We've had a lot of talk around here lately about how Villa are destined to be a mid-table team this year. An experiment in youth that may not produce the results to which fans have grown accustomed, but will, nevertheless, be absolutely breathtakingly exciting. We may rend our clothes, gnash our teeth, and wail at games that have slipped by; but we'll be leaping from our couches in joy nearly as often, as the young Villans prove themselves.
And, as a general rule, I agree with this line of thought. I don't know if Villa have it in them to make a charge and secure a place in Europe. But, let's take a moment and look at the table as it stands now. Join me below the jump for some assorted thoughts.
- Villa currently sit at 9th place. A bit higher than you might expect given how many gut-wrenching last-minute goals we've given up. But, it appears, we actually haven't been that bad this season. In fact, this is a team that has been dominant more often than not. It also happens to be a team that, when it isn't dominating the run of play, is totally lost. Nevertheless, 9th place isn't bad at all.
- "But surely," you say, "we're lucky to be there. No way we've scored enough goals to be in 9th." Well, we actually have. By goals scored, we're 9th in the EPL at 15. Granted, it's a large group sitting there, but one that includes teams like Man City and Sunderland, who are sitting above us right now.
- Take a gander at the relegation-level of the table. See anything? I certainly do. It's the Scum! Remember when we played the derby? They were only one spot behind us. If the season ended today, we'd be happy with our youth movement, and those dirtbags from across the Second City would be in the Championship. I'll give you a second to wipe the dopey grin from your face before moving on.
- The Villa currently sit at 17 points, and no, I don't expect them to get a European spot this season. But as it is, we're only 2 points behind a Euro spot and 5 out of the Champions League. If we'd been able to hold on against pea-head and his squad of Mancunians, we'd be tied (points-wise) with a Euro spot. Let that sink in. The best word to describe the EPL this year is "parity." Allow me some revisionist thinking:
Stoke match: if we don't give up a late goal, that's a point (bringing us to 18)
Sunderland: if Dunne doesn't score an own goal, that's a point (19)
Fulham: a late goal costs us the win, and two points (21)
Manchester United: well, you know. There's two more (23)
I know this doesn't really mean anything, but we're about 10 minutes of play and one own goal away from being in fourth. That's incredible. And I don't think it's crazy to think that things may start to break our way.
Do I think Villa go on a huge run? No. Do I think it's a possibility? Absolutely. The past few games have seen me do a total turn-around on my hopes. Suddenly, I'm not banishing the thought of Europe from my mind. Maybe they make a Carling Cup run and boost their confidence. This is a squad that is on the brink of something amazing, and I can't wait to watch them in the coming weeks.
On last week's Guardian football podcast extra, they asked an interesting question: would you rather support a boring-as-all-heck team that's doing well like Manchester City, or support a team that's fun to watch? Chris Nee described the kids' style of play on Saturday thusly: "[they] played Manchester United in a positive, swashbuckling way..." That's the best I've seen it put. Villa's players seem to have swagger when they get in a groove, and it is more joyful to watch than almost anything I've seen in sports. Remember, soccer is supposed to be entertainment. And win, lose, or draw, we're in for a more enjoyable ride than any other fan base in the premiership.