In recent news: Aston Villa beat Sunderland! Yay! In upcoming news: Manchester United! Manchester City! Arsenal! That's a pretty nasty stretch the team is about to embark upon. It begins this Saturday as Manchester United travel to Villa Park.
Everyone knows this will be tough going for the club, which has shown almost no consistency this season. The good news is that expectations are low. But even with that, I think that everyone expects at least a point or two from this stretch. So, rather than just speculating, I asked our writers the same thing I posed to commenters on Monday.
This week's question: With matches against Manchesters United and City and Arsenal coming up, should Villa be happy with one point from the next three? Or can they get more?
Our answers follow, of course, but leave yours in the comment below if you didn't already on Monday. And if you did already on Monday, you can... leave it again? Sure! Onwards!
Andrew: I think as professionals they won't be happy with anything but nine points - I also think everyone knows that's not very realistic. I would be ecstatic with a point per match if that tells you anything. I've mentioned that I think home to Arsenal is our best shot at a win but I also think that if Villa is planning to work hard and they catch any of these three clubs going through the motions they might be able to spring another upset. You'd think City would want some measure of revenge but they're also probably a little sore over their efforts in Europe. So we'll see if Mancini has lost the team or not.
We're all feeling really good about Villa at the moment and I don't think that should change unless Villa lose all three games by a total of 20 goals or something insane.
Matt: While the match at Sunderland took a little pressure off of these three matches points wise, I think it might end up hurting expectations subconsciously. Before the Sunderland match I really wasn't expecting much from the three coming matches, but after it I feel a lot more confident, which I don't feel good about. Yes, Villa played well against Sunderland, but Sunderland isn't very good, and Villa are still a work in progress. In reality, if we can draw one or two or steal a win, I think that would be more than okay.
Gareth: I'm really unwilling to believe Villa has any right to expect more than a point or two from these games. We're still fairly shaky, and we'll be coming up against some incredibly talented players. This will be a huge test for Paul Lambert, who was responsible for some very good performances against the top sides last year with Norwich City. However, he's had a harder time finding his feet with Villa, probably because they're still less familiar to him than the group he took from League One to the Premier League. It's an understandable struggle, but this would be a perfect time for him to remind everyone of what he's capable of.
Robert: Arsenal at home looks like a match that Villa should be able to take a point from. Aside from that, I can't see Villa getting anything out of this stretch. Yes, they did beat Manchester City at Etihad earlier in the season, but that was our A-team against their B- or C-team. I don't think that's happening again. And a point at home tomorrow wouldn't be the most insane thing ever. But I'm not counting on it. Get one point from this stretch and don't embarrass yourselves, Villa. I'll be totally cool with that.
Aaron: I think being "happy" with this stretch would require either a win or a few draws, but I think Villa could easily go through this stretch without a single point without it being cause for alarm. It's frustrating that three of the games you wouldn't have expected anything from at the start of the year come all in a row, but there's not much that can be done about that at this point. If Villa can play competitively and avoid out-rightly
This is pretty much exactly the reason Paul Lambert was hired; he's a motivator. If he can't push Villa through a tough stretch of games without being worse for wear on the other side, this team has far bigger problems than going three games without any points.