It’s been awhile, friends.
Thanks in part to a long, boring international break, Notre Dame football starting up and, well, school, I’ve not written here for a little while.
So instead of studying for my test, let’s write instead.
Aston Villa are one of the Championship’s best teams. A quick look at the talent available to Roberto Di Matteo will immediately tell you that — seriously, compare Villa’s last XI to near anyone else in the league — and a look at the performances, on the whole, should also give you that impression.
But heading into today’s match with Brentford, Villa are only sat 18th. Despite the match in hand on most of the league, even a win could only lift the Claret and Blues as high as 15th.
That’s a worrying early-season league position that doesn’t line up with what the “visual” reality of this team has been. Because it’s a team that’s been legitimately exciting to watch so far, one that’s a far cry from the dull, boring, utterly terrible Villa sides of the last couple years.
How do Villa turn these draws and losses into the “deserved” wins or draws we feel the club should be getting?
Sit back and wait for the luck to turn around.
Villa’s league position through six matches is a byproduct of the variance of small sample sizes more than it is any meta, grand thing to be concerned about. We know Ross McCormack and Jonathan Kodjia are good finishers — they’ve proven that before at this level. What we saw Sunday was a statistical anomaly; nothing more, nothing less.
Based on the chances created, it was simply unlucky Villa didn’t walk away with the three points against Nottingham Forest. Tack in the bizarre goalkeeper errors against Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town, and you’d be talking about a chance to move to 14 points through seven matches today.
All that said, though, I have a concern. It’s that the results start to go south before Villa’s luck turns around — and if that happens, it could put a potentially great season to waste.
To a certain level, we saw this last year. I’ve written about this before, but early-season Tim Sherwood Villa weren’t terrible. They kept finding dumb ways to lose, sure, but they weren’t played off the park by Manchester United, let alone Crystal Palace or (then-unspectacular) Leicester City.
But before Villa’s luck turned around, because the stupidity never left, the performances went straight into the tank. Villa against even Palace was a little fun last year, something that didn’t exist five or 10 matches down the road.
More than anything, Villa need the turnaround to come soon simply to keep confidence high. This is clearly a unit that, especially in attack, knows how talented it is, and one that looks pretty comfortable in its abilities. It’s part of what’s made this season genuinely more enjoyable than the last.
If the results keep escaping Villa, though, how much longer will that confidence last? Will players start second-guessing things? Could Dr. Tony Xia start second-guessing his pick as manager?
It’s why something needs to happen sooner, rather than later. A visit from Brentford, then a visit to Ipswich Town, provides a good opportunity for that “something” to happen. Get six points against a pair of decent sides, leapfrog some teams in the table, and you’ve got the optimism back.
But draw twice more, for instance, and who knows how quickly things can start to unravel, especially with a showdown with Newcastle United to follow.
So please, football gods. Smile upon Villa Park tonight. Pretty please?