Ashley Young applauds after scoring the winning goal against Bolton last April. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
On Saturday, Aston Villa return to Villa Park to face Bolton, hoping they can continue their fine run of league form at home. Normally, I'm the type to get very pessimistic before any match, particularly after Monday, but if the Villa contrive to lose this match, I think the only response would be hysterical giggles.
While Bolton has made an impressive start to the season, losing for the first time just last week at Arsenal, their ability to defend without resorting to face-slaps has left them without their best defender and their first choice keeper. Gary Cahill made an unfortunate decision last week to cut down Marouane Chamakh with a two-footed scissor tackle which, while not resulting in any lasting harm to the Arsenal defender, was still a red-card offense. He lost his appeal and will miss the Villa match.
Jussi Jääskeläinen, on the other hand, is a Villa hero, and they need to sing him a little song at Villa Park:
(h/t to @MarkWhyy, a Bolton fan and a great Twitter follow)
Slapping Roger Johnson across the face? I don't care if the video is recorded off someone's tv using someone's phone, I could watch this for hours. It's really too bad there are no good rhymes for Jääskeläinen...
In addition to these players being certain to miss the match, it's possible that the Trotters' captain, striker Kevin Davies, will be sidelined after suffering concussion last week. It's the Swede, Johan Elmander, that's been making the stir, already with three goals this season.
Villa are a club that likes their history, so they should go into this match with total confidence. The club has won 5-1, 4-2 and 4-0 in their last three home games against Bolton and haven't lost a September match at Villa Park since 1992. Then again, Villa do enjoy dropping the ball on easy wins.
This will be Kevin MacDonald's final match in charge of the first team, and he has mentioned that although Gérard Houllier will be present on Saturday, KMac has full control over the lineup. With everyone (besides Fabian Delph and Andreas Weimann) at full fitness, it's time to address the Stephen Ireland problem. And not the one of his missing license plates, either. Where do we play Ireland?
The squad's weakness has been in its defense, not in its forward attack. As much as Nigel Reo-Coker gets under my skin at times, we need both him and Stiliyan Petrov at the back, as Ireland is not a defensive midfielder. So what happens? Do we move Ashley Young back to the wing and put Ireland up behind Gabriel Agbonlahor?
I have no problem with playing five midfielders on a team that has an excess of talented ones. But we know that Ash is loving playing behind the striker, and that he and Gabby make for an excellent pairing. At least KMac can rest easily knowing this is the last time he'll have to make this decision.