Roy Hodgson is asked the perfect question, Mr Grumpypants is back, Jamie Redknapp hates making comparisons. Plus Ace-watch, you lucky things...
Those of us who support lowly clubs can find it difficult to imagine the fuss made over two defeats suffered by a goliath. Will this weekend's Copa offer some respite?
"They'll be fine," is the standard Match of the Day pundit response when discussing just about any club's chances of staying in the Premier League. There are a few exceptions - Reading and QPR last season, Crystal Palace this season - but mostly "they'll be fine". Villa were going to be fine for much of last season, they are definitely going to be fine this season and they were absolutely definitely going to be more than fine after an opening-day win over Arsenal.
This summer it wasn't just the Alans who were predicting fineness for Villa but pretty much the whole of football. After surviving last season with six wins in their last 13 matches (though two were against the decidedly un-fine Reading and QPR, while Sunderland and Norwich were other victims) and somehow keeping hold of Christian Benteke, there was a widespread assumption that they would not flirt with relegation again.
This assumption seemed to be based on the notion that all the problems that plunged Villa into relegation trouble last season had somehow evaporated over one summer - those who were young and inexperienced would suddenly be old enough to know better, the porous defence would be plugged, the over-reliance on Benteke's goals would disappear. And this transformation would happen despite Villa bringing in seven players this summer who were all a) largely unheralded and b) aged 24 or under.
Of those seven, left-back Antonio Luna was the only signing to go straight into the Villa line-up - inevitable as his only real competition was the woefully out-of-his-depth Joe Bennett. The now-crocked Jores Okore, Leandro Bacuna and Aleksandar Tonev have since started odd games but the clear vision was for these young players to augment a thin squad of other young players, with the hope that a couple of those callow youths would follow Benteke in becoming one of the Premier League's surprisingly hot properties.
That search for a new Benteke has led to the signings of giants Kozák (6'2") and Helenius (6'5"), which hardly hints at a variation in style from the 'big man up top' tactics that narrowly kept them in the top flight. Already this season they have recorded the lowest possession percentage (41%) and only have Cardiff and West Ham below them when it comes to pass completion and short passing statistics. Now, with Benteke missing for six weeks, they must hope that either Kozák or Helenius can mirror the Belgian in making the most of some oft-poor service.
While the spotlight has been on Paolo Di Canio and his 14 underwhelming summer signings, Lambert has been doing something similar (but younger) on a smaller scale, opting for cheap quantity over quality. It's the same policy that catapulted them into a relegation battle last season and yet, for some inexplicable reason, the widespread belief is that doing the same thing again and expecting a different result is not the sign of madness that Albert Einstein famously suggested.
Right now ten Premier League clubs have shorter odds on relegation than Villa, including Newcastle, Stoke and West Ham. Looking at the squads of those four clubs, it's not Villa's that stands out as being 'fine'.
I'm a little bemused by this article. Removing the result from Saturday's game, Villa had 6 points from 5 games including games against Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. We put out a few reserves against Spurs filthy cash pot and duly got spanked. I'd like to pay the author more respect than assume it was this game the article was based on. If you will remember, Villa were shocking early doors, and progressed as the season continued, culminating in avoiding relegation, just. The author would like to point out that buying young players and throwing them into the mix might not be the way forward. Instead, experience is required. So Villa should follow Fulham's policy, yes?!! It appears to have been taken for granted that we signed players other than Benteke that have come to terms with the Premier league..Lowton was fantastic towards the end of last year and is being kept out by some very impressive showings by Bacuna. Westwood has been very neat and tidy and rarely loses possession, something that is of critical importance if you want to hold on to points etc. Guzan was technically a re-signing, and was Villa's player of the season ahead of Benteke (I do not need to add to his list of superlatives). Okore looked like a capture before the unfortunate injury. Luna has done ok so far. In fact, of last year's signings, the jury is still out on only El Ahmadi (3m), and Bowery (0.5m). Ive written off Joe Bennett (3m) by now. The point is, we've stayed up last season, if we were to sell players now we would take in far more than we spent, and 've strengthened the squad. We're 6 games into a league season in which we've played 4 of the bookies top 6 favourites and this is despite a long injury list. Will we be ok? I'd be confident, personally.- carlowman006