Five Reasons to be Cheerful as Villans
The performance against City was one of the most complete performances that fans would have witnessed in decades. This wasn’t just a win against the treble winners of last season or a side breaking a poor record against a state-owned club. Fans witnessed a team ‘clicking’ and producing a flawless performance. Villa can’t and won’t play like that every week, but knowing that this group has that in its locker in a massive game means that the sky is the limit.
Some of Fergie’s best sides were not pretty on the eye, but still won title after title. This week, fans were treated to a glorious total football display against City, and a hard-working and gritty win against league-whingers Arsenal. The Arsenal game posed a sterner challenge, and the game reflected that. The goal itself was sublime and deserving of far more media fawning (see Ange-ball). Yet, at times, Villa rode their luck and had to battle to keep a tight grasp on the three points. Emery is a winner, and although he’ll see elements in this match that he would want to improve on, fans know his Villa side is happy to win ugly when needed. A second wonderful win but very different from the first.
Before the Manchester City match, Villa hadn’t kept a clean sheet since 24 September away at Stamford Bridge. With only two clean sheets to their name this season, Villa’s leaky back line was a source of concern heading into the double-header against last season’s strongest two Premier League sides. Not only did Villa take maximum points, but Martinez’s goal wasn’t breached in either game, which ought to fill the players with a huge amount of belief heading into a busy Christmas period.
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A Year in the Making
Fans that were around to remember John Gregory’s blitzing start to the ’98/99 season, which saw Villa start the New Year in top spot, know all too well that there is still a lot of football to be played. Despite this, however, there is an important difference between the two seasons, that suggests Villa can maintain their assault at the top end of the table. The difference? Well, this is far more than just a good start to the season. Villa’s Champions League worthy form under Emery has lasted over twelve months now, and has maintained pace despite the obstacles placed in his path. Four of last season’s regular starters have missed the vast majority of the season so far, while Villa have balanced European football. Villa have remained relentless in the pursuit of ‘continual improvement’. It is this form that has led to World Cup winner Martinez labelling himself as “ a believer”, when it comes to their actual title chances.
Sharing the Load
Since the start of November, Villa have had seven different goalscorers across both the European games and domestic ones. Carlos, Watkins, Torres, Mcginn, Diaby, Moreno and Bailey have all chipped in with at least one goal. Watkins, in particular, has scored four goals, three of which proved to either be the winning goal or an equaliser. The team spirit is evident on the pitch, and the performances exude players taking responsibility and fighting for one another. The fact that the goals are spread across seven players points to the fact that Emery has successfully transformed Villa from being a side overly reliant on one player just a couple of seasons ago into a complex team with many moving parts and quality in depth, ensuring standards are maintained even in the absence of key players.
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