There’s been a lot of Aston Villa action this week, and we now move onto the third game within seven days - as Ipswich ride up to meet Villa at Villa Park.
What to know about Aston Villa
Villa have come out of the latest international break swinging, and good. This is a period of time in which they can’t let up, with their next break coming on the 2nd of January, there’s a real feast of football for us and the Villans to either enjoy or endure. Let us hope it’s the former. This period of fixtures is season defining, and it has traditionally been the time when a promising Villa team stumble. We all remember sitting 6th, 10th, 3rd and 5th in the Premier League around this time, only to plummet when the going got tough - and boy is the going about to get tough.
There will be no release or rest for Villa now - and this team is going to pick up some serious injuries - thankfully, mostly everyone in the team has an able deputy. Josh Onomah can be covered by Henri Lansbury and Jack Grealish, Alan Hutton and Elmohamady can rotate well, with Hutton also covering for Neil Taylor. The problems emerge at centre-back and striker, the two key central positions for this team - where the depth has dried up. Keinan Davis is the lone senior striker in the team, with his only back-up being the mercurial Callum O’Hare, with Rushian Hepburn-Murphy returning to full fitness in the next few weeks, it might be a case of simply seeing how far the already gassed Davis can carry Villa, because there are no other central options available.
At the back, Villa have to rely on Chris Samba and James Chester, the former who has really stepped up in recent days. His two games against QPR and Sunderland showed a man who always attacked the ball and came up big - with some incredibly calm defending. Villa’s gentle giant has found his place in the team, and good for him - but will he have the legs to carry Villa at the back again, for the third time in the week? Probably not. That’s a big worry, as James Chester - incredible as he is - will struggle if gaps open at the back, and they could very well open against a physical Ipswich Town side. There has only been a few days since Villa put out an incredibly lethargic, yet ultimately victorious, performance at home against Sunderland, so expect rotation in a few hours. It wouldn’t be crazy to see Mile Jedinak, Jack Grealish or even O’Hare start or feature in this game.
Villa shouldn’t be losing this game, not with the form they are in, and with the quality this team are showing and if they do stumble, it will be because of fitness issues that should be addressed.
What to know about Ipswich
Ipswich Town were gunning for the title in the opening stages of the season, but have fell away. That happens when a team is ‘outscoring’ itself - in which they are finishing their chances, but simply not creating enough ‘good chances’ or quality chances to show that their playstyle is a success. This side are the best example of how xG or expected goals can help predict performances, because they stuck to their early season guns, and haven’t had that same success - simply because form is temporary and that same side will find it extremely difficult to bury those harder chances when the quality chances aren’t being made.
So expect Ipswich to score out of nowhere, against the run of play today, because it is coming. A team that can finish its dinner despite being unable to plate it up always has the potential to drag a team down at one point. In Ipswich Town, we see a more mediocre version of Sheffield United, in that they either seem to win or lose - with few draws - it’s just that Sheffield win more often than not.
Mixed-up is the definition of this ninth-placed Mick McCarthy side, who are high-scoring, yet high conceding. Villa have a big chance today to shut down Ipswich, who are poor away from home, and grab the win. However, don’t be surprised if the Tractor Boys start scoring on Villa.
Villa should win this match, based on paper - but football games aren’t tabletop RPGs. I’ve got to go for a Villa win, but again - it’s not going to be incredibly comfortable, but let us hope that Villa Park will be a lot louder than it was against Sunderland, and that the Villa Park faithful can put the terror into Ipswich, because it could make the difference.