2012 was one of the worst of the Premier League era for Aston Villa, and it certainly ended in dreadfully appropriate fashion. Will 2013 bring with it a fresh new start?
Aston Villa's 2013 could likely have an easier start than a trip to Liberty Stadium. Swansea's form has come off of its early-season high ad the club has dipped to 10th place after spending much of the fall months hovering around the top four, but this is still a very good side whose struggles (if they can even be described as such) are nothing compared to Villa's. Still, in a season where Villa has won just four games in league play, it's nice to have proof of concept that they are capable of beating an upcoming opponent is something in which some solace can be taken.
Much has happened since that victory on September 15th (which was Villa's first win of the season) and most of it hasn't been good. But that game was undeniably full of positives, including Christian Benteke's coming-out party. The game was the young Belgian striker's first appearance for Villa, and he celebrated in style by scoring in the 88th minute to cap a 2-0 win. After a less-than-encouraging beginning to the season, it was an impressive win over a quality opponent, and there was plenty of optimism that the worst was behind us in the following days.
That's a pretty foolish thing to say in hindsight, but should Villa manage to repeat that at Swansea there's little doubt that a similar feeling would prevail. Of course, circumstances are different; if the past few weeks doesn't count as "the worst" for Aston Villa, then I'm legitimately terrified to see what lies ahead. At this point Villa losing by just a goal or two and managing not to trip over their own shoelaces in the process would be real progress. Though a win would be a truly wonderful thing, there's little doubt that at least part of Villa's current struggles are related at least in part to a lack of confidence. Losing 3-0 to Wigan at home couldn't have helped matters in that department, and though it's at least theoretically possible that there could be an overnight turnaround, it's probably not something worth counting on.
The hope now should be the same as it was before the Wigan game; stabilize, restore some confidence, and move forward with some self belief. If Villa can do that, even in a losing effort, then this game will have been a success. January and February are not, relative to the typical Premier League schedule, especially difficult. If Villa can have a good couple of months, there's a decent chance that the current state of things will end up being the low point. But if the kind of form Villa have put on display over the past three games is allowed to continue, this current dip in the level of difficulty could largely go to waste.
It's not much fun having low expectations, but that's where it is right now. At this point, we should all just be thankful that there are so many very bad teams in the Premier League right now and that Villa has managed to keep themselves from slipping into the bottom three. There's plenty of time to fix things, but it's not going to be an overnight process. The sooner it begins, the better.