Aston Villa thrashed at Manchester City as relegation looms
The only surprising element of Aston Villa's 4-0 defeat to Manchester City on Saturday was that the game was level at half-time.
A goalless first period briefly raised hopes that the league's bottom club might just dig deep and make life difficult for City but those notions were swiftly swept aside within 20 second half minutes; almost by way of punishment for even daring to upgrade expectations a fraction.
Villa collapsed from the moment Yaya Toure put City ahead on 48 minutes. By the 66th, Manuel Pellegrini's side were four goals up and the margin of victory could and should been more, with Sergio Aguero spurning a hat trick opportunity and hitting the post from the penalty spot.
The feeble nature of Villa's performance was reminiscent of the recent 6-0 loss to Liverpool, when Remi Garde's players simply stopped trying, running and caring. Several of these players don't seem to have a problem walking around as the opposition rack up the goals.
The Villa supporters, meanwhile, continue to fume at a collective lack of effort and despair at what is a heart-breaking decline. Not a single individual at the club will finish the end of the season with their head held high and the only hope many fans are currently clinging to is wholesale and ruthless change in the summer. It can't come soon enough.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Brad Guzan, 7 -- Credit to Guzan, who kept the score down with some decent saves -- including an excellent tip over the bar to deny Aguero in the first half. Guessed correctly for the penalty too, and would have saved that had it not hit the post.
DF Alan Hutton, 5 -- Pulled all over the place as the goals piled up in the second half.
DF Micah Richards, 4 -- A miserable return to a stadium he knows so well, Richards continues to struggle in the centre of defence. A little unlucky that his slide tackle saw the ball ricochet off Aguero and into the net for the second goal.
DF Joleon Lescott, 5 -- Another former City player left embarrassed, Lescott had a solid first half but could do nothing to stem the tide in the one-sided second.
DF Ciaran Clark, 5 -- Decent first half but again, fell away after the break. Conceded the penalty with a clumsy, tired tackle.
DF Aly Cissokho, 4 -- Made Jesus Navas look good, which isn't easy. Allowed the winger way too space and City exploited that.
MF Jordan Veretout, 5 -- Always looked comfortable on the ball but didn't do much with it and spent most of the game trying to close City's midfield down.
MF Idrissa Gana, 6 -- If Villa had 11 players who worked as hard as him, the situation might be different. A great ball winner, use of the ball lets him down.
MF Ashley Westwood, 5 -- Unable to exert any influence on the game, and one of a number of players fortunate to be starting each and every week.
FW Gabby Agbonlahor, 4 -- Virtually anonymous, again. Seemed content to jog around at half pace before being substituted.
FW Jordan Ayew, 5 -- Managed Villa's only shot on target, a right-footed strike saved well by Joe Hart. Faded after that moment of excitement.
FW Rudy Gestede, 6 -- On for Agbonlahor, 70 minutes. Might have tested the City defence because of his physical strength but coming on at 4-0 down was a thankless task.
MF Leandro Bacuna, N/R -- On for Veretout, 74 minutes. Like Gestede, the game was long gone when he entered the action.
FW Scott Sinclair, N/R -- On for Ayew, 80 minutes. No time to make any kind of impact.
Kevin Hughes covered Premier League football at Match magazine and was later deputy editor of Sport. You can follow him on Twitter @KevHughesie.