After three home matches in which we conceded no goals and gained seven points, more than 1/2 our total for the season so far, we hit the barriers against Newcastle. Shipping three goals and not so much dismantling Fortress Selhurst as blowing the bloody doors off, we need to regroup quickly as we face the onrushing train that is the Christmas fixture list. We need to restore some meanness as we still do not look like a side with a sackful of goals at our disposal. In the space of a couple of days we have two away games, which provide contrasting opportunities to get the train back on the tracks. If we are not to be completely derailed we need to end 2013 on, if not a high then at least, not on a massive low. Now come on you Eagles pride and points are at stake.
2. REPLACE THE IRREPLACEABLE
For the Boxing Day trip to beautiful Birmingham we are Chamakh-less and that is a problem as “Chammers”, as he is now affectionately known, has proved his worth and more in the last handful of games. The Moroccan man mountain has worked his arse off in the last handful of games and also scored three goals in as many matches, so there needs to be some thought as to how we will replace the mighty Marouane. Gayle is young and quick but he has nowhere near enough physical presence to match Chamakh.
3. NICK A POINT
As for our opponents Villa are not exactly ripping up any trees, so we could feasibly eke out a precious and rare point away from home. By stifling Villa’s attack the hope is the Villa Park crowd grow restless and we can exploit any discontent with a few raids of our own. Barry Bannan will have a point to prove to his detractors amongst the Villa fans who turned on him in the latter part of his time there. The restoration of Joel Ward to right back is a must as he played out of position against Newcastle in midfield and this weakened our back four whilst adding little further forward. The time for experimenting is over.
If a point at Villa is possible, the same cannot be said of our chances at The Etihad where City are not so much as on fire but have been holding successive fireworks nights since 5th November and have been banging in goals left, right and centre and centre, right and left for good measure. The idea of coming away from Manchester with some honour will be down to some heroic efforts from everyone and a respectable loss is about as good as it is likely to get. So let’s man the barricades and pull up the drawbridge.
5. IN HONOUR OF UNCLE RON
As Ron Noades died on Christmas Eve it would be opportune for the club to remember the heady days under Noades’ chairmanship when we reached our only ever FA Cup Final in 1990 and our highest ever league position – a giddy third place in the old First Division in 1991 as well as lifting The Full Members Cup beating Everton 4-1 at Wembley. Although Noades was not the most likeable man he did do an amazing job at Palace and the current owners would do well to follow in his footsteps in rebuilding a club that had been in the doldrums for too long. That 1990/91 team was built by Coppell, spearheaded by the Bright/Wright partnership, backed by a dogged determination and plenty of hard work. It is unlikely that Jerome/ Chamakh axis will ever emulate their illustrious predecessors so there needs to be even greater effort spent by the team to come close to achieving the glory days of twenty odd years ago. RIP Ron.
Written by: Richard Foster
Twitter Handle: @rcfoster
Aston Villa v Crystal Palace Pre-Match Stats
Aston Villa have failed to score in four of their last five Barclays Premier League home games.
None of the last 13 matches in all competitions between Villa and Palace has ended as an away win (seven home wins, six draws).
No team has picked up fewer away points than Crystal Palace this season (three, level with Sunderland)
Villa have won only one of their last 12 Premier League games played on December 26, that a 4-0 drubbing of Everton in 2005 (W1 D4 L7).
Palace’s four Premier League games on December 26 have produced a total of only five goals.
Aston Villa took part in the highest scoring Premier League game on December 26 when they drew 4-4 with Chelsea in 2007.
Christian Benteke has now gone 11 hours and 59 minutes without scoring a Barclays Premier League goal.
This match will see the two sides with the lowest average possession figures in the 2013-14 Premier League season face one another – Crystal Palace (40.3%) and Aston Villa (42.2%)
Aston Villa have scored only one goal in the first half of their last 12 Premier League matches.
Marouane Chamakh has attempted only five shots on target in 1239 minutes of Premier League action this season, but he’s scored with four of these shots.