After a relatively calm and quiet January transfer window has now closed, attention turns to Villa’s Saturday evening trip to Bramall Lane. Emery will be keen to get back to winning ways after a disappointing performance and defeat midweek against Newcastle (1-3) and knowing his side hasn’t tasted a league win since the end of December.Embed from Getty Images
With Mings and Buendia sidelined for the season, Digne and Pau Torres also remain sidelined. Digne, who had been in particularly fine form, is a big miss as Moreno struggles for consistency after a lengthy time out earlier in the campaign.
Pau Torres is a particularly frustrating absentee, with the Spaniard’s composure and ball-playing qualities sorely missed. The defender seems unable to shake off a troublesome ankle injury, but managed to train this week for the first time in several weeks. Rushing Torres back would be a risk and perhaps a mistake given his importance in the coming months, but there’s a gaping hole in the centre of Villa’s defence whilst he’s out.
Jhon Duran remains out for at least another month, leaving Villa looking decidedly limited in terms of any reserve attacking threat. Whilst Watkins’ return is impressive, the England international cannot be expected to do it all, especially with Moussa Diaby in such a low ebb of confidence. Much also rests upon Leon Bailey’s shoulders too.
Zaniolo, drafted in as a late summer replacement after the disastrous injury to Buendia has left much to be desired in terms of his final product. However, he’s the latest to be unavailable having withdrawn from training late in the week. It’s unclear how long the Italian will be out, but the effectiveness of his style remain a matter of some debate.
In more positive news, Villa have the option of throwing new signing Morgan Rogers straight into the fray. The former Middlesbrough forward, pursued for most of the transfer window, achieved 15 goal contributions in the Championship this term. It seems unlikely he’ll have much opportunity to spectate with a congested fixture list on the horizon.
Our hosts are in pretty rough shape, it must be said. Just 10 points, one clean sheet and they’ve shipped a near record-breaking 54 goals in just 22 games. Still, Newcastle came to Villa Park with the worst away form in the division on Wednesday night and we all know what happened there.
Injuries and a dip in form aside, these types of fixtures can be seemingly innocuous junctures in a long season. Especially on the back of a poor result and with the peak performances of the early campaign set dangerously high as a benchmark. However, it must be a priority to get back on track, regain some kind of momentum and not slip into a drift that could render the success of 2023 irrelevant.
Reassuringly, this Emery side does have fight, grit and determination within its ranks and one wonders how the game might pan out if we can seize the initiative against United early. We could also use a little luck, but then, you make your own luck. What this fixture represents though is a fine opportunity to get a win just as we need it and keep alive the hope of a top 4 finish.
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