Newcastle United, having suddenly transubstantiated from wood to a real boy, bested the Villans 1-0 last week. Without question, it was the worst performance of the Steven Gerrard era.
Leaving it at that, Aston Villa welcome Watford to Villa Park in what can be seen as a much needed opportunity for three points. Roy Hodgson, charged with the quixotic notion of surviving the drop after taking over for “Tinkerman” Claudio Ranieri, has seemingly improved a leaky defense, but the team remains lacklustre on the whole. Over the last three, the Hornets drew 0-0 at Burnley, lost 0-1 at West Ham, and endured a further loss 0-2 at home to Brighton. Players to look for include Hassane Kamara at left-back, with Joshua King and Emanuel Dennis leading the attack.
After the Newcastle debacle, changes need to be made and Gerrard has mentioned as much. The problem is as much who is missing as it is with who’s playing, with defensive midfielder Marvelous Nakamba’s absence being a glaring one. One possible solution would be to switch the familiar 4-3-2-1 to a 4-2-3-1 — two deeper lying midfielders, presumably Douglas Luiz and John McGinn, would help shore up the defense, with Jacob Ramsey playing in the number 10 role. There’s a reasonable, if not compelling, argument that Morgan Sanson could come on for Luiz. Further up the pitch in the midfield, the triumvirate of Philippe Coutinho, Emi Buendia, and the aforementioned Ramsey could supply the ball to Danny Ings at striker. On the defensive end of the pitch, Emi Martinez continues his run in goal, with Lucas Digne to his left and Matty Cash to the right. The center-back partnership will be between Tyrone Mings and one of either Callum Chambers and Kortney Hause as Ezri Konsa continues to serve his suspension.
PREDICTION: This is the type of game where, if Villa decide they want to, they can win with gaudy numbers. I like Watford, as mentioned before. They have nice, unique, colors, the badge has a moose, and there’s Elton John. They’re also extraordinarily bad. Seemingly better than they were a month ago, but still very much a team staring down relegation. This is as good an opportunity as any for three points, and something in the region of 3-1 Villa should be expected.