We still have a load of issues to address, but you know what? We will get better. And we’ve just bought ourselves a little time in which to do it.
I’ll admit it: I wasn’t looking forward to watching us play Manchester City. Yes, I had dutifully set my DVR to record the game, and, yes, I was hiding from the score as I spent the first part of Saturday coaching my AYSO teams. But I expected nothing. With a team that can’t win on the road playing a team that can’t win at home, my natural sense of fatalism kicked in and I assumed it would be City who would see their streak end first. They have bought some terrific players and, at times, have played some great soccer.
Then my friend John tweeted at me: WHAT A GAME. I had been avoiding Twitter, but an inadvertent glance at my phone’s lock screen let me know something was up. Then other tweets arrived. I was buoyed, thinking that, if nothing else, the game would be worth watching. Perhaps Villa had scored an equalizer, or even gone ahead, before ultimately succumbing to a Dzeko strike in stoppage time. Another loss, probably, but perhaps more hope for the future.
Then someone tweeted WE ARE VILLA and I thought, hold on, we got a point!
Funny how the mind works.
Anyway, back at home and with the kids sent off to the showers, I finally watched the game, hoping against hope that . . . I don’t know, could we have actually won this thing?
Well, you know the result, and I finally do, and it’s certainly one of the most unlikely come-from-behind victories I have ever seen. We gave up thirteen corner kicks, and two goals from corners, and relinquished possession for long stretches (we had only 33% overall) while we played five men across the back.
And yet! OK, El Ahmadi was offside, but only half a step. It doesn’t take anything away from the play. And what a free kick by Bacuna. The more I see this guy, the more I like him, and not least because he seems to actually enjoy playing the game. (Why don’t more players smile, I wonder? Surely getting paid to play the game you love can be fun?) And, finally, brilliant distribution from Guzan, a nice flick on from Kozak, shocking defending from City, and a confident finish from Weimann, who really has deserved to be on the score sheet more often this season, given his relentless desire to move forward.
Against Norwich, we got three points for a poor game. Against City, well, on balance we were outplayed—and we have to do something about our woeful defense of set pieces—but we finished our chances when we needed to. And City, despite having some of the best players money can buy, didn’t have what it took to close out what should have been their first three points on the road.
We have played six, lost three, and won three. We’re in ninth place. (Manchester United is in twelfth!) We won six points against two teams you have to figure will finish the season in the top four. We still have a load of issues to address, but you know what? We will get better. And we’ve just bought ourselves a little time in which to do it.
Final thought: Taking Villa out of it, this is shaping up to be an entertaining season. The top of the table (currently Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea) looks like it might be up for grabs, and the next three spots (Southhampton, Man City, Hull) show signs of change as well. No, I don’t expect the Saints and Tigers to be there for long, but in a weekend where Villa beat City, Tottenham played Chelsea to a draw, and even the Baggies beat Man United, it feels like anything is possible.
Which, as we all know, is an all too rare feeling.
Imagine following La Liga!