Five Reasons to be Cheerful as Villa Fans
By Armen Mirzoian
Watkins’ Current Run
Since Danny Ings’ surprise move to West Ham; Ollie Watkins is featuring for the third time in a row on this column as he looks for a fourth goal in four games against Arteta’s table-topping Gunners. Watkins’ lost form has been a subject of debate for some time with theories ranging from a cranky baby destroying his sleep to the loss of status following on from the Ings singing.
Whatever the reason, his goal against Manchester City was excellently taken in his stride and dispatched with confidence. His record against Arsenal was once excellent and his goals will be much-appreciated against the league leaders.
Hungry Like the Wolf
Jhon Durán’s first two appearances have been brief but at times explosive. He showed energy and pace against Leicester City, but it was his thunderbolt strike thumping the Manchester City woodwork that has Villa supporters hoping to see more of the young Colombian.
The venom on the strike resembled the power that Yeboah or Hasselbaink used to demonstrate on a regular basis; who were both also fairly obscure signings at the time. Durán is certainly someone that can add some excitement to a season that otherwise runs the risk of becoming another dull mid-table slog.
The aforementioned Durán, along with John McGinn and Philippe Coutinho were among five changes in the second half on Sunday. All three showed endeavour and changed the flow of the match, albeit at a point when Cheaty had sealed the win and taken Haaland off the pitch. Nonetheless, they made a strong claim to walk into the game against Arsenal with Emi Buendia, Leon Bailey and Jacob Ramsey failing to make an impact.
Finish on Top
With sixteen matches remaining, Aston Villa are very unlikely to be dragged into a relegation battle this season, which given the start endured under Steven Gerrard is something to be happy about. However, the reason to be cheerful stems from the fact that only four of the remaining games are against the Sky Six teams.
This leaves a lot of points available for Villa if Emery and the players can rally to give meaning to the season. It’s a big ‘if’ but Emery’s start has been excellent despite the last two defeats, and hopes of a first top half finish in 12 years is still very much something to be cheerful about.
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Ready for Action
The Villa substitutes bench has looked thin in recent weeks and that isn’t just a reference to Mcginn’s new chiselled look. With two goalkeepers regularly making the bench, the return of Bertrand Traoré and Diego Carlos couldn’t come soon enough.
The cliché of players coming back acting as new signings is factually correct in Carlos’ case, as he has only completed one full match since arriving at the club in the summer. The defensive frailties were visible on Sunday with Chambers being brought in from the cold to face one of the best strikers in the world.
Traoré, new haircut and all, will hope that he can pick up where he left off in Dean Smith’s last full season with 13 goal contributions. His magic was hopefully not lost with the new trim, but in any case, he provides much needed pace, width and competition to an inconsistent Bailey.