If you're not too busy, think back to January 29th. Aston Villa were on the receiving end of a 2-1 loss at home to Newcastle that day. The Friday prior, they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Millwall, three days after being knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Bradford City. Including the Newcastle loss, Villa's record over their previous 7 Premier League games was 0-2-5, with a goal difference of -17. Since their last win in league play, Villa had fallen from a reasonably comfortable 14th place all the way to 19th, and they showed few signs of arresting their descent at any point in the near future.
And then, all of a sudden, Villa began to look competent again. Not good, mind you, but competent. The 3-3 draw at Goodison Park was, at the time, yet another disappointing example of points dropped after a lead was given away late, but in hindsight it looks to have been a genuine turning point. Their next time out they'd win their first league game in over two months before putting up a strong fight in losses to Arsenal and Manchester City, then go on to win two in a row and three of their next four. In other words, Villa's been playing very much like a mid-table side since February began, just as they were playing very much like a mid-table side for much the fall until winter came along and delivered a swift, heavy blow to the proverbial nether regions.
The point of this little (and largely unpleasant) trip down memory lane is twofold; first, to point out that Aston Villa very much has looked like an altogether different side the past few months, and there's plenty of cause for optimism because of it. But there's also reason for caution, as you're likely aware if you're an Aston Villa fan. Though that thumping at the hands of Chelsea was clearly the impetus for what came after it, it's still not entirely clear what led to that shocking display we saw at Stamford Bridge. Overconfidence? Panic? Extraordinarily bad luck? It's impossible to say for sure, but if it's happened once then it's foolish not to think something similar could happen again.
Clearly, Fulham isn't Chelsea. The Cottagers have worked their way to a mid-table standing, in large part thanks to the effortless grace of Dimitar Berbatov as well as the trickery of Bryan Ruiz and the steadfastness of Brede Hangeland, but they're far from England's elite. Still, Fulham's a solid and dangerous side, and if trap games are a thing that genuinely exist, this looks as though it could be one. The mood is positive right now, Fulham seem non-threatening, and, well,we've been there before.
Nothing that happens in this game will confirm or deny Villa's "comeback kids" status, but if you believe in momentum (and I do to some extent) then you'll be pulling hard for a win. Those points would just be a wonderful thing right now, with the bottom of the table all askew, and to keep the winning jag alive couldn't help but to instill confidence in this Villa side. And if the last few weeks are any indication, they'll get those three points. And we'll all take shots or drink beers or set off fireworks or what have you. But that little nagging voice that consistently reminds you that we're far from out of the woods yet would like to draw your attention to December. Let's hope he's just that annoying guy at a party that insists on bringing up the latest flu scare.