It was far from the most entertaining game ever contested but no one in their right mind could have expected that it would be. Villa put in a good performance against a solid Stoke team that's a tough nut to crack at home, and though it's easy to see how it could have been three, a point from the Britannia is a decent result. Villa were the better side by a hair and the more attacking side by a fair bit, but Stoke's defense was able to stifle them for the most part and the finishing wasn't there when chances were created. Stoke did the Stoke thing, and surprisingly Villa were able to deal with it quite well.
The team picked by Alex McLeish certainly wasn't the one I would have put out there, but it was justifiable for a lot of reasons. Villa continued to look a bit more interested in getting forward, which is really all most of us have been asking for. It's not a game that anyone should get all that excited about, but it was a decent performance. A huge positive was how well Villa managed to deal with set pieces; Stoke have been one of the better teams in the Premier League from dead-ball situations while Villa has been one of the worst defending them. There were some heart-in-throat moments, but the safety valves were in the right place and did their jobs. Charles N'Zogbia had another excellent game, and he's done so consistently for enough games in a row now that a lot of the concerns about his earlier performances may be beginning to fade.
There's not much else to say about this game. It was incredibly boring, but unless Stoke are dominating or being dominated any game involving them is going to be boring; Villa were less culpable, but their presence certainly didn't help matters. 0-0 was a fair reflection on the game and the teams themselves. If anything, I feel slightly better about Villa than I did this morning. If you missed the game, you didn't miss a lot. Chelsea is next. December might end up being less horrible than we were all afraid of.
On the other hand, Villa has exactly the same number of points after 18 games as they did last season. So despite this being a moderately encouraging performance on the heels of a very encouraging performance, things still aren't going very well. It feels very much like something needs to change in December, but I certainly don't know how that's going to happen. Happy new year!