A guest post from Andrew @anicoll5
Good morning Fellow Positivistas from a grey East Anglia morning with Autumn firmly camped across the land.
By land and sea, by air and digital pulse, our thoughts turn to Villa Park today. Even with the Holte End spoiled by seating, still a proper football ground full of long-suffering locals. We’ve not lost a PL game at the stadium this century, eight wins and seven draws, and even the bookies have us on very short money to win at 5-6 with Villa at an enticing 4 to 1. If I gambled I might be tempted to lob a shilling on the home side, disloyal though that would be. Surely you say “the points are in the bank?”
An oddity today as we kick off the game of association football at 3 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon! It is the ‘traditional’ time and day for the contest based no doubt on an 1872 FA agreement among fishmongers and hat makers in Sheffield. I admit as we move into Autumn and Winter there is something comforting about football in its proper place on a Saturday afternoon. Mellow fruitfulness.
So unusual was the Saturday at 3 p.m. kick-off however that I looked up the last time we avoided being rescheduled for the convenience of the global TV dollar and saw it was the game at the Britannia on the 1st March this year. By complete coincidence no doubt, the man with the whistle that grim day in the Potteries, referee Mike Jones, is on duty a Villa Park today.
It is lucky I am not a man given to heeding signs or portents.
On to the game however. The Villa riding high and I have no doubt their fans as surprised as everyone else that Lambert has managed to manoeuvre what is still a fairly young and inexperienced team to ten points from four games and a spot just behind Chelsea in the table.
Toward the end of last season Villa were shocking and getting worse so, with Benteke a long term crock, and without any noticeable recruitment beyond the much derided Phil Senderos, it is difficult to explain the turnaround. (Personally always liked Phil as I do any player prepared to put his head in where the boots fly, but I accept he had his limits). They don’t score much but have a good defensive record, three in four clean sheets in PL games.
The media seem to ascribe Villa’s improvement to the arrival of Roy Maurice Keane and the papers have had a few puff pieces this week about the young Villa players “inspired” “terrified” “in total awe of” the Irishman. Hmmmmm. The fist waving, eye rolling and the glaring might work for a little while with the kids Roy, but football managing is a little bit more complicated than that, as you know from your time with Ipswich and Sunlun. No doubt Keane’s presence has put the wind up Lambert a treat though but not a word of that anywhere.
For ourselves, as we touched on yesterday, I expect a few changes in the side and across midfield with Jack and Aaron rested, perhaps Sanchez too and the Ox. Tomas and Santi coming in. I see the changes as mixture of fatigue from some hard games over a short period and the fact that if you have a large squad you use it.
I do not anticipate a ‘hangover’ after our defeat in Dortmund and a night of some disappointing performances. I do however anticipate a difficult contest. A narrow victory and a solid performance would do very nicely.
Talk to you later.