Are things looking up a bit? Controversial question. Depends on your perspective. On the one hand we're 12th, unbeaten in 4 with probably the 2 worst form teams in the league to play next. Benteke is back (and scoring) while the defence have only conceded twice in 4 games. On the other hand we have the worst offensive record of the 92 English clubs and have only won 1 win in 10. Poor performances just keep rolling out game by game with only a couple of exceptions.
What is crucial to point out is that the League Table doesn't care about performances. It cares about results. Ultimately this season our main inherently depressing aim is to stay in the league, then hope to god we get a takeover by the start of 2015-16. We are currently on course to do that. Yay for us?
Our games are so tight at the moment that the key moments are absolutely crucial. Which brings me on to the two moments that I think define our most recent performances.
First moment: Gabby and Okore contrive to deny Villa deserved win
We did so much right against Burnley. The frustration and bitterness at full time was of course understandable but a bit disappointing. Take 4 or 5 minutes off the end of the game and we were doing exactly what fans have been calling for. Playing attacking football (13 first half shots). Keeping the ball on the floor. Playing someone creative to link play - Joe Cole was magnificent and made a massive difference. Showing composure to take the sting out of the game.
We were only a goal up having missed a few chances, but a Burnley goal was not coming. They hadn't troubled us for 20 minutes. We were playing in their half, Grealish was a positive substitution and we looked far more likely to score.
But that means nothing. Ultimately we drew the game because Gabby - seemingly at fault for every goal we concede lately - needlessly gave the ball away when we looked set to counter. Everyone had pressed up, the ball went over Okore and he made a bit of a hash of it. 1-1. We almost lose at the end.
1-1 is nowhere near a fair reflection of that game. I said "same again next week and we will win comfortably". We didn't get the same again. We got a far worse performance. But we still won. Because...
Second moment: Guzan heroics snatch Villa undeserved win
Yeah yeah, Benteke is back and his bit of brilliance put us 1 up. But that's not my key moment. We've gone 1 up in a lot of games lately. My key moment is something that kept us 1-0 up past the final whistle.
We were horrible against Palace. Backs to the wall defending for much of the game against a very average midfield and attack. Sadly that has become a theme for our season. We very rarely troubled their keeper or even got near their box.
But that means nothing. Ultimately we won the game because Guzan was alert and quick enough to see the danger posed by Frazier Campbell. Campbell made a great run to beat the offside trap as the ball was knocked over our defence. He would have got there and likely scored. That is, if Guzan hadn't sprinted out of his goal to get there just in time and smash the ball clear. He was subject to GBH from the Palace team all night, but that didn't prevent him putting his body on the line to take an absolute clattering here. Without that, Palace would have scored. It would have been 1-1, with the fierce support home crowd behind them putting pressure on the ref, 20 minutes to go with all the momentum. You know how those end.
Guzan didn't have the best overall game, dropping it a couple of times. But top players show up in the key moments. Guzan and Benteke stepped up to win us a game we might have comfortably lost. We have a few players that can make the difference in these tight games. Benteke, Guzan, Delph. Perhaps Joe Cole if we ever see him on the pitch again. Defensive football is not a bad thing if you can do it well. We are a defensive team. We can afford to play a defensive structure with the quality of Benteke up front. But defensive doesn't mean not creating any chances. That is not going to get us anywhere. We must find the balance.
Villa are weird. It's nigh impossible to judge whether we're about to beat Leicester and West Brom to go into the top half. Or take 1 dismal point from both games to be sucked back into trading places with Burnley. What you can be sure is that the games will be tight, and it will all depend on how Villa respond in the key moments.