Despite weeks of cheer and positivity, Villa fans will feel aggrieved with the manner of the 1-1 draw at home to Sheffield United. The referee and the VAR team once again make a total mess of a Premier League fixture. Despite the frustration, here are Five Reasons to Be Cheerful as Villans this festive season…
With the Europa Conference League’s Play-off fixtures now drawn, Villa managed to escape the need to take part in them by securing top spot in the group stage. The final game saw Villa draw in Bosnia against a stubborn and organised Zrinjski team, which was enough to keep Legia Warsaw at bay.
Villa now have a long pause until March from European action, which will allow focus to be turned solely on the Premier League hunt for a top four finish.
As the rage settles following a performance from the VAR team and referee that can only be described as either incompetent or, worse still, corrupt, it is perhaps time to follow Emery’s lead and analyse the result with a cool head.
Villa would have beaten Sheffield United were it not for the officials, but the consecutive home winning run came to an end. Sheffield United will argue it’s revenge for the ghost goal, but nonetheless it’s two points dropped for the home team. In reality, Villa were fortunate to win against Brentford last weekend, so despite the disappointment fans rightly feel, they have to accept that in a 38 game season, these things happen. When it comes to the level of refereeing in England, unfortunately, these things happen far too often. It’s important that from the two games that followed the epic Manchester City and Arsenal wins, Villa haven’t yet lost a match and maintain the pressure at the top. The Sheffield draw is certainly an opportunity missed, like the Nottingham Forest game before it, but there will be hopefully be more of them ahead.
It’s well established that before his two cruciate knee ligament injuries, Zaniolo was a star in the making at Roma. At Villa, he showed early promise but as time passed, his frustration (and ours) seemed to have affected his performances a little bit. However, two very important goals in eight days might just give him the boost he needed to reignite his Villa career. He’s certainly still one to watch for 2024.
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Whether or not Villa have FFP spending leeway in January, remains to be seen. Emery has a good-sized squad filled with quality players but some exits may yet be expected. Dendoncker, Chambers and Traoré are barely involved in the first team and you’d imagine may move on if there are any takers. There are areas where Villa could use more quality this season, so Villa will be keen to capitalise on their impress start to the season.
A right-back would be high on the agenda, with a Moreno-esque bit of scouting sorely needed. A back-up goalkeeper would certainly add some security, if Martinez is forced to miss games in the new year. A more battle-ready understudy to Watkins wouldn’t hurt either, but they are hard to come by. The window comes at a good time to allow Emery to fine tune his high flying Villans, should he see the need to do so, to ensure that Villa are strong enough to compete in Europe and the top four until May.
It’s Christmas, Villa sit in third place having taken ten points from Manchester City, Arsenal, Brentford away and Sheffield United. The club is in the last 16 of a European competition, with Unai Emery as manager and ambitious owners above him.
None of this is new information, but to allow the rage to subside from the Sheffield United screw job, it’s important to remember that the club is in a very healthy place. The Villa Christmas gifts have already been delivered, but a win against Manchester United on Boxing Day, would certainly ensure Christmas cheer is ramped up to the max.
Merry Christmas and UTV
Follow Armen on Twitter here – @VillanArmen