Aston Villa are coming off of their best week in recent history. Here's a look at what happened and what is ahead.
In this very space last week, I suggested the following for the Norwich and Liverpool matches:
...play a full-strength squad on Tuesday to advance in the cup, rest a lot of the starters on Saturday and give them a ton of rest for next week's Chelsea match. Not sure if the Liverpool match is one that we should concede, but it would be interesting to go a bit further in the cup.
Or, you know, Paul Lambert could play pretty much first-team squads in both matches and coast to a week in which Aston Villa won two matches by a collective score of 2-7. Good lord it feels wonderful to be a Villa fan right about now, doesn't it? Let's dive right in, shall we?
Just The Facts, Please
Form (Last 5): D W D D W (First time this season that's run without an L in it)
Results Last Week: Norwich City 1-4 Aston Villa (League Cup); Liverpool 1-3 Aston Villa (EPL)
at Chelsea - Sunday, December 23, 1600 GMT, 1100 Eastern
Tottenham - Monday, December 17, 1900 GMT, 1400 Eastern
New Injuries Last Week:
- Darren Bent - hamstring (approximately 4 weeks)
The Week That Was
- Most of last week is going to get covered in the match notes below, since that's where almost everything of note happened.
- Darren Bent, who was taken out of the Norwich match in the 35th minute with a hamstring injury, will likely miss around 4 weeks.
- The injury will likely make it more difficult to showcase the striker for a possible sale in the January window. At least that's the conventional wisdom. Given how little Lambert has been playing Bent, if the plan is to sell him, the team may have been relying someone coming in and picking him up based on history rather than recent performance. Now, an injury won't help, but don't be so certain that this effectively keeps Bent in Birmingham.
- A little bit of site news: we know that you come here looking for the latest in transfer news, so as the January window approaches, we've made a place where you can get all of our transfer news in one place. Make sure to bookmark the new AVFC Transfer News and Rumours hub, if you miss anything as it gets posted to the front page, you'll find it there.
- In that same vein, we've made hubs for AVFC Gifs - where we will put any stories we make that contain gifs - and for Andrew's continuing - and excellent - series chronicling the adventures of Fake Villa in Football Manager '13.
Norwich City 1-4 Aston Villa (League Cup Quarterfinals)
Morison (19'), Holman (21'), Weimann (79', 85'), Benteke (90+1')
- Paul Lambert had to be dreading his return to Carrow Road. He's currently in a contentious legal battle with his former club, and he was sure to get a rude welcome from the Norwich faithful.
- After 19 minutes, it seemed as if the match was going to be worse for Lambert than anticipated, as Steve Morison slotted home a goal to put Norwich ahead 1-0. The crowd began insanely loud chants of "Who are you?" directed at Lambert. If there was a time for Villa to fold, this would have been it.
- But they didn't. A mere two minutes later, Brett Holman hammered home a laser beam of a shot to tie the match:
- The best part of the whole ordeal was listening to an obviously amped-up Jack Woodward call the match. He knew that there were no video feeds to be found anywhere, and he obviously reveled in his larger-than-usual audience. After the Holman goal, Jack yelled, "Who are ya? Who are YOU Norwich fans? Not so smug now, are you?" This came mere seconds after he had christened Brett Holman "The Wizard of Oz."
- Later, Jack would play the role of [insert generic R&B crooner used while making love here] and said, "It felt good watching that one go in, and I'm sure it felt good to you listening at home too." We've had some arguments about this before, but for my money Jack Woodward is an absolute treasure and one of the best parts of being a Villa fan.
- You can see all of the goals here (I don't want too many gifs on this page lest I crash all of your browsers). It's hard to make too much of the match, since none of us got to see it. But from everything we heard, read, and did see (in the highlights video), this was an excellent match that gave us all a bit of hope for Liverpool.
- Aw, hell, let's have one more gif for the match. If Villa make it to the finals, I'll add in the words for those of you who can't make out what Jack Woodward is saying here:
- You can find our recap here.
Liverpool 1-3 Aston Villa (EPL)
Benteke (29', 51'), Weimann (40'), Gerrard (87')
- Well this. This was everything we'd been hoping to see since the close of the summer transfer window. We knew Paul Lambert had a plan, and we've seen hints of it. But we'd yet to actually get to watch it executed nearly to perfection. Now we have, and I think we can all agree it's amazing.
- The undisputed highlight of the day was the Weimann-Benteke-Weimann goal. We've published gifs of all of the Villa goals from Saturday, but I thought I'd add a different angle. Please excuse the fact that this is two gifs, but as one it was simply too long. The second shows the goal that was so perfect, but the first shows one of the things that we should all be super excited about: precise, crisp, and pointed passing. I made this because the build-up that led to the goal was, actually, every bit as impressive as the goal itself:
annnd the finish:
I have yet to get tired of watching these two gifs.
- In addition to the awesome goal, Andreas Weimann gave us another example of what seems to be becoming his go-to goal celebration:
I like to think that he's miming shooting rubber bands off of his fingers.
- And for the uses of the Internet, may I present a new "I need a generally joyous gif to express my feelings at Aston Villa having scored a goal"?
- Elsewhere, one of the best unheralded storylines of the match was Brendan Rodgers' attempt to show absolutely no emotion whatsoever. Sadly, for Rodgers, he slipped up at one point, and we were there to catch it:
You can't hide that smirk from us Brendan!
- I haven't written too much about the match, but that's because we've already had Aaron recap it fantastically. If you want details, read that. If you want just the goals, go click on the link I dropped above. If you want moving images of Brendan Rodgers looking like he just passed gas, this is your place. Really, this is my platform to give you something entertaining on a Monday morning. Please don't be mad.
- The WhoScored recap is here. I've already mentioned this several places, but note that the algorithm they use for player ratings gave Christian Benteke a 10, and that is even with a (ridiculous) yellow card. It's time we all agreed on a nickname for him. I was advocating Ben-tank-e, but no one seems to be biting. Are we all fine with The Beast, then?
- Coming up this weekend is a trip to Stamford Bridge. The Blues are still in third place, but have been struggling by their own standards this season. Another reason to hope is that Chelsea will be coming off of 3 matches in 10 days come Sunday. If they play their first team against Leeds in the League Cup, those players will be exhausted for the match against Villa. If they don't, there's a chance that Leeds wins and the path to Wembley becomes easier for Villa. Watch that League Cup match closely, as it has a direct impact on the claret and blues no matter what.
- I know Chelsea look daunting, but, let's not forget what happened the last time Aston Villa traveled to Stamford in December.
- The match starts a tough stretch in which Villa have three in a week and four in ten days. It's not the worst pick of teams, but those matches could go a long way towards reaffirming our elation at this team, or they could set us back a bit. Of course, there is the chance that they come out doing just well enough and we all feel pretty much the same as 2013 begins.
Just a quick programming note: I'll be heading home for the Christmas holiday on Thursday morning. This means that you may not be receiving a Setting the Table next week. As much fun as seeing family is, putting up with the demands of two divorced parents (who still hate each other and get petty when it seems one has more time than the other) means that I don't have too much time for football. Setting the Table should return for December 31, and will - no questions asked - be back for January 7. My apologies in advance.
To make things better, we've got an extra special Friday Feedback this week, with your chance to win something. Call it, a Christmas Gif-t from us to you.