Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Aston Villa, Match Preview: Otherwise Known As "The Bare Minimum"

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Emmanuel Frimpong of Wolverhampton Wanderers looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea at Molineux on January 2, 2012 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

We're now well into the "return fixture" segment of the season, and given the number of boring and eminently forgettable games Villa played during the first half of the season that's not necessarily the best thing. That's especially true in this case, because Villa and Wolves played one of the most boring games in the Premier League back in late August. If you'll recall (you won't) Wolves were the better side for about 15 minutes, then Villa's oppressive drabness overtook Wolves fleeting desire to be interesting and those watching were treated to more than an hour of punting and kicking and general despair.

Since then, Villa has been busy losing more than their level of talent would indicate is likely and Wolves have been busy losing to our dear friends Birmingham City over 180 minutes of the most awful, soul-crushingly-terrible football you've ever seen. Wolves manager Mick McCarthy sees headlines about Alex McLeish being on the hot seat and laughs bitterly; McLeish isn't going anywhere this season (as anyone with a firm grasp on reality knows) but McCarthy (despite pulling Wolves out of a gigantic mess and back to the Premier League seemingly through force of will alone) is skating on incredibly thin ice these days. Wolves are in the quite unenviable position of hoping that everyone below them in the table continues to be just as terrible the rest of the way as they have been so far, because Wolves don't really have the look of a team capable of making a real charge up the table.

Neither, of course, do Villa. At least until they start showing up and playing as well as they've shown they are capable on a more regular basis. Villa have been utterly uninspiring more often than not this season, and they've also displayed an unfortunate tendency to allow similarly drab teams suck them down into a vortex of terrible, Wolves being a perfect example. Villa have shown they can play something approaching attacking football this season, they just haven't done it against teams they should be expected to be doing it against for the most part. Which is weird, but also a post for a different day. But it's at the point where even the most patient amongst us have to recognize how important taking three points in games such as these is becoming. Villa dropping points to Wolves just isn't an acceptable outcome given the gulf in talent between the two sides. Stuff happens, and an isolated draw or even loss is no big deal, but two points against Wolves in one season? Unless the year is 1959, that's just not going to cut it.

It's not as though Wolves don't have any decent players; Emmanuel Frimpong is worth watching any game for all on his own, and Matthew Jarvis is a very nice player in his own right. They just leak goals, don't score enough of them to make up for it and lack a real, genuine star that's capable of taking over a game all by himself. They're basically Villa without Gabby Agbonlahor, Darren Bent, Charles N'Zogbia or Richard Dunne. Not exactly an imposing force.

But of course, the key thing to remember is that being expected win and winning are two different things and Villa has failed to make good quite often this season. Falling short of perfectly realistic expectations is something that can catch up to you pretty quickly. It's easy to look at the table right now and see the top 8 well within reach, but if Villa continue to under-perform against poor teams that won't be the case for much longer and something far more unpleasant could begin to look easily within reach. There are fewer teams Villa should have no real difficulty beating than there were a few years ago, but there are still a few. Wolves are one of them. We're far enough into the season that the new manager thing isn't a valid excuse any more; time to start doing the job.

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