Goooooood morning from me. I live with an Aston Villa fan. One mopier than me when it comes to the beautiful game. As Villa are doing very well at the moment, it feels like he should definitely be contributing to the blog to help us understand in a bit of depth just how Roy Keane has made the difference this season.
Twice every season I’m asked to provide a guest-post for this blog, and twice every season I spend most of it talking about how inept Aston Villa are at playing football. Usually the name of Arsenal looming ahead in the fixture list is cause for concern, or at least simple resignation to the fact that “oh well” there goes another 3 points. However…
Last season, on opening day, when we almost finished off poor old Arsene Wenger’s tenure with a wondrous 3-1 surprise victory, sending most Arsenal fans into complete meltdown, and surely helping to force through that last minute panic buy of Mesut Ozil 24-hours later (you’re welcome), I remember waking up that morning and feeling confident. Call it opening day optimism, when the upcoming season is still full of hope, of promise, of dreams, (or top-4 trophies), when the horrors of the previous campaign are but a fading memory, and you can once again believe.. I believed that day friends, even more so when my quiet, tentative morning confidence exploded late afternoon into full on, laugh-in-your-face, obnoxious triumphalism, which Pedro suffered with a surprising tolerance, mainly because he knew that Wenger, and his belligerently tight-fists, was the real enemy. Anyway, that confidence isn’t a feeling Villa fans experience very often, and most of the time it’s much like a Jack Wilshire through ball – misplaced. And yet, here we are about to face you lot again, and now more so than in a very long time, there’s a genuine confidence…a belief….
The reason for this is the fact that currently, we’re not shit. Which for a club that in recent history has been mostly shit, is quite good fun. This ‘not-shitness’ is based on a defensive solidity that is as robust as it is unexpected, particularly in the sense that much of it is based on Big Phil Senderos (remember him?) who along with Alan Hutton (returning reborn from the footballing wilderness) has helped us to concede only one goal in our first 4 games. Of course the flip side to this coin is that we’ve only mustered 7 shots on target in 4 full games, which is only going to get you so far before the wheels come off. But as Danny Welbeck well knows, it’s all about taking your chances, and so far we’ve made them count. After all, you only need one goal if you stop the other team scoring, a long-lost Arsenal philosophy that one..
As usual, it’s the pace of Agbonlahor and Andi Weimann that you need to watch out for, and surprisingly one Kieron Richardson, who has so far been great as the third prong in our speedy attacking trident. Backed up by a midfield of new ‘England All-Star’ Fabian Delph and the side-ways passing flair of a reformed Tom Cleverly with a point to prove, not to mention young Ashley Westwood, the real star of our midfield in my humble opinion, we’re showing a little bit more dynamism and solidity than we’ve had in a long time.
As for the reasons behind our great start, who knows? It has Villa fans scratching our heads as much as anyone else, my guess is that a smattering of players with proper PL experience unleashed into the nursery school of our first team has balanced out our wide-eyed youthful fragility with something more solid, ugly and ruthless. Or in the case of Joe Cole, something permanently injured. Although speaking of ruthless, the popular consensus seems to be that one Roy ‘Greybeard’ Keane is the real reason for our bright start. Putting much of it down to the fact that our players are way too terrified to dare play badly, and the mere presence of Killer Roy standing there menacingly on the touchline, or sat lurking in the shadows of the dugout, his cold murderous eyes scanning the pitch for signs of weakness, has helped turn icy dread into footballing competence.
Personally, I think Roy Keane is a prick, but hey, if he helps us avoid another long depressing relegation dogfight of a season, I’ll be happy with that. So far so good though, and hopefully after today we’ll still be sitting awkwardly up there in the nosebleed heights of the Champions League places. I actually think we’ll get a draw today. Which almost certainly means we’ll lose.
Finally, I have a bet on today’s game with a work colleague, which if I lose, (Villa have to lose by 2 or more goals) I have to change my Twitter profile pic to a picture of Arsene Wenger for a week. So if that happens, feel free to drop by and laugh at my expense (@Downinautumn).
It’s ok though, I plan on choosing a picture of him lifting the premier league trophy, so no one recognises who it is anyway…