Only at Aston Villa could we find ourselves at the end of November facing make or break matches. Throw in some ill-discipline from Grealish, a bemused new manager & growing supporter discontent…each season has become a parody of Groundhog Day.
We will not be relegated on the basis of one defeat, but, a loss at home to those whom we would reasonably consider to be our rivals would raise blood pressure.
Watford, by my reckoning are relatively organised, unconvincing at the back and without a sustained goal threat. They are about a step ahead of where we are, more points certainly, but lacking forward momentum. Where we should hopefully capitalise is by applying some pressure to their back four. We are at home, we need to win and this is a great opportunity to set ourselves up to hurt a team.
This has been the problem for a while though hasn’t it? Hurting teams.
Garde desperately needs to settle an effective mix of attacking midfield flair and somehow muster a goalscorer. I’m unconvinced by all of our out and out options so far this season, but I do also feel the strikers have been badly let down by abysmal supply and dodgy tactics. I’m positive few strikers would thrive at Villa Park presently.
As big as Villa’s problems finding the net, is keeping goals out. Richardson has come in for viscous criticism at left back. Whilst it’s clear he lacks both the legs and the reading of the game to do this role effectively, he is a victim also of our decision to provide no cover on the flanks. Most recently at Everton, he was often left two on one, to obvious results.
This presents a problem; who do you replace Richardson with? Do we just persevere and sit Carlos Sanchez ahead of him to mop up the pressure? I’m no huge fan of Richardson, but I do think protecting this exposed position is a necessary step for whoever is picked. We are not enamoured with proven replacements though.
Garde would be expected to persevere with Richards and Clarke at centre half. Neither have covered themselves in glory this season, but it has to be our best currently available pairing. With that said, Okore could easily find himself in the starting 11 for Clark if match fit. The prospect of seeing Lescott again in a hurry would be a mistake, unless something remarkable changes.
In the absence of Grealish, rightly demoted for his idiotic behaviour off the field, it frees Garde of the clamour to pick both him and Gil. This hasn’t worked all season, if ever, and allows for the inclusion of a Sanchez, rotating N’Zogbia or accommodating Sinclair at different junctures. I like Grealish, but he hasn’t provided either the threat or work rate we crave. I’d go as far to say that Jack wont be missed, which is a sad point to reflect on a player with all the qualities to succeed.
Three points are an absolute must. At the risk of sounding alarmist, failing to win these types of fixtures will ultimately seal our fate. We must stay positive, but nothing less than a win will do with an unpredictable fixture away at Southampton to follow. If no points at Villa Park, to Watford, then where? The revival must begin today.