Saturday, 30 January 2010

A good performance at Villa Park + looking ahead

Here are some stats which may surprise you: Aston Villa have conceded the fewest goals of any team in the Premiership this season. They've scored the same number of goals as West Ham: their League position is based on a very tight defence and the three goals we scored against them on the day after Boxing Day was exceptional.

So Wednesday night's match was always going to be a tight game. And although when we play United tomorrow it will be ten days since we won a League game (hopefully that will be it...) it's unfair to say we have no momentum: it's only one game we've failed to win.

Perhaps more pertinently, if you went through the fixture list pin-pointing places where dropped points should be expected, Villa Park is one of them. The League isn't won by winning away at the top six or eight teams.

Sure, it would have been nice to win. But our aim has to be to win home and away against the bottom half teams and then aim to take four points from six from the other members of the top ten. Do that, and you win the League easily.

Of course, that's difficult. We already know that out of a possible six points, we can take no more than three from our pair of matches against Chelsea, United, or City. But it's something to aspire to. If Arsenal put 96 points on the board and didn't win the League, I for one would be gracious about it - another team would have had to be absolutely brilliant.

This run of four matches of which we've currently played one is difficult. Eight points would be a brilliant return. Frankly, it would be churlish to dismiss the point we won against Villa. They don't play great football, but they've made themselves very difficult to beat. Personally, I feel it is an indictment on the Premier League that a team like Villa can threaten Champions League qualification: it is damning evidence that technique and flair really are relatively unimportant in terms of being successful.

The reality is that we were unlucky: on another day Cesc's shot would have crept inside the post and we would have gone home with an important three points. It was a scrappy game where very little of note happened for at least the first twenty minutes.

But either way, tomorrow's match against United was going to be a massive game. As a fan of Bendtner, I'm happy to forgive him being slightly off the pace on Wednesday after not playing for three months.

The question remains though, will he be fully fit tomorrow? He was excellent as a lone striker last year, and it looks like our best chance of taking three points it to leave him up top to create chances for Fabregas, Arshavin, Nasri et al.

Considering how average we were against Villa, a point was probably a fair result. But we must be better tomorrow. If we can take eight points from twelve, we'll be in a terrific position to win the League.

The paucity of our opposition in our final ten games means we can probably afford to be six points behind after this run of four games. But then we will be dependent on others slipping up - a far from ideal situation.

In league games against United at The Grove we have an excellent record. Let's keep that up.

Keep the faith,

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