Paul Lambert has declared that Aston Villa had 12 cup finals to save themselves from relegation. Despite a positive performance against Arsenal at the Emirates, Villa once more came away pointless, leaving the club back in the relegation zone on goal difference. It is not the first time Villa have left empty handed after a pleasing performance, and with only 11 games to go, winning is all that matters.
Most of the squad may well have been sitting in front of their television sets on Sunday, dreaming what might have been as Swansea demolished Bradford to clinch the Capital One Cup 5-0. Despite Villa nearly defeating Swansea at the start of the year their stories are poles apart. A club who were nearly out of the football league altogether 10 years ago, Swansea have achieved a meteoric rise in recent years under the guidance of Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rogers, the latter achieving promotion to the Premier League in 2011.
Despite being favourites for relegation, their neat passing and keeping possession superbly earned them a deserved 11th place finish, and confirmed their place as a strong Premier League opponent. Brendan Rogers would leave for Liverpool at the end of that season, with Michael Laudrup taking over. Once more, many had expected them to struggle under a new manager, but with the cup success and a top 10 position currently in the Barclays Premier League it appears the only way is up for this Welsh team.
With every success Swansea have enjoyed in recent years, Villa have achieved nothing but failure. A string of unsuccessful managers, poor spending, and under performing players have left the club on the brink of a return to the second tier of English football, the first time for over 25 years. For a team that almost qualified for the Champions League five years ago under Martin O’Neill, Villa’s decline has been sharp and truly alarming for the Villa faithful.
With Manchester City next to play, and several other very difficult fixtures yet to come, Villa’s survival hopes are draining by the week. After witnessing their team struggle to come to terms with the power and brutality of Bradford City and Milwall in both domestic cups, Villa will have to face similar battles if the unthinkable relegation does strike.
With a very fragile young team still learning their trade, relegation could prove to be the start of a dark era for Aston Villa, as their style of play is certainly not suited to the hurly burley style of several teams in the Championship. Some fans will believe that Aston Villa are too good to go down, and certainly too good for the Championship. Those fans may well want to talk to fans of clubs such as Nottingham Forest and Leeds United; two great clubs who were once competing for European trophies, but for the previous decade have found themselves out of the top tier, and failing to match up to their great histories.
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