All week long, I've been under the impression that Aston Villa traveled to face Leicester City on Sunday in this week's late game. Was this a schedule change? Did I mark the wrong date and time on my calendar? Impossible* to say! The point is that I checked the schedule to see which games I might want to watch tomorrow afternoon-following several hours playing pinball and swilling cheap but impossibly strong beer at the barcade-and discovered that I could not be more mistaken regarding the start time of this weekend's game.
So, here we are. The Claret and Blue travel to the King Power Stadium** to face bottom-table Leicester City in a game that Villa desperately need to win. Despite the goal-scoring struggles Aston Villa are not far off from making a run at the top half of the table and-perhaps more importantly-making a run away from the relegation zone. And if you believe in the predictive power of analytics (and in this case common sense) you would expect said goal-scoring struggles to go away, or at least less, as time goes along.
But of course the problem-or at least one of them-is that there are a whole lot of outstanding questions regarding advanced metrics in soccer, and we've had months and months on end of Aston Villa not scoring goals. Even if the metrics had been pegged with an absolute degree of certainty, Villa have been so bad at scoring goals that it would be difficult to be truly optimistic until they managed to put several past an opponent,.
And if they're going to do anything of the sort, the Foxes would be a prime candidate. Only QPR have allowed more goals, and Leicester's 8 games of 20 with a point or better is the worst record in the league. And it's not as though Leicester make up for their defensive shortcomings with a dangerous attack; they've not touched Villa-level attacking futility so far this season, but they've still managed less than a goal per game.
In short, Aston Villa are the better and more talented side, and eventually that has to actually matter, right? This isn't a bad Villa team. It just isn't. Benteke is the best forward that's pulled on the shirt in heaven's knows how long, the defense has unquestionably been one of the best in the Premier League, and the midfield has largely been a revelation. Everything has come so tantalizingly close to firing on all cylinders for so long now, that I'm just not willing to accept that the status quo is reality.
This team will win. They have to win. They're too good-or at least too close to average-not to. They'll score goals, they'll establish themselves as being much improved, they'll do something. It's just not reasonable to accept anything else. This stretch of goal-scoring futility is too strange to do anything but end in an unceremonious fashion, never to be mentioned again.
*The most likely scenario is that this has been an incredibly long week and the portion of my brain that held this information oozed out of my ears, but I'm not above lying in order to save face.
**Corporate stadium naming is universally derided as gross-and rightfully so-but you could do a hell of a lot worse than King Power Stadium. The goal with these deals is to choose a brand that sounds pretty cool outside of the context of corporate stadium sponsorship, which is incredibly difficult, and King Power is about as close as it gets to perfect.