Hands up who was honestly surprised at that result on Monday? Whilst many Villa fans would have felt that we perhaps could have got something from the Theatre of Dreams on Monday evening, many teams would have been powerless to stop Manchester United from recording their 20th league title, especially when Van Persie is in the mood! However, do not fear Villa fans, for I feel that although we lost, it was a good defeat in a way and here’s why…
Had our beloved side gone down 3-0 away at Fulham, for example, then media attention would have been focused on us and how relegation is a certainty. However, with United regaining their champions title, I believe you will be hard fetched to find a newspaper article that has placed doom upon our club. The BBC live text for the game, for example, just about remembered to put the quotes up from Paul Lambert after the game never mind comment any more on our perilous situation. Confidence too should not have been affected; after all, we drew the second half and were probably, in terms of chances created, the better team. Therefore the game can be forgotten from a Villa perspective, cast far from our minds and we can act as if it never happened and we all sat at home and watched hours of endless soaps instead.
Attention now will turn to another Monday night game and, potentially, depending on results at the weekend, a chance for Villa to take a gigantic step forward to securing their top flight status – and what better team to do it against! Many footballing fans were sceptical of Paolo Di Canio’s appointment as Sunderland boss, myself included. Nevertheless, he has proved those doubters wrong and has recorded two wins from his first three games, with two clean sheets in the last two. There is no doubt that he is an apt replacement for Balotelli in the Premier League when it comes to an entertaining and being a controversial Italian but he does have the tendency to blow his lid at any given moment without needing much encouragement and this could be a potential downfall for Sunderland in the future.
For me, Sunderland are a lot like Villa: they shouldn’t be in the position they are in with the players that they have at the club yet too many times this season the starting XI haven’t performed when it really mattered. I expect the game on Monday to be cagey from Villa’s point of view, the aim would be to keep Sunderland quiet and build from the back, keeping the ball and, most importantly, taking the chances when they inevitably come. Sunderland will be a threat and they will play with pace when it comes to the attacking with the likes of Johnson and Sessegnon, so a performance from Mr Bennett will be both needed and expected.
A win for either side will go a long way to securing survival an,d for Villa, providing that Wigan don’t beat Tottenham on Saturday afternoon, it would open up a big gap between themselves and the ever present Latics. Whatever happens on Monday night, the fan base will continue to do its club proud and I expect another near capacity crowd in B6.
Aston Villa 3-1 Sunderland
(First scorer: Gabriel Agbonlahor)