It would be remiss to write a post without at least mentioning the unwanted headlines about Grealish’s driving ban and heavy fine.
I think we’d all hoped that he’d learnt from previous unwanted press attention that he needed to be fully aware of the consequence of his actions – but alas it seems not. As it happens, like Villa, I picked up three points last week (on my licence that is – my first in over 50 years of driving I hasten to add) so we can all be guilty of poor driving or lack of attention at times however experienced we might be but JG’s litany of offences is more than an acceptable individual lapse.
Now, as captain of our club, he has a greater responsibility to be a role model to the younger players and fans and lead by example. I imagine the club may also fine him but I also hope that Dean Smith will provide a strong guiding hand.
Anyway enough of that.
We are four games into the run of seven that started against Brighton before which Badger set up a poll to seek our views as to the number of points we would secure. I don’t have those results to hand but, from memory, the general consensus would have it between 10 and 13 with a goodly number even more optimistic.
To date we have secured just 3 points and those from a game I suspect most thought we would lose! OK the Newcastle game was postponed so, in reality, we are looking at six games with three to play.
Can we get a further 9 points from those three games which would align with Badgers own prediction and 27 points by Christmas?
First up we welcome Burnley to VP tomorrow night (another strange piece of fixture scheduling – a 6pm kick off on a Thursday night)! Notwithstanding, we do have the benefit of an extra days rest which might prove crucial.
I watched Burnley against Arsenal and first up I though Arsenal were really poor. Although they dominated the first half they were woeful in front of goal and completely lost their discipline after the break (lucky only to have one player sent off). Burnley were workmanlike and organised without really showing anything special but they deserved the win which will boost their confidence ahead of tomorrow’s game. They also have a number of players coming back from injury which will also strengthen the team.
Burnley were slow starters last season and are starting to show an improvement; I think with their EPL experience they will be OK. So this game is not a given for Villa.
Our home form has been pretty poor lately having now lost four on the trot in all competitions since demolishing Liverpool 7-2; nothing wrong with restating that fact is there?. Were we subsequently guilty of believing we could demolish any team at Villa Park? Well, if we were then Leeds disavowed us of that believe but, it seems to me, that we continued a gung ho approach in our next two games, losing both.
We can probably argue that we were unlucky not to, at least, gain a point against Brighton; a combination of failing to take our chances and being screwed (yet again?) by VAR conspiring to defeat us. For me we had enough chances to win the game so VAR notwithstanding we just didn’t do enough against a poor Brighton side that offered little. Smith defending the defeat against Southampton as ‘a freak result’ – bit like the Liverpool game then?
After the avalanche of red / yellow cards courtesy of Mike Dean, we will be without Cash and Luis for the game; two ever presents and key members of the defence. Trezeguet will also be absent with a hammy and Barkley will have a late fitness test. Davis is out with an ankle injury and Wesley is unlikely to figure anytime soon. Gilbert, Hause and Heaton are fit as is Engles.
So, for the first time Smith has to seriously shuffle the pack? If Barkely is unfit then I would expect Ramsey to keep his place (Barkley may well start on the bench) and Traore will start instead of Trez but how will Smith reshuffle the defence? I fully expect Smith to show faith in Elmo to come in at right back. He’s dependable in defence and is a good crosser of the ball.
But what about the role Luis plays in front of the defence – I don’t think we have an obvious replacement although Nakamba probably comes closest but without the vision or passing ability’s that Luis possesses. He could though opt to drop McGinn into the role and bring in Hourihane in a more attacking midfield role.
Whatever Smith does it might answer some of the questions over the depth (or lack of it) in the squad.