We are approaching a vital period in our season and the table is tightening and the congestion surrounding the top half is increasing. Villa is currently sitting in 5th and are just two points ahead of 9th placed Preston North End.
At the top of the tree, however, Wolves now sit a massive 14 points clear of Villa with Cardiff, 10 clear, in 2nd. These two teams, along with possibly Bristol City, appear to have the strongest case for automatic promotion at the end of the season at this moment in time. Of course, it is a very long season and things can change.
With a top 2 place looking increasingly unlikely, it is now imperative that Villa secures a playoff position and the upcoming period could prove vital. The difficulty lies in that there are conceivably up to 10 teams in the league who think they have realistic ambitions of finishing between 3rd and 6th and let’s be honest, everyone wants to beat Villa in this division.
If Villa is to have any hope of securing the playoff’s then the form against our promotion seeking rivals simply has to improve. We must find a way of carving out a win, starting this weekend.
Sheffield United sit level on points with Villa yet both are in contrasting form. Both sides lost their last match yet the form book tells a bigger story. Sheffield United have not won in the last 5 games, having lost 4 of them and must be viewed as waiting prey for Bruce’s men. If you watch the Yorkshiremen in action though, I would still say they are playing better than ourselves and will have pinpointed this period as important for themselves.
After Sheffield United, the Christmas period throws up fixtures against other top half contenders or direct rivals like Middlesbrough and Bristol City – who knocked Manchester United out of the League Cup last night. We simply have to come away with a minimum of 7 points from these 4 games and even that may be slightly disappointing. You can see why I think its a vital period for the club now, can’t you?
What’s clear is that Steve Bruce needs to pick a striker to play in every match we play. The team certainly aren’t akin to Barcelona of the ‘false 9’ era and playing without a focal point or clinical finisher renders us toothless and lost as we enter the final third. For me, there is no excuse not to use one – even if it means giving Harry McKirdy some experience – who is impressing in the youth side right now.
With still several games to be played before the club can bring a striker in, we have to be more positive in our approach to games. The defence and midfield is packed with talent, experience and quality. Let’s put a striker on the pitch to give ourselves a chance of winning games.