A visiting side with no wins in 2023? No first-half goals this year? No victories outside of London since last summer? A win ratio of barely 10% when Zaha is missing? Welcome to Villa Park Crystal Palace!Embed from Getty Images
Jokes aside, this is exactly the kind of fixture where Villa have come unstuck in the past. It will be a real test of Villa’s resolve against an unpredictable opposition and one which desperately needs to improve its form since the turn of the year.
Further, this is another opportunity for Emery to judge the current squad and its ability to build momentum and a winning mentality in the league. The manager was at times cutting in his remarks during Villa’s 3-match winless streak, emphasising that the players needed to deliver higher standards and performances more consistently.
The victory over Everton (0-2) last weekend was a welcome away win against a dogged, relegation-threatened Sean Dyche side. It was far from pretty, but ultimately the key tactical decisions and moments in front of goal counted. Villa were also better at the back, halting a worrying trend having shipped 11 in the 3 games prior with a clean sheet.
As also observed by Emery in his post-match remarks, the objective must now be to translate this into a winning home performance. Our Villa Park form and displays have been nervy and underwhelming for a good while now, with no good explanation.
The visit of Palace represents a fine opportunity to apply pressure to 10th spot. The visitors aren’t in good shape at all, but we mustn’t be the side to allow them to play themselves back into form either. In short, this can’t be kind of stop-start result of the type Villa put in during the poor loss against Leicester (2-4).
There are certainly areas of intrigue too. How will Villa manage the expected return of Wilfred Zaha? Will Ollie Watkins score a record-equalling sixth consecutive goal? Will Emery persist with the enigma that is Leon Bailey? We shall see.
ASTON VILLA 2-0 PALACE