The team they fielded that day was as follows: Brad Friedel, Carlos Cuellar, Richard Dunne, James Collins, Stephen Warnock, James Milner, Steve Sidwell, Stiliyan Petrov, Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, John Carew.
Fast forward to Saturdays Aston Villa side that, all be it bravely, lost to Chelsea: Shay Given, Eric Lichaj, James Collins, Nathan Baker, Stephen Warnock, Gary Gardner, Chris Herd, Barry Bannan, Stephen Ireland, Andres Weimann, Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Not only has the side changed completely, its changed for the worse. The former European Cup winners have gone from top four contenders to relegation candidates.
Less then three years apart are these matches, and only three of the Aston Villa side that beat Chelsea, the champions of the league that season, played on Saturday. Them three (Collins, Warnock and Agbonlahor) are all out of form and nowhere near as good as they were three years ago.
Looking at the Villa side that lost on Saturday there are no leaders. Local boy Agbonlahor captained the side. He is not a leader.
|Despite captaining the side on the weekend, Agbonlahor's form has been poor since the turn of the year|
I appreciate Villa have lots of injuries; however the side that lost on the weekend is poor (Barry Bannan, Stephen Ireland and Shay Given aside)
It's fair to say McLeish wasn't the fans number one choice to replace the retiring Gerard Houllier. And despite a decent start to the season, they've won just seven league games this season, collecting just 16 points at Villa Park.
If things wasn't bad enough for Villa, their football this season has been dire. Though Roberto Martinez rejected Aston Villa, if the club really wanted him, they could have got him. There was the chance to bring in a young manager who could be at the club for years and genuinely approach the game in the right manor. However Villa took the easy option and appoint someone who has been there and done it, despite just an OK track record in England.
In December of this season Villa went to Stamford Bridge and played them off the pitch in a 3-1 win. The next game they lost 2-0 at home to Swansea. What is the point of winning at Stamford Bridge if you can't win at home against of QPR, Swansea, Wolves and West Brom? Their inconsistency is there for all to see, something even mirrored in the managers past who won the Carling Cup with Birmingham last year; however they ended up being relegated to the Championship.
Currently Aston Villa sit three places above the drop zone; however the difference between them and QPR is just three points. The club are in trouble make no mistake about it, and I can't see them getting ANY points from their next three matches (Liverpool away, Stoke home, Manchester United away).
Villa's remaining fixtures (predictions in brackets)
Liverpool away (loss)
Stoke home (loss)
Manchester United away (loss)
Sunderland home (draw)
Bolton home (win)
West Brom away (loss)
Tottenham home (loss)
Norwich away (draw)
The bottom five sides (with the exemption of Wolves) are in decent form, Aston Villa are not and the Midlands club are worryingly looking over their shoulders. With just 10 points from their last 10 games (most of them favourable fixtures), Villa are in poor form and despite me writing a piece about last week about the bottom five, for me now its a bottom six.
I think the five points I've predicted them to get from their remaining fixtures will be enough to keep Villa in the league; however the club should never have been dragged into the dog fight to remain in the Barclays Premier League. I feel the club at the end of the season should relieve their manager of his duties and attempt to bring in either Brendan Rodgers, Owen Coyle or Paul Lambert.