Reasonably enough our title chances are being written off by just about every man and his dog, but the great and the good of the football world will, with weary shakes of their heads, have to take us into account.Win today and we overtake Chelski, which would be fairly meaningless at this stage of the season but still jolly good fun, and quite the incentive. Indeed, four wins from our four festive fixtures remains possible, with Fulham at home and Everton away to follow the barcodes this afternoon. The uncomfortable truth is that as long as we keep winning the more commonly-accepted title-chasers will be unable to shake us off. Should we emerge from this little glut of games still within shouting distance of the title favourites, a couple of well-judged January signings could set us up for another corking year ending in 1.
On the subject of January signings we all get a chance to compile our own personal scouting reports on Newcastle’s long-haired hoodlum of a centre-forward, Andy Carroll. The AANP verdict is “Sign him up pronto”, because while he might not necessarily be as effective an emergency substitute centre-back as Peter Crouch, he appears to be approximately a thousand times better than the gangly one when it comes to the more routine trades of leading the line, bullying defenders, heading with power (and direction, dagnabbitt) and scoring. Moreover, he has the muscle and aggression to suit the VDV-inspired 4-4-1-1 quite neatly. Our heroes have traditionally struggled against great big muscular centre-forwards – Messrs Heskey, Martins, Drogba and even Daniel Amokachi way back in the day, I’m thinking of you – so I expect Daws to have his hands full today, and given that we always concede I might put today’s tenner on Carroll. For their consolation goal, you understand.
With both Modders and VDV in midfield we rang glorious little rings around Villa, but two games in three days might be a bit much for the Dutch master and his brittle hamstrings. ‘Arry may therefore toy with the idea of resting him today, by switching to 4-4-2, or bringing Jenas into the midfield. Defoe now misses three games, so Crouch and/or Pav will be called into action in attack, but whatever the personnel and formation, the game-plan is hardly shrouded in mystery – attack, attack and attack some more. We played for long periods at Villa Park on Boxing Day as if we were the home team, even when down to ten men, so I rather look forward to more pretty triangles all over the lush Lane turf today. It would be nice at some point to nudge the goal difference up and over double-digit level, but given the attacking threat posed by this mob today I would settle for three points by whatever means.