Dave Woodhall reports from a waterlogged Villa Park.
We live in strange times. Villa are in the relegation zone, got battered last week, yet the mood around the ground before Saturday’s game with Arsenal was one of cautious optimism. In fact, in some quarters it was not so cautious, with “I’m feeling happier than I have for a long time” being said by more than one supporter.
The mood can be put down to a general feeling that the worst is over, results have bottomed out and the summer’s signings are showing promise. Arsenal’s record at Villa Park is almost as good as Manchester United’s but Villa were the better side in a game where the weather was always going to dictate matters.
After an uneventful first half the game opened up a bit and Brett Holman’s shot which was pushed onto the bar might have given Villa the winner. Instead, we got a point, which will hopefully be the start of a decent run with some easier fixtures to come in the run-up to Christmas. Barry Bannan won the man of the match award and lately he’s putting in some of the best performances of his career but the midfielder who could really become a star this season is Ashley Westwood. Six games into his Villa career and already he’s starting to show the sort of leadership qualities we’ve been missing for a long while. Credit too, to Matt Lowton for slotting into the centre of defence when Ron Vlaar had to go off. Arsenal have torn better teams than Villa apart – Spurs last week for example – so to close them down so effectively that Brad Guzan hardly had a save to make deserves praise, particularly with such a makeshift back four.
If only we’d got a player who could snap up the half-chance and snatch goals from nowhere we could face the future with even greater optimism. Of course, players of such quality don’t come onto the market very often and when they do the going rate is usually something like £18 million, maybe up to six million more with add-ons. I wonder where we could find one…?
That supposedly easier (now there’s tempting fate with a vengeance) run of games starts on Tuesday with the arrival to Villa Park of Reading, followed by a trip to West London where QPR will be playing their first home game since the arrival of well-known pantomime villain ‘Appy ‘Arry Redknapp. Six points would be welcome, and if we can play like we have in three of our last four games there’s no reason why we can’t get them.