Though the win was comfortable, it was far from the perfect performance, and the home side were helped by the abject performance of Norwich, who were one of the worst sides I’ve seen in a long time. If Saturday is anything to go by, sticking decent money on the Canaries to join us in the Championship would be a pretty sound bet.
Yes, we beat what was in front of us, which is of course all you can do on a game-by-game basis, but Villa were sloppy in certain areas and absolutely would have been punished against better opposition. Several chances to kill the game off went begging, and we even threatened to let the woeful visitors back into the match as the game wore on.
Agbonlahor took his goal well, but had Declan Rudd not suffered a rush of blood to the head and bizarrely come charging off his line into no-man’s land, Gabby would likely have found himself with too much time and over-thought his finish. As it was, Rudd’s imitation of a bull faced with a red flag meant that the striker could rely on instinct, which is when he shows his best side.
The real negative of this result is the possibility that it will bring us false hope. Villa’s eight-point gap from safety is as small as it has been for weeks, but it is still a chasm in the context – there are 13 games left to go this season, and Villa are on just 16 points having won only three of the first 25 matches. Leicester City, frequently pointed to by those most optimistic of fans, were on 19 points after 29 games.
That points to hope right? We’re only three points behind matching the tally they had after four more games. Well possibly, but the fact is that Leicester’s run last season is the kind of thing that happens once in a blue moon, not two seasons in a row. The Foxes won seven of their final nine matches, beating West Ham, West Brom, Swansea, Burnley, Newcastle, Southampton and QPR. Now, not to be unkind to either Leicester or any of the above clubs, but the fixture list made that great escape possible.
In contrast, Villa’s next five opponents are Liverpool, Stoke, Everton, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. In fact, in our remaining 13 fixtures we face just five clubs that are currently in the bottom half of the Premier League table, and one of those in an improving Chelsea.
Our current form of two wins, two draws and one defeat from the last five league games is decent, but nowhere near good enough. It is too late in the season, too much damage has been done for us to start dreaming of a great escape. All we can hope is that we get more repeats of Saturday between now and May, and go down with some pride and fight still intact.
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