Pato and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were among the positives for Chelsea but Aston Villa’s season hit a new low with another humiliating defeat at Villa Park.
Only two defeats from relegation, no one expected Villa to suddenly summon the character, belief and talent to ignite a charge for survival when Chelsea came to town on Saturday. Just a smidgen of effort would have placated the home support, but the Villans could not even muster that.
Guus Hiddink made good on the promise he made on Friday to experiment in the final games of the season, but the Chelsea boss cannot form too many conclusions from today’s data. The Blues players looking to impress will have faced a more difficult challenge in an Under-21 game.
‘No fight, no pride, no effort, no hope’ was the banner displayed by the home supporters just after half-time, and it was a succinct summary of their side’s performance again. A lack of quality can sometimes be masked by organisation and industry but the Villans once more looked like a group of strangers thrown together.
Eric Black set Villa up to “not concede” and brought in Carlos Sanchez to add more energy into the midfield, but Cesc Fabregas, Loftus-Cheek and even John Obi Mikel waltzed through the five-man unit with ease. So often there was either no pressure on the ball or two Villans closed down the same space. Mikel made a mug of Sanchez and Idrissa Gueye in the build-up to the first goal, while the third and fourth came as a result of Villa’s refusal to step in the shadow of their visitors.
All Villa had to do was avoid shameless embarrassment – the kind they suffered when Liverpool waltzed to a 6-0 win in February – and go down with something more than a whimper. They failed even to do that and the fans are clearly sick of it. The atmosphere, understandably, is toxic and it will take more than a new manager to get the Holte End back on side.
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) April 2, 2016
In the face of such little opposition, it was a perfect day for Hiddink to hand out a couple of run-outs through the spine of the team. USA defender Matt Miazga was given a debut and you could forgive him for thinking the Premier League was a breeze. The former New York Red Bulls defender worked out early on that he could allow Rudy Gestede to win the first header because there was never any liklihood that there would be a Villa player running in support of their centre-forward.
Loftus-Cheek will have had more testing afternoons in academy matches and the midfielder helped himself to his first Chelsea goal to give the visitors the lead. The 20-year-old controlled the tempo alongside Fabregas and was allowed to wander forward with the insurance of Mikel behind him. Glenn Hoddle remarked on BT Sport that Loftus-Cheek resembled Michael Ballack, which may be fair comment, but anyone up against this Villa midfield would look like a world beater.
The same thinking should be applied to Pato’s performance. The Brazilian, finally handed his debut nine weeks after joining the club, led the line well after replacing Loic Remy. The attacker had a heavy role in half of Chelsea’s goals, winning and scoring their second from the spot.
Pato offered Chelsea good variety, alternating coming short with running in behind Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott. Against better sides, the Chelsea new boy will not be allowed the sort of time and space he was given to get turned and run at the hosts before putting Pedro’s first goal on a plate for the Spaniard.
Poor Falcao remained on the bench as Chelsea made hay in the Villa Park sunshine but Villa’s woes at least offered the Colombian some perspective. The striker has had an utterly miserable season, but as Villa showed, it could be worse. A lot worse.