After Sunday’s hard fought point at Old Trafford, it’s a quick turnover and another tough away trip to Chelsea and Stamford Bridge. Old Trafford hadn’t been a happy hunting ground over the years, and Stamford Bridge hasn’t always been one either; both of Villa’s worst Premier League defeats have come at the hands of Chelsea (losing 7-1 and 8-0 on those occasions), but it’s equally been the sight of some notable wins (our last victory being a 3-1 victory back in 2011) and some hugely entertaining draws (3-3 also in 2011, and 4-4 on Boxing Day 2007). Whatever the result, the common theme is goals.
And given Villa and Chelsea’s combined abilities to score goals this season and play some entertaining attacking football, that seems unlikely to change this time around. In head to head terms, Dean Smith has a comprehensive advantage over Frank Lampard, leading 3-0 as things stand – a 3-0 and 4-0 victory over Derby before the 2-1 victory in May which brought us back to the Premier League. Lampard will feel he has a score to settle this time, and with his impressive youth centered team he has all the weapons at hand to strike back. Including our top scorer from last season (and the previous 40+ seasons) Tammy Abraham – an injury doubt (thankfully) for this clash.
Needless to say we wield our own threats, and with Grealish growing into this division with every passing game, and the team continuing to gel, there’s more than enough reasons for us to believe we can go and cause Chelsea problems if we can raise our levels of performance once again and seek to build on the 4 points from the last 2 games since returning from the international break.
As the old adage goes, ‘there’s no easy games’, but some are certainly tougher than others, and given Chelsea’s excellent – albeit slightly unexpected – start to this season, this can be filed under the ‘tougher’ category. Chelsea have played an exciting brand of energetic football, with a neat blend of youth players with a point to prove and experienced heads helping lead them. Captained by ‘Mr Consistency’ – César Azpilicueta, and fired up the table by the goals of our hero from last term, Tammy Abraham, Chelsea find themselves firmly established in this season’s Top Four battle.
Villa are going to have to rally apply themselves to the task at hand here, and show that they can learn from the disappointments of leads taken and leads lost against the big names in this division (Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United) this season. Whilst Sunday was a sign of maybe turning a corner in those fortunes with us fighting back to geta draw after surrendering another lead, the pattern of scoring then conceding continued. It’s a problem we have to resolve, because the fact is we’re looking down rather than up in league table terms at the moment because of it. It’s been said on a few occasions this season but if we could shore up defensively and cut out our lackadaisical and laissez-faire moments at the back and combine that with our healthy goalscoring ability we would become a very decent side and begin to climb the table quickly.
This may seem like another tricky week of fixtures, but looking at it from a glass half full perspective, it’s a great opportunity to show what we can do and the problems we can cause any team. We’ve come a long way very quickly under Smith, and sometimes we might forget where we were just in February alone, our rise has been rapid, but we have shown that we can belong back in the Premier League, but now is the time to try and kick on and show that we can really do it for 90 minutes against the best sides in the league this season.
We’ve pushed Liverpool all the way, we were close against Spurs and we should have had more from Arsenal and Manchester United, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves, we just need to build on the positives and believe we can get to the next step and beat theose teams. West Ham showed that Chelsea aren’t unbeatable – as impressive as they’ve been so far – and hopefully we can be the second team in Claret and Blue to cause them problems this week.
I said at the start of this week, that getting draws out of these three fixtures would be positive and I still hold to that. Smith will play to win as that’s his mentality (and I like it), but the realist in me still thinks a point would be decent from a good Chelsea side. My prediction is for another 2-2 draw, but I’m hoping for a defining away win to show that we’re developing and adapting to this league.
By Jamie Yapp