Remi Garde believes Aston Villa can still secure survival, despite today’s 2-0 Premier League defeat at Norwich leaving them 11 points from safety, with the division’s worst goal difference and without a league victory since the opening day of the season.
As they often have since the Frenchman’s appointment as manager, 20th-placed Villa - who visit Sunderland on Saturday - began encouragingly before struggling after conceding the opening goal, on this occasion scored from close range by Jonny Howson.
Diermerci Mbokani headed Norwich’s second in the 87th minute after a period in which Villa had enough possession to score but failed to do so.
Despite relegation now appearing a near-inevitability, Garde said: “The quality of the players is there for me.
“The confidence is a key point to playing good football, and you can see, especially, some situations that some of my players are not playing with confidence. You make a technical mistake, you are not free to run everywhere...
“You can say, ‘Yes, they are not good enough’, but I don’t think my players aren’t good enough to win games.
“We didn’t create enough opportunities to put Norwich under pressure. We had ball possession quite a lot but we were not dangerous in the final third.
“I’m realistic, but in the meantime we have to carry on. The spirit and what we showed in the last two games was not as bad as the results were.
“I will be the last one believing that (survival is) possible. At the moment, after defeat, everybody is disappointed.
“I am realistic as well. I’m not a dreamer, but I am someone who won’t run away from his responsibilities. I won’t tell you that I am sure we are going to be safe, but take all what I said, don’t just take one part of my sentences. I am realistic as well.
“I know that week after week the situation is getting more difficult, but until we can still be safe mathematically, I will believe it.”
The result was as much a disappointment for Villa as it was encouraging for Norwich, who have taken 20 points from their opening 19 league fixtures and whose manager, Alex Neil, described the victory as their “most important of the season” before revealing he expected a greater points tally than they presently have.
“The games snowball between now and the end of the season,” he said. “Every game’s going to become more and more important. If you do pick points up it’s great, it sees you clear of trouble. If you don’t, then the next game becomes even bigger.
“The next 19 are going to be huge, but today has probably been our biggest game, because it takes us to that 20-point mark at halfway, and I still think there’s more to come.
“I wouldn’t have taken (this) at the start of the season. We’re probably maybe three or four points off where I think we should be, based on some of the games we’ve played so far, but that gives me optimism for the next half of the season because I think we can do better.”