A couple of years ago there was a wildly violent show on SKY called Spartacus. Every season had a different sub heading, my favourite, and one that could apply nicely to this weekend’s fixture between Newcastle and Aston Villa was “war of the damned”.
That was until Newcastle pulled a couple of unexpected results from the fire. Firstly they ruined a nation of gamblers coupons by defeating Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool then followed it up with the even more impressive, last minute, victory over Spurs at White Hart Lane. Prior to these unlikely wins Steve McClaren’s men looked fractured, argumentative and perhaps worst of all brittle. After loosing 5-1 to former manager Alan Pardew, Newcastle looked in real danger of collapsing, it is to McClaren’s credit that he has found the solutions to arrest the slump – even if he does not really convince as a manager.
If Newcastle looked like a side on the brink of fracturing then Aston Villa look like a side close to obliteration, smashing to an unrecognisable myriad of pieces. Still without a win since the opening day of the season Villa, realistically, need a win in Saturday’s 5.30pm kick-off if they are to stave off relegation.
New manager Remi Garde whilst at Lyon acquired the moniker “Garde-iola”, unlike Alan Pardew and the derisory “Pardiola”, the aping of Pep Guardiola’s name was not used in jest but rather with some degree of seriousness.
With the finances of the Lyon in disarray and the club haemorrhaging players, Garde was hailed for his ability to keep the club competitive, utilising a number of youth academy products. Throw in a cup triumph and you can see why such a moniker was attached to him.
However, if Aston Villa are to remain in the Premier League then he must produce a body of work to rival Guardiola himself. Currently on their longest run of consecutive games without a victory (15) and with the fact that no side has ever stayed up with such a low tally of point with as many games played you would assume that all hope is lost, yet Garde remains stoic in his convictions saying “I don’t want to say stats are wrong but they are there to be destroyed”.
To compound Aston Villa fan’s woes; Newcastle can now call upon three more players to bolster their increasingly confident ranks. Aarons, Lascelles and Tiote can all provide Steve McClaren with fresh options. Villa will remain unchanged from last week’s home defeat to Arsenal.
The losses of Benteke and Delph, the poor recruitment of players, the ineptitude of previous gaffer Tim Sherwood or a lacklustre owner, the causes of Villa’s demise are debatable one thing however, is not; if they fail to win all three point in St James’ Park then they are as good as relegated