I hate the term 'must-win'. Apart from being over-used, it is more often than not mis-used too. Saturday's early kick off (12:45BST) against Norwich City in isolation is probably not must-win for our prospects of staying in the league, any more than say a match against any likely-struggler like Norwich would be. After all, it is only game number 9 of a 38 game season and we're not currently in the bottom 3. So technically it's not must-win. Now in saying all of that, having not won in 4 matches, losing 3 of those, we could certainly do with the win to give everyone a timely boost. Also, being at home against Paul Lambert's former side with both parties currently locked in a litigious battle over the manner of his exit from Carrow Road means the match is guaranteed to have some 'needle' attached to it.
But all of the above aside, I think it probably is must-win for other reasons. I feel it is a must-win because of the context of the fixture list. If we don't win this game then it becomes very plausible to say that we won't be likely to win any league game until we entertain Reading on the 27th of November, which would be a month to the day after the Norwich game. In between those 2 matches we face trips to Sunderland and Manchester City with home ties against Manchester United and Arsenal. A quick check tells me that; on paper; this is the most difficult consecutive set of fixtures we face this season.
So if we fail to beat Norwich then we might go into the last November game with a solitary league win from 13 league games. That's not just relegation form. That's comfortable relegation. Now I'm old enough and ugly enough to know that the fixtures rarely work out like that. Results you think are nailed on don't happen and hidings you expect to get turn into points you never thought you'd get.
But I certainly wouldn't want to leave our fate up to the results-Gods if we failed to garner 3 points from Norwich. You don't want to be playing catch-up on the rest of the league over the Christmas period. History tells us that while it is possible to escape, it is not the norm.
It will be interesting to see the approach we take against the Canaries. As studious as Lambert no doubt is against all opposition, he will know Norwich better than the rest. If he can beat anyone it'll be them. We are due a big result and a big performance. We are at home and the players have been very vocal on the official site about wanting the fans to help them along and about how they are motivated to do this, that and the other. But we need to see it. We need the talking to be done on the pitch and we need to put in 90 minutes of high intensity and flawlessness if we're to get anything from one of the hardest working sides in the league. Norwich haven't pulled up any trees this season but they are in a similar position to us with a new manager finding his feet. They are also coming off an impressive victory over Arsenal so they won't be lacking in self-confidence and belief nor will they lack motivation for similar reasons to those of Lambert.
Basically in a nutshell, we need 3 points by half past 2 on Saturday afternoon.
Come on Villa. I know you have it in you.