No… they don’t (it’s as simple as that).
Should anyone feel that they do not need to read such an unnecessary blog post to decide their answer for the above question, then please be my guest and click the ‘x’ button at the top right corner of your screen. If you choose to continue, below is what sparked a post I never thought I would have to write.
“Whenever Villa played their best football it was with Emile Heskey…”
I’m not a fan of negative writing. I know I have been guilty of this in the past but I like to think that any criticism I have of Aston Villa is largely constructive and contributes to the greater good of improving the club (or at least ways in which it could be improved). Of course, I am bias, but I don’t think that any of my opinions are unreasonable. I try to support a lot of my writing with facts; although I recognise that subjectivity is the fuel of football debate and the beauty of the one, true international language. Nevertheless, sometimes, we have to be critical.
But I will not, for example, downplay the obvious effect our 23 year old Agbonlahor has on the team because of his inability to win the Golden Boot (like some ignoramus writers). I will not ridicule someone’s view that Milner should play on the right for England, and then later argue that this is his best position and the reason why he is actually not so important for his club (like some hypocritical, and inaccurate bloggers). I like to research the unarguable datum and undergo essential performance analyses of both the players and the staff (some people obliviously dismiss this as unimportant, yet it is the same mode of work in which all Premier League clubs will officially recognise as means of progression). Of course, sometimes I just like writing. I like presenting my ideas and I occasionally like to reflect football in a poetic light. However, how could I ignore a sentence such as that which is quoted above? How could I accept an unsupported argument suggesting that Emile Heskey is pivotal to the best football of Aston Villa?
Well, I couldn’t accept this.
On the 5th March, I wrote a damning crtitique (https://myavfc.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/emile-heskey-conman-extraordinaire-2/) of Heskey’s performances for the club I love so well; but after his through ball to Steven Gerrard against the USA earlier in the summer, the myth that he brings other players into the game was once again vibrant – despite the fact that apart from the goal, he was responsible for just 2 more final balls in the game, and these were two unsuccessful flick ons (he also won one shootable free kick).
At the time of that post, Emile had notched up 3 goals (the same as Richard Dunne) and 1 assist. He then finished the season with 3 goals (the same as Richard Dunne) and 2 assists. And with 2 further League Cup goals, the former England international finished the season with a tally of one goal for every eight games played (5 goals in 40 appearances). Obviously, he didn’t start all of these matches (although he started the majority of them), but what was more interesting was to find that similar to his England career, 4 of The Mule’s 5 goals came in a comfortable winning margin of at least two goals for his club (all of his competitive international goals came when England won by at least three goals).
Furthermore, Heskey did not contribute to the squad with even one forced own goal or by being awarded at least one penalty. Villa banged in 80 goals in all domestic competitions last season – Heskey had a hand in just 10% of these (making him non-existent for 9 out of every 10 AVFC goals).
Despite his clear ineffectiveness for the cause, and his inability to properly bring other players into the game, maybe we do play our best football when Emile Heskey is on the field.
However, going right back to the second game of the season, the fluid 4-5-1 we adopt was once again proved popular as a ‘Heskeyless’ Aston Villa not only grabbed 3 at Anfield, but completely outplayed, and outsmarted, the league runners-up in their own backyard. Heskey was introduced for the last 10 uneventful minutes.
The following game, Villa recorded probably their most comfortable, and pleasing, victory of the season at home to Fulham (who had finished just one place below us) in the absence of the all-important-Heskey. The return fixture was equally as pleasing (although not as attractive) and the big man did feature – marking his performance with the game’s most fouls.
Thankfully, Heskey was missing for the arrival of Bolton Wanderers at Villa Park as the home side enjoyed a rare 60% of possession; not to mention their 19 recorded shots, and of course, 5 goals.
Villa also completed dominating performances away to Hull and Birmingham without the “services” of EH and they turned over eventual league champions, Chelsea, with the Carew-Gabby partnership. However, the memorable Old Trafford success (as unconvincing as it was) included Emile and he was also a member of the team which knocked 5 past Championship outfit Burnley. But it is ridiculously clear that, compared to Gabby and Big John, Heskey’s contribution to Villa’s season was extremely minimal. He was either excluded or had a limited involvement in my favourite league performances this year, and it’s not as if he has a great effect record to fall back on (meanwhile Agbonlahor has had a direct responsibility in 43% of the possible goals he could have this year; whilst Carew made one more appearance than Heskey – yet still managed to knock in 16 goals, grab 5 assists, and win 4 penalties). Heskey also played either a bitpart role or a second string duty in the FA Cup run which saw his centre forward competitor (JC) grab the competition’s golden boot.
Both Villa’s success, and at times, their best football this year has not taken place “with” Emile Heskey by any means. In actual fact, it took place in spite of Emile Heskey, who if anything, did his best to hinder our performances. I could continue to decipher his appaling form; his apparent need to fall over at the sight of any ball; his inability to hold the ball up and the lack of success from his flick ons; I could simply point to the fact that John Carew was responsible for 20 more goals (in the same amount of games) as his clubmate; or even conduct a survey of who has been the most frustrating Villa player of the past 10 years. But I don’t need to. It would be an insult to our players, and to our fans, if I did. In actuality, it is already an insult that even one “fan” declared that Heskey is associated with our best football – particularly with zilch signs of backing up such a ludicrous statement with any kind of reasoning.
As I say, I don’t like to be negative – but sometimes, black has to be separated from white in the reckless free-for-all that an unjustified grey area grants. A grey area derived from such conjecture as the quote which started this piece. I don’t like to pick on players (which I am doing with Emile) and consistently single them out for crticism, but I am adamant that I am a fair man who is simply looking to start the season in a positive manner – and who has his own specific idea of how to achieve this. Firstly, I just hope that Neil Lennon falls for the charm of the World Cup hero and ships him north of the border so I can finally put Heskey-gate behind me for good.