Rushing home from coaching my younger son’s U8 game, I found myself utterly lacking the discipline necessary to start watching the recorded game from the beginning. Instead I tuned in to find the score already 2-1 Newcastle, with Villa looking unconvincing in posession. As I watched the final ten minutes in a state of despair, one thing came to mind: should a film ever be made about the life of Antonio Luna, the actor to cast in the role is Ben Affleck.
The next thing that came to mind, however, was much more on point and relevant to the game: fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck! I believe I’m accurate in stating the mood of Villa Nation if I break down the first four games of our season thusly:
3-1 win away to Arsenal: Wow! I had a lot of dreams for this season and they’re already starting to come true. I would have been thrilled with a point—I’m positively walking on the moon.
2-1 loss away to Chelsea: We didn’t expect to win this one anyway, but we sure gave them a game, didn’t we? Well done, lads!
1-0 loss at home to Liverpool: A reasonably well-matched contest in which we were undone by a brilliant piece of skill from Sturridge and a brilliant save by Mignolet. Not the way we wanted to start the home campaign, but, all in all, if you’d asked me before the season if I would have accepted three points out of three games against these opponents in the space of a week, I would have definitely said yes. We’ll pick up three more points next week against Newcastle.
0-1 loss at home to Newcastle: OH MY GOD! THE WHEELS ARE COMING OFF! SACK THE MANAGER! BENTEKE’S LEAVING IN JANUARY! WE’RE DOOMED, DOOMED—DOOMED, I TELL YE!
Is that about right? Well, to be fair to Newcastle, they looked fantastic. And, had I consulted stats before I made my prediction, not after, I would have been reminded that Newcastle have been a bit of a bogey team for us. (I did get the 2-1 scoreline right, I just had the wrong team winning.)
I still think Villa will come together in time and will find themselves in the top half of the table at season’s end. I still believe in Paul Lambert, and I still believe this team is capable of playing winning soccer. But, given the last two seasons, I can’t blame anyone for feeling a sense of deja vu. But Lambert is not McLeish, and our young players have come through the relegation scare of last year. And they’re joined by some slightly more seasoned players as well.
So don’t panic, at least not yet. Wait until we lose next week before you do that. And, if we do lose next week, I might even join you. But we should manage at least a point . . . right?