Aston Villa 0 Chelsea 4: If whoever takes over at Aston Villa had any illusions about the task ahead of them then this game will have made them fully aware.
For the first 20 minutes or so, Villa acquitted themselves reasonably well here, but after the first Chelsea goal went in there was only one winner.
It was the 20th match this season the hosts had gone behind in the Premier League — they’ve not managed to come back and secure a victory yet.
Chelsea’s goals were well-crafted and taken, and there was even a debut strike for Alexandre Pato, a full 64 days after he signed for the club, but the ease with which they carved Villa open was alarming.
The third goal epitomised this — within a minute of the second-half a razor-sharp one-two between Oscar and Pato scythed Villa open, allowing Pedro to tap the ball home.
The Spaniard’s second of the afternoon and Chelsea’s fourth came before the hour and by then it was game over.
Such an onslaught understandably caused the atmosphere at Villa Park to turn toxic as supporters showed their disdain at the club’s slide towards the Championship.
Boos greeted Leandro Bacuna, who last week expressed a desire to play in the Champions League, but he was not the only one who bore the brunt of abuse as others too were heckled by a fan-base frustrated at watching their club’s slow and painful demise.
The task for whoever takes over at Villa Park is daunting. Relegation is a certainty and with that the temptation is to cast an eye towards the future by providing youngsters with a chance to shine. But when the atmosphere is as toxic as this, caretaker Eric Black confesses that may not be wise.
“It’s a dilemma,” said Black. “I think there has been a lot of opportunities for everybody, and are the young players ready to play in that kind of atmosphere?
“Do we want to throw them into the lurch? We are still playing in probably the best league in the world, regardless of people’s opinion. So sometimes it is not necessarily the best thing for young players.
“The club is obviously facing difficulties at the moment and they are trying to rectify the problems that have been here, not just for this week. So they are doing that and we will continue to be as professional as we possibly can; and try to get the fans, in whatever small way, back onside with us.”
Chelsea’s prospects look brighter. Admittedly, this was not the perfect litmus test, but the performances of several youngsters caught the eye.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who opened the scoring with a well-taken goal, looked imposing and powerful in the middle of the park, while debutant Matt Miazga showed glimpses of composure rarely seen in a 20-year-old centre-back.
And for Guus Hiddink there will be none of Villa’s fear at giving youngsters a chance as he prepares to step aside for the next manager.
“I think when you have an academy as Chelsea already have for a long time then as a consequence it is not easy, but then you must give also the players a chance to step up,” said Hiddink. “That’s what we are doing now in the second part of this league. I don’t mind bringing in youngsters, like Loftus was earlier this season.
“And also Clarke-Salter came on for the last 15 minutes. It is good to see — we’ve got Kenedy too. It’s good to see the youngsters especially in this late part of the league.”
The future may look bright for Chelsea and Hiddink’s enjoyment at seeing his youngsters impress is a testament to that, but for Villa the concern is no-one really knows what comes next. The banners held aloft in the Holte End poignantly summed up the mood at the club: “Proud history, what future?”
ASTON VILLA (4-2-3-1):
Guzan 3; Hutton 4, Richards 5, Lescott 4, Cissokho 4; Westwood 5, Gueye 4 (82 Lyden 5); Gil 6 (66 Grealish 6), Sanchez 4 (66 Bacuna 5), Ayew 7; Gestede 5.
Subs not used:
Bunn, Okore, Veretout, Sinclair.
Courtois 6; Azpilicueta 7, Ivanovic 6, Miazga 7, Rahman 6; Fabregas 6, Mikel 7; Pedro 8 (73 Clarke-Salter 5), Loftus-Cheek 8, Kenedy 6 (45 Oscar 7); Remy 6 (22 Pato 7).
Subs not used:
Begovic, Matic, Traore, Falcao.
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