The above picture was the main moment that stood out to me in Villa’s recent 2-1 away win against Reading. Largely unnoticed in the context of the game, it was perhaps the moment that provided optimism for the survival fight ahead…
Christian Benteke had equalised seconds before, but despite Villa being away from home (where no one would have grumbled about getting a point) and coming a minute after Nathan Baker’s own goal had given Reading the lead, Benteke retrieved the ball from the net and ran it back to the centre circle. It was an act that immediately suggested ‘we’ve come here to win’.
Last season, under Alex McLeish, Villa would have celebrated that equaliser with aplomb, as an away point would have been a satisfactory conclusion to the fixture.
There’s a distinct difference in approach to Villa’s relegation battle this year. Last year, it felt, after the home defeat against Bolton, we were on the ropes trying to stay on our feet by picking up a point here and there. This year, Villa are very much on the front foot in their fight against survival, after being knocked to the canvas in the Christmas period. Witness the Everton, Swansea and Baggies games (where we had the lead), we beat West Ham and Reading, and were perhaps unlucky not to snatch something against Arsenal and Manchester City.
Of course, this approach has left us open to the sucker punch (as in the first three games where we conceded late goals), but the ‘have-a-go’ attitude is refreshing; we’re not just absorbing punches, hanging on to survive.
To continue the boxing analogy, if we can avoid being knocked out by QPR on Saturday, hopefully we can expect Villa to make a very good fist of the rest of the season.