If there is one thing that you can guarantee with Aston Villa is that they will surprise you. Yes, they bring us terror, agony and joy in variable measures, but there is rarely a dull moment following our football club.
Aston Villa (1) vs. (0) Crystal Palace
This certainly didn’t turn out how I and presumably many others feared. The strong, pacey and organised Palace side that I expected to turn up at Villa Park didn’t make an appearance. I would go as far as to say that they had an absolute stinker.
Aside from occasional forays forward and hitting the post in the opening exchanges, Pardew’s side were not at the races at all. They looked completely imbalanced, struggled to build any momentum and looked lacking up front. A drive up the M6 could hardly have seemed worth it to watch Connor Wickham struggle to justify a hefty transfer fee.
As for ourselves we were our usual shaky selves to begin with, but grew into the game. The dropping of Brad Guzan, long overdue, seemed to bring with it renewed calm in the defence. Whilst Bunn was untested, he evoked calm and order, barking throughout. Whilst time will tell with our new number 1, Guzan should see a clear message; you are droppable & ill-discipline towards supporters will not be tolerated.
Another welcome inclusion was Libor Kozak. Kozak did all of the simple things well and carried a threat over 90 minutes. It wasn’t a masterclass, but it was a professional and talented display which raises queries as to why he has been included almost as a last resort. It highlighted just how poor Gestede is & how in our position, we must make the best use of our available players. I can only see Kozak continuing in the team hereafter.
Other pleasing performances included the tireless Gana, ever improving Veretout and defensive solidity of Cissokho. Jordan Ayew continues to demonstrate his qualities as both an exceptionally hardworking player & also a do or die runner. Ayew in this form could make the next few fixtures very interesting indeed.
The goal was comical, but in our position it matters little. It marks another headed goal for Lescott, who is contributing both in terms of steadier performances and carrying a threat from corners. You might not like the guy particularly, but there is justification in him being picked.
What do the 3 points mean? Well, it rejuvenates the outside chance of survival. Maths might be in our favour, but it would be some comeback if achieved. This makes us thirst to beat Leicester this Saturday evening, but also regret missed opportunities to add more points over the festive period. The past is gone, but we might just be able to change our future….
Aston Villa (vs) Leicester City (16.01.2016 Kick Off: 17:30pm)
Who would have thought that we might consider this a must win game?
If Villa hadn’t achieved anything other than 3 points against Palace I don’t imagine anyone would be looking for anything other than pride from this game. With a sliver of light at the end of a dark and uncertain tunnel, this represents a chance. And a chance is all we need.
The perhaps crazy thing in all of this, is despite having won once since August we are only 8 points from safety. It sounds a lot, indeed it does represent 3 wins with others losing, but we have 17 games. Unprecedented and unimaginable, but not impossible.
Leicester are obviously in good shape and are enjoying an unprecedented season of their own. However, they are still, despite this, not a side who points cannot be taken from. They have drawn with Bournemouth (twice), Stoke & Southampton & recent form includes 3 further draws and a defeat. The victory against Tottenham midweek being particularly remarkable given Spurs’ domination of the fixture.
What I guess I’m saying is that this game isn’t an automatic defeat, factoring in our rejuvenation, awakening to an opportunity & a slice of East/West Midlands rivalry for good measure.
The threats are obvious; Mahrez is a superb player who punishes space and time. Vardy is a relentless, determined and confident finisher. Enviable attributes.
But we do carry our own; Kozak is like a new signing. Gil is tricky. Veretout has drive & vision. Ayew has the makings of something very special indeed. If we are undone, it will be through having to chase a game through an inability to defend. If Garde can keep the back-line settled and tight, we will have a fighting chance.
Prediction: Aston Villa 2 vs. 1 Leicester City
New Chairman Announced: Steven Hollis
Long overdue and accompanied by another rambling, largely incomprehensible statement from Randy Lerner, Steven Hollis has taken up a position as Chairman of our historic football club.
Whilst not appearing to have any background within football (not unusual when compared to other sides, surprising as it may be), Hollis has local business knowledge and at least some attachment to our city. He also seems to be a departure from other appointments, whereby club targets have been seemingly randomly acquired from international commercial posts. This in itself must bring some must needed balance to the party.
Despite this, sticking to it’s mantra of managing Public Relations with the subtlety of a marauding chimp, the club quoted Hollis on his arrival as saying;
“When Randy approached me last November, chairing one of the UK’s best known football clubs was not, quite frankly, on my list of possible opportunities.“
Which reads to me, he’s flattered, but didn’t think he was capable of the job? Or took some persuasion? The fact that he has apparently been working behind the scenes, in secret, suggests that there was a period of enlightenment required before both parties agreed to proceed. Intriguing.
The appointment had and will be scrutinised and debated to death. The simple fact is that this appointment was long overdue, but it’s done. It also confirms the expected, that Lerner is largely out of the picture. He owns the club, lives in the states, will monitor matters but is essentially a silent partner from now on. Although it is arguable whether he was ever an active one.
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