After Tuesday night's impressive and perhaps slightly unexpected League Cup romp in Norwich, Villa rather annoyingly dropped another place in the league owing to one of the teams below us beating one of the teams below us. That's twice this weekend that has happened *grrr*. I think most can agree that we are playing better than results or league position would suggest. Indeed our trouncing of one of the form sides in the league in their own back yard would point at that fact. Yes they were full strength.
But we now need to start translating those good performances into league wins. The positives are as follows. We have stopped shipping goals. In fact we are now keeping regular clean sheets even against sides like Arsenal. We are unbeaten in 4 league games and our team is now playing the kind of football that suggests the players really know how to play with and find each other. The only thing missing is that we start to pick up 3 points in the league instead of 1. We need to transfer Tuesday's cutting edge into Saturday's away trip.
For a start, in my view that means starting with a front 2 of Benteke and Weimann. Two assists for Benteke and a brace for Weimann was just the attacking ticket that was needed and I would hope that Paul Lambert would see fit to continue with that forward line-up; indeed that whole starting 11 in the game against Liverpool. The one exception being if Captain Ron Vlaar becomes available again after injury. But even then it would be harsh on Baker to drop him.
The League Cup is a great distraction and now that we're in the semi-final for the umpteenth time it is a little more than that. We're 1 round away from a 'day out'. But if we don't bottle that momentum over the next fortnight then the Christmas turkey might stick in the throat a little.
I wonder is it the pressure of the league getting to them? These lower division players who have played in the League Cup before but not in the Premier League. Is that why they're not phased by the League Cup and why they are so good in it? Is the PL that daunting in comparison or is it simply the way the fixtures fell? I dunno.
Anyhoo, Liverpool and Tottenham are two of our next three games and I think both are potentially vulnerable. While Liverpool's form has improved of late, they did scrape past Southampton 1-0 (I know they beat us earlier in the season) and leave it late against West Ham. Neither of whom I'd describe as being particularly impressive sides. The worry for me is the return of everyone's favourite buck-toothed Uruguayan who will doubtless be up for the occasion after his enforced absence. If we can stifle him then I'm quietly confident that our young charges will be under-estimated and could maybe pull off a shock.
Meanwhile, Spurs still seem to me to be slightly disjointed without knowing what their best 11 is. Or certainly their best front 6. They are still a team in limbo. If we can take our newfound cohesion into that game then we could over-match them tactically and come away with the points. It's far from the Spurs of Redknapp. They're not rolling over sides anymore. They're giving teams a chance and again I think we could do it.
Sandwiched between these ties is an away trip to Chelsea where I don't expect much joy to be honest. Even allowing for my disdain of Rafa Benitez, I think his Chelsea side are improving and the quality of his players will be too much for us. Without checking, I can only hope the World Club Cup dates and travel somehow mess with their fitness and fatigue and that we can capitalise on it. You never know.
After those 3 we go on a fairly soft schedule for a while. Well, as soft as a Premier League schedule is ever likely to be. So even if it doesn't go to plan in the next 3, it won't be doom and gloom. If we can start (or continue?) scoring goals while keeping it tight at the back then it doesn't take a genius to work out the end result. I think we're pretty close now.
Let's start on Saturday.