Leeds Utd 0
Aston Villa 3 (Coutinho 22, Cash 65, Chambers 73)
I had the Villa game down as a must win, a real must-win, so it’s hard to write anything positive now that we’ve lost it! The manner of the defeat too, doesn’t leave much room for any positivity; it was as toothless a performance as I can remember in this season of increasing frustration and disappointment. We created almost nothing, our passing was appalling and, as too often, our defending was naïve.
I guess the one thing that we have to acknowledge is that our confidence must be as low as the proverbial snake’s belly. Jesse Marsch has alluded to it in his post-match comments noting that the players seemed “chained by the pressure”. Perhaps more alarmingly he also noted that he was “surprised” by the team’s “disjointed” display. I’m guessing that the disjointed display follows on from that rock bottom confidence. Hence the main feature of our play tonight; which saw us give the ball away so often through what looked like careless passing but which was probably passing “chained by the pressure”. Whatever it was, it was as poor as we’ve seen all season.
We are creating absolutely nothing at all – just 4 attempts on goal with only a single one of those hitting the target – and the one player who we know has the ability to be creative, Raphinha, once again not really showing up! Quite what has happened to our Brazilian superstar I have no idea but his form has gone down in direct correlation with that of the team. Perhaps that is indeed the reason, if the team was playing well then maybe we’d be seeing a different Raphinha, who knows?
If there is any positive to take from the game it is the appearance of Paddy Bamford alongside Joffy Gelhardt. Truth be told neither had a great impact on the game but at least, assuming they stayed fit, it does provide one thing that we can change from the start against Norwich on Sunday. We have to change something because the starting XI tonight does not deserve to take the field at 2pm on Sunday; it must be changed and really, Paddy and Joffy is the only real change option left open to us – especially if the injury to Firpo means he’ll be missing and Dallas will be back in defence again.
For me, it’s time to get everyone into their specialist positions; use Paddy and Joffy as the top two, have Dan James and Harrison wider, Klich in the middle with Adam Forshaw, and get Luke Ayling back to his rightful full back role where he’s excelled in the past. In the middle at the back I’d still be tempted to give Charlie Cresswell one of the shirts although I’d be struggling to decide who deserves to keep the other one! As you will have worked out from that list, I’d leave Raphinha on the bench; bring him on if we can get the atmosphere rocking with a couple of early goals maybe and see if that gets him going.
Norwich is the last chance saloon now – lose that one and I can see no way back. Any last remnants of confidence would then have been torn away and I would then expect Wolves to eat us alive next Friday night. After that it’s hard to see where any positive results would come from.
There was another chink of light tonight of course – both Norwich and Watford lost as well so that it is starting to look like a battle to the death between ourselves and Burnley. Burnley go to Brentford on Saturday so we’ll know that result by the time we take to the pitch on Sunday. We can but hope that Everton will fail to beat Wolves too while we are trying to beat the Canaries but with three games in hand over us and only a point to make up I fear Everton will claw their way ahead of us at some point. Burnley don’t then play again until after the break, so, assuming we can beat Norwich and maybe get a point at Wolves then compared to Burnley we would be looking a tad better as they next face Manchester City. We are now relying on results from these other teams as much as ourselves.
The one thing we have to cling to is the knowledge that it will only take one good performance and one result to kick start this season again; belief would come from it and the scale of our challenge in the coming weeks would suddenly not seem quite as great as it feels now. Make no mistake though, lose on Sunday and I’m not sure we’d recover in time.
Leeds Aston V
Possession 51% 49%
Shots 4 15
On Target 1 9
Corners 3 5
Fouls 17 11