Anyone with even a fleeting knowledge of the English game knows how detrimental the packed festive schedule can be for both domestic and international sides, as injuries and fatigue take an inevitable toll.
This season had promised to be different, with the FA at first stating there would be a winter break only to then renege on that offer, much to the disappointment of managers up and down the land.
With all this in mind, we cast an eye over the current Villa squad, to ask the question of whether they will be up to the rigours of English football’s punishing schedule?
With all the matches they are expected to play, few Premier League stars even have time to hit the training pitch over the congested festive period
More Grealish off-field mishaps could be costly
At this point everyone has seen the video of Jack Grealish going on an ill-advised drive through a narrow street, doing a bit of fender bending as he went.
Although he appears to have calmed his off-field antics in recent months, there is still the lingering feeling he could be prone to another lapse of discipline, which when combined with a packed festive fixture list would be a disaster for the mercurial midfielder and Villa fans to boot.
Indeed, it seems likely across the board in the Premier League that players will come a cropper either during or just after the Christmas and New Year football frenzy, with young stars eager to have fun away from football. This issue once again takes us back to the age-old question of whether festive football is too much of a good thing, due to the negative impacts it can have on players and the English game in general.
For now, though, Grealish and the rest of the Villa squad will just have to keep their heads down and their noses clean.
The squad appears to be galvanized under Dean Smith
The one thing that can truly make or break a team’s festive season is disunity in the ranks, with coaches and playing staff at odds about everything from tactics to team selection.
Luckily there appear to be no such issues at Villa Park, with Dean Smith running a tight ship, managing to keep star players like Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley working in tandem.
All this stands Villa in good stead throughout December and January, as teammates will appreciate getting a pat on the back and a word of encouragement, as the knocks and scrapes begin to mount, rather than the hairdryer treatment during a half-time team talk.
A defence fit for the top four
Halfway through December and the only defences to have matched or bettered Villa’s are those of high-flying Spurs and Man City’s billionaires.
This is down to the inexorable rise of players like Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konza, both of whom have even been chipping in with a couple of goals of their own.
Backing them up is Emiliano Martínez, who Arsenal fans might be wishing they kept hold of over the summer, with the Argentine having kept five clean sheets at the time of writing.
Watkins leads the line well but needs support
Another home-grown talent whose value is skyrocketing this season is young Ollie Watkins, who despite being unlucky with questionable VAR decisions this term has made an excellent first-team impact.
A large part of his success is the service he has been given by what is one of the most robust midfield’s in the Premier League, but there are signs that leaving all that lone furrowing upfront to a 24-year-old is wearing him down.
With Wesley struggling with fitness and Grealish the club’s 2nd top goal scorer this season from midfield, Watkins must be wrapped in cotton wool or else an ill-timed injury could severely blunt the team’s already a limited front line.