Saturday’s Premier League action saw Aston Villa take a huge step in its attempts to avoid relegation this season, after earning a 4-0 win against Sunderland. The victory was even more impressive, considering what was at stake: before the match, Villa was one spot above the relegation zone in 17th place, and playing an away game against a Sunderland side one point ahead, in 16th. With four goals, two apiece from strikers Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor, in the first half, Villa was able to secure a valuable three points, and jump ahead of Sunderland in the table. Speaking to reporters after the match, Villa head coach Tim Sherwood was pleased with the win and the offensive output, but recognized his team’s ability to maintain the shutout after building such a large lead by halftime. “We’re delighted, obviously, to get four goals in one game,” Sherwood said. “I’m almost as pleased with the ‘zero’ on the end of it in the second half as I was with the four goals we scored in the first half. It’s not easy, you know, to play when you’re 4-0 up…it’s a lot easier when you’re 4-0 down to be honest.” Speaking to his players after the game, Sherwood re-emphasized the importance of staying grounded and avoiding complacency with 9 league matches left in the season. “I just told the guys, there’s a long way to go…there’s a lot of hard work to be done, but this is a great step.”
It can be difficult, at times, for players to maintain high levels of concentration and effort after they’ve been successful. When things are going your way on the field or in your career, and the game seems to be easy for you, it is tempting to take your foot off the gas pedal and coast to an outcome. You can become over-confident in your abilities, and assume that the game has been won, or your goals have been reached, before the “final whistle”. As a result, you may stop working hard, and your focus can drop, as you lose sight of your role and responsibilities in the moment. The same can hold true for your team, moving forward after a big win. As a player, complacency can be one of the biggest hindrances to consistency on the field, because success can cause you to lose sight of the hard work and discipline it took to get to where you are. Avoiding complacency has everything to do with being aware of your mind’s tendency to stray from the present moment. As a player, it’s normal to imagine yourself winning or to spend time thinking about your outcome goals, because either one can motivate you. However, there is a time and a place for both, and when you find that you are thinking so much about an outcome that it is taking your mind away from the present moment, try to shift your focus back to doing what it takes to be successful. During halftime of a game like Aston Villa’s over the weekend, reflect on what allowed you to have success in the first half. Remind yourself, in times like this, to stay in the present moment with a refocusing cue (e.g., “Here and now” or “Don’t let up”). It can also help to set small goals or objectives for yourself, during a game for instance, by challenging yourself to maintain possession, or win your 1v1 defensive battles. Communicate effectively with players around you, reminding them to stay organized, disciplined, and focused on the present. With two and a half months left this season, Villa does indeed have “a long way to go” to ensure that it can compete in the Premier League next season. The ability of the players and coach to stay disciplined and focused on what they need to do throughout each game will go a long way in helping them achieve just that.
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