Part I: A Glance At Arbitrary Numbers
8: Games played in this Premier League (known as the Barclays Premier League for Corporate Sponsorship purposes) season, or roughly 1/5th of the 38-game season.
1: Win. The last time I wrote, over one month ago, Aston Villa was celebrating their first win of the season.
3: Losses since that win from Swansea.
4: Losses on the road this Premier League (known as the Barclays Premier League for Corporate Sponsorship purposes) season.
4: Losses on the road, all, coincidentally to teams with “Ham” in their names: West Ham, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, and Fulham.
5: Losses total.
2: Draws, from top-half sides (Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion).
6: Goals for.
2: Goals scored by Darren Bent, ostensibly the team’s top striker, and scoring leader.
1: Goals scored by Christian Benteke, a deadline signing Belgian international striker.
3: Goals scored by Ciaran Clark, Matthew Lowton, and Karim El Ahmadi; a central defender, a fullback, and a defensive midfielder, respectively.
-7: Goal differential.
5: Points on the Premier League (known as the Barclays Premier League for Corporate Sponsorship purposes) table.
17th: Position on the table.
Part II: Frustrating Comparisons
7: Wins by Chelsea.
3: Natural Number 10s in the Chelsea starting lineup.
0: Natural Number 10s in the Aston Villa squad.
I watched the Chelsea-Tottenham match before I watched the Aston Villa-Fulham match and the differences were staggering. I know that they are in completely different financial realities, but I was blown away by the quality in attacking ability in Chelsea’s lineup. Oscar, Juan Mata, and Edin Hazard each have the ability to control and take over a game. Combined, it’s nearly impossible to watch. I believe one of the commentators made this observation: None of these players has a set position. They pop up everywhere and it is so hard for defenders to know what to do.
Watching Aston Villa, it was quite apparent that they have a dearth of metronomes – those players that can influence the pace of the game – in the squad. There is no player near the ability of Juan Mata, who took his turn in the rotation between Chelsea’s trio of 10s to take over and all he did was ignite Chelsea in the second half when they quickly fell behind. For Villa, we saw the return of Stephen Ireland from injury and he looked out of place. With 20 minutes to play, Paul Lambert brought on Charles N’Zogbia (wearing the number 10) and the commentators said that N’Zogbia was the type of player Villa could use to do the unexpected. After last season, I would be cruel to say so, but I’ve lost all my expectations for Charles N’Zogbia. So, yes, the unexpected would be welcome. Instead, N’Zogbia dribbled the ball into the corners, surrounding himself with upwards of three or four defenders, and seeming unaware of where the other players in Claret and Blue might be.
Juan Mata had a ridiculous series of events where the Tottenham defender tried to shield a ball rolling out of play, Mata poked his foot around, popped the ball, ran past the defender, towards the box, and crossed the ball low to Daniel Sturridge who tapped it in. That defender was Kyle Walker, England international fullback and a terrific player who spent some time at Aston Villa on loan in 2011. What I’m saying is that Walker was too good for Villa, and Mata made him look a fool.
Part III: Where Do We Go From Here?
Up, hopefully. Sitting just above the relegation zone and off to their worst start in history (or close to it), Villa need to start winning. However, a look at upcoming fixtures looks like a rough run over the next month or so. Norwich City and Sunderland will have to be must wins, because after those two matches, Villa plays Manchester United, Manchester City, and Arsenal.
Whatever happens, I hope that Lambert doesn’t have names written down in envelopes like Brendan Rodgers in Being:Liverpool.