Posted by Aaron
It feels very odd saying that I am not at all nervous for tomorrow. Generally around this time pre-matchday I start getting a bit antsy, and when playing an opponent of Chelsea's caliber that goes it's only amplified. This time though? Nothing, at least in the way of nerves.
It's not that I'm not excited; far from it. I've been counting down the days since Carew put Stephen Warnock's cross into the net to go ahead of Reading over a month ago. I doubt I'll get much sleep tonight, and I likewise doubt I'll have trouble summoning energy and enthusiasm when I perch myself on a bar stool at 9:00 AM, a Chelsea fan on one side and a Villa fan on the other. (At least I assume this will be the seating arrangement; anything to prevent female-on-male domestic violence.)
The nerves though? They're just not there. Part of it is an acceptance of reality. Chelsea are just flat-out a better side than Aston Villa. At the moment they are inarguably one of the best teams in the world, early-season struggles be damned. It's not that Villa can't beat them, as they've shown that it's possible. But on any given day, the odds are against them.
Often, this reality would be less comforting than terrifying. There's just the little matter of what happened last time these two met. What transpired was everything I've always feared going into matches Villa shouldn't expect to win. And it was awful. But now that it's happened, and the world didn't end, and Villa bounced back to perform quite well the week after, what's left to fear? It's far more likely we leave Wembley victorious tomorrow than losing 7-1 again, but even if we do we'll still be going to Europe, we've still had a tremendous season (A Cup Final! Beating United at Old Trafford! Legitimate Champions League Contention well into March!) What's to lose? Compared to what's to win, very little.
But enough of the philosophical business; if Villa are to win this thing, they're going to have to be aggressive. Sitting back and waiting is a successful strategy against some top-tier teams, but I don't see it working against Chelsea. They're going to score, and their defense is too good to expect a steady approach to pay dividends. What worked against Manchester United and Arsenal is not going to work against Chelsea. (Which is not to say that Chelsea is a cut above those sides; I just believe that their strengths and weaknesses are different.)
I'm concerned about Richard Dunne, because while I don't doubt he'll play the last match with Chelsea showed that as wonderful as he is you can't expect him to be as solid when injured. I'm concerned about Milner and Gabby as well, to a lesser extent. If Villa are to compete, they need to be at full strength and they need more than a bit of luck. I honestly believe that they're going to need to go at things a bit differently as well, and what better time than a Cup semi-final no one expects them to win? All the embarrassment, all the rumors, all the panic, erased over the course of 90 minutes.
Let's do it, boys. I might not expect you to win, but I have no doubt you'll make us proud.