benteke isn’t scoring goals, who will? It pains me to say this, but I really don’t care if Gabby starts ever again. Ditto Weimann.

We had so many winnable games in December and we got 8 points out of a possible 18. We’ve had two winnable games in January and we took 1 point out of 6. Of course, staring such harsh data in the face it occurs to me that my notion of “winnable” is several years out of date. For the rest of the season, no game will seem winnable and any points will feel like a Christmas present.) Our next three league games are Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea. I could see us getting 1 point out of 9, or 0.

Worst of all, watching Villa is BORING BORING BORING. Honestly, at this point, I’d rather go see a casual acquaintance’s one-woman show about her relationship with her mother than to watch another 90 minutes of what I saw yesterday. Hell, I’d rather STAR in a one-woman show about my relationship with my mother than watch Villa lose to the last-place team. I mean, Leicester is still going down, right? We all agree on that? So if we can’t compete with a team that is all but guaranteed to be relegated means . . . .

Don’t make me say it out loud.

Holy shit, Villa are boring. I have no hope we’ll score. I counted one truly nice passage of play yesterday, around the 32nd minute I think, that of course paid no dividends. What did I do in a former life that I was condemned to watch so many shit games?

We're number one in least goals scored!
We’re number one in least goals scored!

I’ve always resisted the call of “Lambert Out!”—in part because I don’t know that we’ll do any better than him. (I was absolutely astonished to see one supporter fondly remembering Alex McLeish’s term in charge.) But more and more, I wonder whether a change needs to be made. Even if we got a new-manager bounce that was only worth a couple of wins, those 6 points might be enough to save the season. And while we may not have the talent we need, the players we’ve got are better than the results we’ve had. And that, more than anything, may be a case for making a change at the top.

I will say this: I desperately want Lambert to succeed. Yes, Villa returning to winning ways would boost all our spirits. But it would also give some meaning to these endless hours waiting for a goal. It would feel like that time was worth something, not wasted, that our patience (and, yes, sometimes impatience) was rewarded.

Some stats that will boggle your mind:

  • Chelsea, Man City, and all the rest can eat our dust as Villa is now FIRST in the disciplinary table. They have five sendings-off.
  • Villa is also FIRST in the goal efficiency table: at two points per goal, they leave their nearest competitor, Stoke, far behind dust (1.18 points per goal).
  • Villa is also LAST in scoring with 11 goals. The next worst team, Sunderland, has 64% more goals than us.
  • However, Villa has the FIFTH BEST defense in terms of goals allowed. Only Southampton, Chelsea, Man City, and Man United have allowed fewer.
  • Due to the scarcity of goals scored, Villa still has the FIFTH WORST goal difference.
  • If you want to get really depressed about the lack of offense, there have been 544 goals scored in the Premier League through the first 21 games. Despite the fact that Villa represents 5% of the league, their 11 goals represent 2% of the total haul. (And still that number seems high…)

Given all that, it’s hard to believe that Villa is as high as 13th in the league table. Efficiency or no, if they don’t start scoring some goals soon, we might be watching them in the Championship next season.

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