Room at the top

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s win at Anfield.

And so it continues. Logic dictated that Villa’s good run would come to an end in front of the TV cameras on Saturday afternoon. We might have a decent record at Anfield in recent years but it couldn’t continue. The law of averages is one thing but a team that spent something ridiculous like £116 million on new players in the summer was a far more compelling reason to hope that defeat wouldn’t be too heavy and the ensuing criticism would be tempered with the realisation that they operate in a different world to us.

In the end it was a good job the game was on TV, otherwise no-one would have known just how easy it was. Villa scored early on via the newly-contracted Gabby Agbonlahor, could have got a couple more then sat back and invited Liverpool to attack them. Liverpool had some ludicrously high amount of possession but never looked like scoring and for the third time in four games we saw out a win with no problems. The strangest thing about the game was that Philipe Senderos’s treatment of Mario Balotelli drew no outright condemnation, just a wry chuckle about welcome back to the Premier League. Villa as media favourites – who’d have thought it? It’s about as likely as Villa being Liverpool’s bogey team but both are the truth.

A few reasons have been out forward for the turnaround in fortunes from last season and even from the poor performances in pre-season friendlies. Roy Keane putting the fear of God into players and officials alike probably helps and in a strange way the doom-laden scenario that faced the club during the summer, with an unpopular manager, an unwilling owner and next to no money to spend might have helped engender a siege mentality amongst management and players.

Actually, talking about Roy Keane brings to mind that fact that he learned his trade under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest, and there’s a bit of a feel of the old legend to the Villa at the moment. The team is a typically Clough blend of cast-offs from other clubs, veterans, players who were going nowhere in the reserves and promising youngsters. I doubt we’ll get a fraction of Clough’s success, but there’s no harm in dreaming.

Villa’s style of play will come in for some criticism before long, but at the moment I couldn’t care less. Give me a boring win over an exciting defeat any day; we’re not so choosy that we can look down our noises at three points from a trip to Anfield.

Onto next Saturday and a rare three o’clock kick off at home against a team we’re definitely overdue a result against, namely Arsenal. Villa are second in the league and while nobody’s seriously suggesting we’re going to be there for much longer let’s enjoy it while it lasts.