Can the unpredictable Aston Villa cause an upset at Man United?
Following Sunday’s hammering at home to an average Stoke side Villa pretty much confirmed themselves as the most unpredictable side in the Premiership.
To lose 4-1 at home to a side that was level on points before kick-off was hard to take, but surprisingly it wasn’t that embarrassing. The main reason for that was because no-one has a clue how Villa will perform from game-to-game and as such no-one is surprised if we beat Chelsea or lose heavily to Stoke.
If you have a look at Villa’s wins this season it started with a 3-1 win at Arsenal, followed by a 3-2 success against Man City, a 2-0 triumph over Cardiff, at 3-2 scoreline at Southampton, a 1-0 win at Sunderland, a 4-3 derby beating of West Brom, a 4-1 win over Norwich and then we beat Chelsea 1-0.
It’s still quite a poor number of wins, but within those victories we’ve picked up nine points against three of the teams in the top four. We also travelled to Liverpool and should have won after drawing 2-2.
But of the course the other side of the coin is humiliating defeats – humiliating because most of them could have been by more than the odd goal – to the likes of Fulham, Stoke twice, Crystal Palace and West Ham, the majority of which have occurred at home.
That just tells us to expect the unexpected when Villa are in town.
The main worry for Villa fans is whether the team will have enough of their good days to stay up. Being on 34 points at this stage of the season should, and probably will, mean we’re safe, but the way we’ve played this season, anything is still possible.
Today we face Manchester United away. Villa must have the worst record against them in the entire league. The last time we beat them was, not surprisingly for us, away from home thanks to a Gabby Agbonlahor header in December 2009, which gave us our first victory since the 3-1 at Villa Park, in 1995, when Alan Hansen spouted his infamous line “you’ll never win anything with kids”.
In between those victories have been no fewer than seven draws and a ridiculous 26 defeats. Look at the statistics and you’d be classed as clinically insane not to back Man United to win – but Man United have had their own issues this year.
Both sets of fans have every reason to be angry with their managers at the moment, although after less than a year in to the job the treatment of David Moyes could be seen as pretty harsh. There’s also rumours of a fans’ protest before the game, which seems extreme to say the least, but that could play into Villa’s hands.
Lambert has had less than two seasons himself, so again it could be argued the Villa fans have been flying off the handle too early. Both managers were handed squads that were weaker than the previous season and have had to start rebuilding while trying to appease every fan’s insatiable appetite for success.
The problems each manager has faced, however, is the fact the fans believe they are watching poor football while seeing their side roll over against teams they should be beating, or at least competing with. They have also made some questionable signings too.
This summer could be a huge turning point for both sides, but at the same time I think most reasonable supporters would just be happy to see some sort of improvement.
Lambert has come in for a lot of criticism lately but his comments don’t help when he says the players seem to be up for it more against the better sides than the teams in a similar position. It’s his job to motivate the players so once again the fans are left scratching their heads, wondering why he can’t do that.
Surely just putting on a Villa shirt, playing at Villa Park – or anywhere in the world for that matter – and representing the club should be enough of an impetus to “be up” for every game?
That’s what really frustrates the fans and the same can be seen in Manchester where it has not always been the defeats that have bothered the fans but the manner in which their team has lost.
Saturday’s game is another huge test for both clubs because a win for either side would really stake a claim that progress is being made. Man United would move towards gaining some sort of European spot for next season while Villa would almost certainly confirm their place in the Premier League next year.
A defeat for Villa would be expected, but if Man United were to lose Moyes really would be fighting, not necessarily for his job, but to win back the support of the fans.
Strangely, despite the fact both Lambert and Moyes have had their fair share of flack this season, they arguably have two of the safest jobs in the league.
Villa chairman Randy Lerner seems to be more than happy with the job Lambert has been doing while Man Untied are renowned for sticking by their man and rebuilding.
With United looking nervous in front of their own fans for the first time in about 20 years Villa should be looking to play how they perform best, soaking up the pressure and hitting them on the break.
If Villa’s star players – Guzan, Vlaar, Delph, Gabby and Benteke – perform on the day the team can be a match for anyone, especially away from home.
If United turn it on and Villa hide like they did against Stoke on Sunday, we really could be in for a hiding.
Most logical fans would back an easy United win on Saturday, but no-one would be surprised if Villa nicked it, so just like the rest of the season, anything could happen when these sides play.
Article by James Fisher
Calling all Villa fans: Are you heading to Old Trafford full of hope of piling the misery on David Moyes, or do you fear your wretched record against them will be extending again? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.