Aston Villa: Can Villa now march up the Premier League table?
There haven’t been two more important back-to-back victories in my lifetime than those against Reading and Queen’s Park Rangers over the last couple of weekends.
The wins against second from bottom Reading and basement boys QPR were make or break for Villa. Even winning the games have left Villa far from safe, especially with Wigan Athletic picking up a good win on Sunday, but it doesn’t bear thinking about how bad things could have been.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to come out from the two victories was how Villa managed to hold on to their leads, something that has been badly missing this season and has cost the side plenty of vital points.
Against QPR there were still several scares and to go 1-0 down, 2-1 up and then to 2-2, before finally grabbing the winner isn’t good for the heart. But the big question now is whether Villa can push on make the most of first back-to-back victories in the league all season?
The last time Villa won two on the bounce in all competitions was against Norwich City in the League Cup followed by Liverpool, at Anfield, in the Premiership.
There was a real buzz around Villa Park at that time, but we all know what happened after that – 15 goals conceded and none for in three matches soon had the team’s confidence spiralling out of control and it wasn’t long before the side that looked to be pushing towards mid-table respectability suddenly looked like finishing rock bottom of the league.
Villa have struggled against teams that are also struggling near the bottom this season, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the team come out with so much fight.
Looking ahead there’s no let up either as Liverpool are welcomed to Villa Park on Easter Sunday, followed a trip to Stoke, a visit from Fulham and then a trip to Old Trafford.
There is, however, no reason why Villa couldn’t come away from those games with nine points – it’s highly unlikely but Liverpool aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders, Stoke are sliding down the table and Fulham aren’t much better than Villa, player for player.
However, Luis Suarez could score four if on form, Stoke could completely bully Villa’s defence out of the game and the likes of Fulham’s Dimitar Berbatov and Damien Duff could also wreak havoc.
No-one’s expecting anything other than a severe hammering at Manchester United, but we may be nicely mistaken.
The defence is still Villa’s main concern so how well the team performs over the next few weeks will, inevitably, be decided by how well the back four performs.
Having said that the forwards are firing on all cylinders at just the right time so perhaps the best way forward is to simply score more than the opposition and just go for it every game? It will make the remaining few months entertaining.
There’s a nice little break for international football coming up and it will be interesting to see how Villa’s internationals perform and whether it will be good or bad for their confidence.
Hopefully Brad Guzan will get his chance for the United States soon, Ciaran Clark will only learn more playing at the heart of the Republic of Ireland defence, Ron Vlaar can lead the back line for Holland, Andreas Weimann is slowly breaking his way into the Austrain starting 11 and Christian Benteke is already a hero for Belgium.
Brett Holman and Karim El Ahmadi may also get a much needed run out for Australia and Morocco respectively.
There aren’t too many in the squad that look set to break into the English national side at the moment, which is a bit of a shame but at least they’ll be well rested.
Each game will continue to get more and more important from here on in so let’s hope the Villa squad benefits from the short Premier League break and can make one final push for survival.
Article by James Fisher
Calling all Villa fans: Confidence is high at the moment but do you think Villa can march on up the table or do you think there are still plenty more twists and turns left in this relegation fight? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.