The 24-year-old needs to resort to an old solution to his new
problem at Villa Park
There is a side of Ghana international Jordan Ayew that isn’t very
nice: the petulant, volatile lad who could explode into bits, his team
along with him, when you least expect him to.
Since signing for Aston Villa in the summer, through all the lows
player and/or club have experienced, it is largely Ayew’s positive
side — the brilliant, admirable talent — that has shone through.
After an admittedly slow start, Ayew has morphed into a reliable
player, the considerably prolific goalscorer on whom Villans have
banked their hopes of success in an ever-toughening fight against
relegation, a fate they narrowly avoided last term. To a significant
extent, Ayew hasn’t disappointed as five goals, including some crucial
strikes, have made him Villa’s topscorer in the league. He may not
quite be the ideal Christian Benteke replacement yet, but Ayew has
truly proved just the man the Birmingham outfit needs in its present
circumstances. It’s a role he was thriving in — to the delight of
Villa fans the world over — till the club’s Matchday 24 Premier
League game against West Ham United. Seventeen minutes into the match,
with the score pegged at 0-0, Ayew — Villa’s brightest attacking
prospect for sometime now, as highlighted from the outset — had his
sanity snap in a moment which, though not really rivalling Eric
Cantona’s infamous kung-fu kick or Zinedine Zidane’s costly headbutt,
was as bad and stupid as recklessness on a football pitch gets. And,
no, it wasn’t simply the ‘pain’ of playing an opponent who dons
Villa’s claret-and-blue combo as a home kit or something nearly as
superficial that set Ayew off.
Admittedly, trying to secure a good spot in anticipation of a throw-in
in the Hammers’ territory was made no easier by tight marking from
opposing defender Aaron Cresswell. Still, Cresswell pressed Ayew no
less legitimately on that occasion than other defenders do in such
situations. Hence, that Ayew took it so personally, to the point of
smacking his elbow hard in Cresswell’s face — a second after swinging
his other arm into the West Ham man’s ribs but failing to connect —
was everything it shouldn’t have been. It got him, aside a three-game
ban that doesn’t end until after Villa visit the Britannia Stadium in
a fortnight, labelled by Villa supporters as many things unpleasant:
‘stupid’, a ‘twat’, ‘clown’, ‘goat’, ‘bloody idiot’, and a few other
charitable adjectives that our incredibly polite computer just
couldn’t bring itself to process.
Never mind the intensity of the abuse, as it only emphasizes the fact
that Ayew is a man Villa simply cannot afford to lose. Still, those
irate fans should have looked a little deeper to realize just what
underlying issues may have got Ayew boiling over as did Villa manager
Remi Garde who, although reasonably furious at Ayew and only too eager
to fine him for that error, subsequently explained rather
“It’s an accumulation of frustration for Jordan,” said the Frenchman.
“A little bit during the game, but this frustration has grown in the
previous weeks with the results and the way we were not winning
Garde’s observations couldn’t have been more accurate. This isn’t a
case of Jordan ‘being Jordan’ just because he wants to; it’s more an
issue of Villa’s troubles getting to the lad. Perhaps he’s beginning
to feel overwhelmed by the club’s plight — a situation he’s already
at his wits’ end leading the charge to resolve — and the frustration
of ultimately not doing enough to deliver Villa from evil may be
driving him nuts. He’s still but a boy, after all, and, at 24, is yet
to reach full maturity.
It’s a problem Ayew could deal with best by reverting to a habit he’s
been trying to shed in his bid to become a more popular footballer:
individualism. When tuned to full prima donna mode, Ayew does know how
to play for none but himself. And while his teams aren’t always better
off as a consequence, he himself isn’t exactly a worse footballer for
it. It’s just what the doctor prescribed for Ayew’s current headache.
He needs to focus less on Villa’s failings and more on his game. If he
improves his own lot (as measured in goals and other metrics), though
Villa might well go down by May, Ayew would have done enough to
guarantee himself an extended stay in the Premier League when the
division’s stronger clubs come pursuing him. Should those personal
contributions help Villa to safety — an outcome which seems somewhat
unlikely –, fine thing; if not, he’d have done his part and could say
his good-byes with a good conscience.
For his sake (and possibly for Villa’s), then, Ayew needs to get
selfish — and fast!