Sure, Aston Villa are playing well right now and the mood is expectant at Villa Park.
But I’m still utterly shocked at the number of people who think tomorrow will be a walk in the park for Tim Sherwood’s side.
While Everton had a poor start to the season, they’re playing extremely, extremely well and have taken 16 points from their last six matches.
Y’all do understand that, right?
The Toffees have only dropped points to Swansea City since early March en route to moving into the top half of the Premier League table. Roberto Martinez’s men are doing a fine job of saving face down the stretch, and they’re coming off a 3-0 win over Manchester United last weekend.
Yet I’ve seen so, so many people acting as if this is an easy three points for Villa.
Sherwood’s team is playing really well and they’re going to have to continue to do so to have a chance Saturday.
I’m still concerned, though, about Villa at the back. In the last three league games alone, the Claret and Blues have been the better side each time out, yet have earned just four points due to some pretty poor defensive displays. That’s bad. And it’s going to have to shore itself up against a good Everton side.
Because Everton didn’t beat United last weekend by dominating them or playing them off the pitch. They simply took their chances.
United had 65% possession and outshot the Toffees 17-9. Yet lost 3-0.
All three of Everton’s goals were down to some poor defending from their opponents. Sound familiar?
Everton are the type of side who will punish you for mistakes, and Villa cannot afford to make those this weekend. While it’s tough playing with only two defenders on the pitch, it’s something Sherwood’s side needs to take extra care of.
The attacking football is nice, yes, but complete capitulations at the other end of the pitch have cost Villa no fewer than four points in Sherwood’s time since taking over at the club. And perhaps I’m being a little harsh — it is kind of fun being in these, "What the hell is going on?" games after the drabness of Paul Lambert’s reign — but I think Tactics Tim deserves to be criticised for the schoolboy errors the Villa defense is making. This isn’t a bad unit by any stretch of the imagination but twice in three league matches, they’ve been absolutely woeful.
While it’s easy to forget because of FA Cup success, which makes Sherwood’s record at Villa look better, we’re right in the midst of a relegation battle. Where you say Villa are playing well and will see themselves over the line on form alone, I give you examples of Hull City and Leicester City, both of whom are playing well and picking up points.
All you’re looking for is a few goals from Jermain Defoe — who we all know is capable — and Villa could be in the bottom three after this weekend.
It’s terrifying. You should be scared.
If Villa can keep things tight at the back and dictate play, they should be able to come away with three points tomorrow. They’re getting contributions from midfield now — Fabian Delph, Tom Cleverley, and Carlos Sánchez have scored Villa’s last three goals — which is a true sign of the influence Sherwood is having on this team. Christian Benteke’s agent said Villa are playing the best football in England right now, which, by the looks of the attacking play may very well be the case.
I mean, they’ve scored eight goals in the last four matches. That’s so good for this club!
The attack will do its part — I’ll go ahead and peg Jack Grealish and Benteke to get on the scoresheet for Villa this weekend — but it’s going to be up to the defense to determine Villa’s fate, both Saturday and in the relegation battle.
Roberto Martinez said in the build-up that "in the last six games, Aston Villa have been one of the most impressive teams in the Premier League."
But so have Everton. Something’s gotta give.
It’s a massive game against an in-form opponent.
This is what we live for, right?
P.S. – It was funny seeing all the Americans get on the Everton bandwagon as the, "I don’t want to be a gloryhunter but don’t want to support a crummy team" group after the World Cup. I’m not sure any of them are on it any more.