Everyone has been - rightfully - happy that Aston Villa have been putting things together in the attack. They've got a fluid style now that is (gasp!) fun to watch. But I think it's really amazing that the defense has been doing as well as it has. In their past four unbeaten games, Villa have only allowed one goal. In Saturday's match against Stoke, the back line was never seriously threatened. Reading and Arsenal, too, were held scoreless.
What makes it more interesting, I think, is that the majority of that time has been spent without Ron Vlaar on the pitch. If the Villa defense can be this good without Vlaar, they're going to be incredible with him back. Even more exciting was the fact that they managed to be effortless this weekend while playing a nominally 3-5-2 system. Three in the back, and they had no trouble with a pesky Stoke offense.
I love seeing the growth of Benteke, and offensive, flowing football is something we haven't been treated to in ages. But for my money, the most exciting part of this Aston Villa club is the clearly rejuvenated defense. It's such a nice feeling to not be terrified every time the ball comes into the defensive third.
Just The Facts, Please
Form (Last 5): L D W D D
Results Last Week: Aston Villa 0-0 Stoke (EPL)
- First Team:
at Norwich City (League Cup, Quarterfinals) - Tuesday, December 11, 1945 GMT, 1445 Eastern
at Liverpool (League Cup) - Saturday, December 15, 1500 GMT, 1000 Eastern
Manchester United (U21) - Monday, December 10, 1900 GMT, 1400 Eastern
New Injuries Last Week:
Returned from Injury
The Week That Was
- Not much of a news week in Aston Villa land.
- Charles N'Zogbia (remember him?) returned from his injury and will ostensibly be available for Paul Lambert to use as he sees fit. I'm envisioning a stint as a water-boy.
- We discussed who has been Aston Villa's biggest disappointment this season. Swing on by that story and drop your opinion into the comments.
Aston Villa 0-0 Stoke (EPL)
- I've seen some people call this match boring, and sure it was a 0-0 draw, but man, I couldn't disagree more. Things did admittedly get a bit dull in the final 30 or so minutes, but before that it was a fast-paced, chippy, end-to-end affair. What's not to like about that?
- Well, perhaps you don't like that Villa didn't score a goal. Their continued inability to finish chances is starting to get frustrating. There were, however, several quite good chances, and Villa did look to be the better offensive team. It'll get better, and everything we see now is encouraging.
- At one point Christian Benteke looked to have a great opportunity but was just offsides. How did he react? Adorably:
You guys, he is just absolutely the best.
As an aside, I enjoy that the Macron logo (seen here on Benteke's glove) looks a lot like the \o/ emoticon. Everything is joyful! \o/
- The match was a really chippy one. It's been a while since I've developed a hatred for an opposing player during a match, but Kenwyne Jones and Steven N'Zonzi are now two of my least favorite athletes ever. Welcome to the club, guys!
- You can find our recap here.
- The WhoScored recap is here.
- Paul Lambert gets to make his triumphant return to Carrow Road as Villa try to advance to the semifinals of the League Cup. Should they win, they'll be
one wintwo wins away from Wembley. (I forgot that the semi-final is a two-leg affair. Thanks to George in the comments for the reminder) Sort of weird to think about, right? But winning at Norwich City could prove difficult. It will be interesting to see what sort of a lineup Lambert puts out. Is he out to win the cup, or is it a distraction?
- Saturday sees a trip to Liverpool. Off course, the Reds haven't great this year, but how about this for an idea: play a full-strength squad on Tuesday to advance in the cup, rest a lot of the starters on Saturday and give them a ton of rest for next week's Chelsea match. Not sure if the Liverpool match is one that we should concede, but it would be interesting to go a bit further in the cup. This is not a fully-formed idea. What do you think?