Aston Villa defence, Guzan gift victory to Swansea for sixth straight defeat
Aston Villa have been gifting victories to opponents all season, and the bad habit continued at Swansea on Saturday. Beaten 1-0, the deciding goal was basic in its construction: a free kick steered into the penalty area and finished off by Federico Fernandez after goalkeeper Brad Guzan failed to clear the ball.
Guzan's attempt to punch the ball away was poor, and it's not the first time the keeper has disappointed this season. Neither was it the first time Villa have defended weakly and been punished. Having been the better side in the first half, taking the game to the hosts and getting the ball forward quickly to Rudy Gestede, Villa were unable to capitalise on their advantage and fell away after the break. Once a rather subdued Swansea went in front, the response was disappointing, as always.
This is a distinctly average Premier League season and several distinctly average clubs will stay up with ease. That Villa are bottom of the table, with 21 defeats from 31 matches and struggling to reach the 20-point mark, reflects horrendously on this squad. There has barely been a hint of fight from these players, no hunger to try to stay up. Expect wholesale change in the summer.
Manager Remi Garde is unlikely, surely, to be involved at the end of the season. He had a tough job from the very start, but Villa supporters expected more from a coach who arrived in Birmingham with a strong reputation. Instead, he's been unable to encourage any real improvement at all and any faith that he could be the manager to lead a promotion charge from the Championship is rapidly diminishing.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Brad Guzan, 5 -- Was enjoying a quiet evening until Swansea's goal; his attempt at punching away the free kick was weak and lacking in conviction. A bad error.
DF Alan Hutton, 5 -- Standard Hutton, happy to gallop forward but with no end product. Switched off for Fernandez's goal, ball-watching and losing his man.
DF Joleon Lescott, 6 -- Pulled a shot wide after three minutes, made one terrific headed clearance in the first half. Always looks laboured these days, though.
DF Ciaran Clark, 7 -- Headed a decent chance over the bar in the first half. Generally strong and confident. Did well.
DF Aly Cissokho, 5 -- A shocker from Cissokho. Booked for a late foul in the first half, he was lucky not to get a second yellow for another later in the game. Awful going forward.
MF Carles Gil, 6 -- Villa's best moments usually involved him, with two good crosses from the right creating chances for Gestede. A clever pass also played in Jordan Ayew late in the first half .
MF Ashley Westwood, 5 -- Mostly anonymous until he took over set-piece duties late in the game.
MF Idrissa Gana, 7 -- Great athleticism again, pressed Swansea superbly and willing to win tackles all over the field. Influence waned in the second period.
MF Jordan Veretout, 5 -- Worked hard and technically sound but contributed little of real note; struggled, again, to get properly involved. Substituted after taking a heavy tackle.
FW Jordan Ayew, 6 -- Good solo run and strike over the bar inside the opening 10 minutes but flitted in and out of the game mostly. Should have done better from a promising position late in the first half, ran into trouble too often throughout the match.
FW Rudy Gestede, 7 -- A slightly generous mark but had a strong first half when he edged a physical battle with Ashley Williams. Forced a save from Lukasz Fabianski with a good header and had an overhead kick cleared off the line. Saw little service in the second half.
FW Andre Green, 6 -- On for Veretout after 60 minutes. A bright half hour from the 17-year-old winger, who popped up with dangerous crosses from both flanks.
FW Gabriel Agbonlahor, NR -- On for Gil on 73 minutes. Stretched the Swansea defence with his pace in the final few minutes, drawing fouls from Wayne Routledge and Leon Britton.
Kevin Hughes covered Premier League football at Match magazine and was later deputy editor of Sport. You can follow him on Twitter @KevHughesie.