Searching for the weekend

Dave Woodhall finds a few things to talk about on a weekend when Villa aren’t in action.

Normally when there’s no match at the weekend you can blame the ever-increasing number of internationals (on that subject, Yorkshire have joined the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, usually reserved for semi-autonomous or controversial regions such as Tibet, Greenland and Northern Cyprus. They’re playing the Isle of Man on Sunday afternoon. I kid you not).

This time, Saturday’s lack of action was down the Villa’s incompetence in the FA Cup third round. Peterborough lost 5-1 at home to Leicester, so all things considered there we were probably better off letting them go through and saving the expense and having to leave the house on a damp January afternoon. What’s a bit of brief humiliation compared to an afternoon in front of the fire?

In place of actual playing matters, most of the Villa Park interest this week has centred around transfers. As yet nobody has left, and we’ve signed Axel Tuanzebe from Manchester United for the rest of the season. It might sound odd to add another right-back/central defender/defensive midfielder to a squad that seems to have enough strength in those positions but as the season progresses, resting players will be important and if Tuanzebe can do better than any of our current reserves then there’s no problem.

Villa’s most pressing need is for a striker, even allowing for Scott Hogan’s recent renaissance. Jonatha Kodjia’s out for the rest of the season, Ross McCormack’s come back from Australia but can’t be relied on either on or off the pitch and Keinen Davis can’t be relied on at his age wand with his limited experience. With FFP still a problem for reasons that are always being hinted at but never properly explained, a loan signing seems to be the only answer.

Of course, the trouble is that at this stage of the season you have to be able to find a player whose club are willing to let him go, who will be able to fit in without upsetting the team’s balance and who is going to be happy sitting on the bench most of the time yet good enough to step in when required. Is Robbie Keane still around?

The games that did take place on Saturday mostly went against us, which saw Villa drop to fifth place in the table. That’s only to be expected – when you’re at the top of the league you can’t be relying on the teams around you to drop points. Fortunately the game that we should have been playing has been re-arranged quickly so Tuesday night will see us travelling to Bramall Lane to take on a Sheffield United side who seem to be going through a rough patch without really dropping far down the league. On Saturday they had a routine 1-0 win over Preston in the cup and it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they get someone like Manchester City in the fifth round draw to take their eye off the league.

It’s the sort of game where a point would be useful and three a real statement of intent. Winning in style could see the Villa rise to the giddy heights of second but that’s maybe too much to hope for. Then again, we’re in form and finally looking to play with a bit of flair. You never know.

And as a footnote, I know we think we’ve been hard done to in recent years, to the extent that Villa playing Burton Albion, which would have been unthinkable not long ago, is now a league game. Coventry City have had it worse than us and have ended up playing Forest Green. Both of those are strange enough, but have a look at the National League table and you’ll see Leyton Orient just two points above Solihull Moors. Now THAT’S a comedown.