This is a piece written about fan opinion and the effects Social Media can have on players.
This time last year we had just seen Aston Villa secure a vital 3 points with a dramatic injury time winner against Watford. Even better was to come with an equally emotional Trezeguet goal that secured the club a place at Wembley. However, as January turned to February Villa's form deserted them. A run of 5 consecutive defeats saw them rooted in the relegation zone and losing finalists in the Carabao Cup. Then football changed forever as the country locked down and the league was put on hold due to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.
The 19/20 season had started brightly though with plenty of optimism amongst fans, Villa were active in the transfer market and embarked on a squad overhaul that included the arrivals of Wesley, Luiz, Konsa, Engels, Targett and Mings. And so, the list went on. Twelve players signed in the summer of 2019 drawing comparisons with Fulham although the Villa fans were quick to prevent this lazy judgement from the media/opposition fans, Villa had to bring 12 players in, we didn’t have a squad after releasing loads of first team players, Fulham didn’t. We were optimistic. New players, new beginning.
However, with the outcome of the season now looking uncertain it gave supporters ample time to draw their own conclusions on how Villa’s transfer strategy had panned out. There had been some reasons for optimism. Konsa and Engels had shown some bright moments in those opening months. Indeed, they all had but a lack of consistency and a disastrous January transfer window had fans losing patience and writing off many of the players as simply not good enough. We looked doomed.
Social media has no doubt changed football as a spectacle. Every fan has an opinion and a platform to voice it. The way players are perceived is pretty blaze too. They can be hero to zero in a matter of hours. The relative ease of playing Fifa and Football Manager gives some supports a false view of how the real footballing world works. Simply put, 21st Century fans expect instant success and if that doesn’t happen then a player is written off almost as quickly. Does anyone disagree? We’ve seen it often enough at our own club. The ill-fated team that got us relegated is testament to that. No one shed a tear as the likes of Amavi, Ayew, Gueye and Vertout left for pastures new. All of them have gone on to prove themselves to be more than good enough.
Back to the current squad and the same accusations were being levelled out our incoming players. Matt Targett was too weak, slow and needed replacing immediately. Wesley was immobile and didn’t score enough goals. Trezaguet was ineffective, a headless chicken devoid of quality. Had this been Football Manager then they’d have all been transfer listed and replaced with someone displaying a great Fifa rating or a well edited highlights reel. But this is the real world, a world where players have personal lives too. Families, new culture and language barriers and, adjusting to a new style and pace of football. Is it fair that we fans expect them to hit the ground running and if they don’t then they are written off so quickly?
My dad always used to tell me that you can’t judge a player until their second season. To be fair to him, this has some truth. Look at Targett now. Fresh from a Man of the Match performance against what many consider the best team right now in Manchester City. Then we have Konsa. In and out of the team last year, deployed at right back and now playing with a consistency and poise that has him on the cusp of an England call up. Luiz is another. He lacked consistency last year but has adjusted superbly to become an integral member of our first team. And finally we have our ‘ineffective’ wide players, El Ghazi and Trezeguet. So often written off to the point where El Ghazi felt the need to deactivate his Twitter account. In reality, both players have proved priceless – Trez almost single-handedly kept us up last summer and El Ghazi has weighed in with a burst of form that contributed massively in a 5 game unbeaten run at the end of 2020.
So, are fans too quick to judge? Absolutely. We all want our players to come in and make an immediate impact but that is simply not real life. Next time we see a player struggling to find their feet then let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s trust the management team and give them the time to flourish. After all, no one’s Villa career should be written off after 20 games.
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