With just one of their last five Premier League league games, and winless in their last three, Aston Villa’s hopes of keeping themselves well away from an unwanted relegation fight have not been helped whatsoever. However, if there has ever been a time where things could easily take a turn for the better, then the busy forthcoming festive period over the next few weeks is where it can all change.
Since beating Newcastle at Villa Park at the end of November, Villa has tasted defeat at the hands of Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester City – All of whom who have aspirations at the opposite end of the league compared to the Villa. That said, the team hasn’t helped themselves but must remain hopeful moving forward.
With no disrespect towards the following teams, but Villa’s festive period shapes up to get a lot easier, although it may not start against Sheffield United on Saturday as Chris Wilder’s men have been very impressive this season and especially at home.
Nonetheless, prior to Saturday’s game, Dean Smith’s men are set to be provided with the perfect opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and the three teams below them in the league. Within the space of just seven days, Villa faces both Southampton and Norwich City at home before sounding out the year with an away trip to Vicarage Road to take on Watford.
Now, there’s never an easy game in the Premier League these days and nothing is a given but if the team is to really kick on and get their season back on track then their best chance is the next four games. As I mentioned, Sheffield United will no doubt be the hardest of those four as the Blades look to continue their very respectable start to the season. With that in mind, the same cannot be said for Southampton, Norwich or Watford.
Of those three teams, one was handed a PL record-equalling loss back in October, one has already been handed a 5-1 loss by Villa this season, while the other has only won just one game this season, leading to a new manager coming in as the former was shown the door for the second time by the club. As I said beforehand though, nothing is a given but if your Dean Smith and Aston Villa, reading the previous can only give you the confidence you need to kick on.
In case you were wondering, it was, of course, Southampton who were handed the record-equalling loss as they were blown away 9-0 by Leicester at home back in October. Since then though, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side has held Arsenal to a 2-2 draw at the Emirates and beaten both Watford (2-1) and Norwich (2-1) in their last five games.
The Saints will no doubt prove to be the hardest test for Villa when they come to Villa Park on December 21st. If the Villa is to start their most important three games of their season so far with a win then they must not take Southampton lightly, despite their current status of sitting in the bottom three (even if it is just by goal difference, small but we take it!)
Norwich will visit Villa Park on Boxing Day and they will be no stranger to Villa having already been beaten once by the Villans already this season. Back at the start of November, Dean Smith’s side travelled to East Anglia to take on Norwich at Carrow Road and it’s fair to say it was a game to remember. With goals from Wesley (x2), Jack Grealish, Conor Hourihane, and Douglas Luiz, the Villa handed Norwich their worst loss at home so far this season, in a game in which they dominated from start to finish.
Home advantage will be key should the Villa once again hand Norwich another devastating blow in their hopes of PL survival. Norwich has won just once on the road in the league this season which will give Villa all the confidence of grabbing all three points on Boxing Day.
In what will be the Villa’s final game of 2019, they will play hosts to Watford, a team who is in turmoil and are desperately fighting for the lives at the foot of the table. Having won just one of their first 16 games to start the season, Watford recently sacked manager Quique Sanchez Flores after just 86 days in charge of the team. It’s also the second time the London club have shown a manager the door this season as they sacked Javi Garcia back in September after his poor start to the campaign.
With newly appointed manager Nigel Pearson now at the helm, the Hornets will be looking to finally get some results behind them in the coming weeks. However, that’s easier said than done as before they make the trip to Villa Park, it’s a date with leaders Liverpool, Manchester United and Sheffield United.
As I stated at the top of the article, Villa’s season has been a tough one to digest in recent week and with the club just outside of the relegation zone on goal difference, the coming weeks could be monumental in the team’s battle to stave off a bottom four dog fight come to the end of the season. So with no pressure at all, it’s over to you Dean Smith and Aston Villa Football Club.