After seeing his defence crumble before his eyes at the Etihad Stadium a fortnight ago, Brad Guzan will be mightily relieved at Aston Villa’s recent improved resolve.
Not only were multi-faceted Arsenal blunted and limited to just six shots on target last Saturday, toothless Reading couldn’t chew their way past the American goalkeeper on Tuesday night either.
And after conceding five times in little more than half-an-hour against Manchester City, Villa head off to goal-shy Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, having not been breached for three-and-a-quarter hours. A large portion of that without Ron Vlaar, who has arguably been their best defender this season.
That means just one, single, rather lonely Christian Benteke strike has been worth four points to Paul Lambert’s struggling team and the value of clean sheets can never have been so pronounced.
Only QPR – and going into last night, Norwich – have scored less Premier League goals than Villa, which means while they continue to play with one hand tied behind their back, with Darren Bent not even worth a place among Paul Lambert’s substitutes, every last goal has to count.
And because of that new-found defensive fortitude they have started to. “Every time you step on the pitch as a goalkeeper you want a clean sheet and give yourself a chance to get three points,” Guzan says.
“That is what makes the Premier League so tough, for 90 minutes you cannot allow yourself to switch off. You have to put it in for the full game and concentrate or you will be punished.
“You have to keep going because you know the other team is going to keep coming as well at you. That’s what creates the action in English football for the fans who I am sure love it. It’s difficult to keep clean sheets but that’s what we strive for.
“At times it is frustrating but at the same time you know everyone is committed to the cause and trying to help each other and pull in the same direction. That is what you need at a football club, especially when things are not going the way you like.
“We maybe deserve a little bit more luck but you need to fight through it and stick together in the hard times.
“If you are able to do that then it will all start to come together and we start to find ourselves on the other side of the results.”
Something that has already started to happen. With positive outcomes against Arsenal and Reading already in the bag, Villa go to Loftus Road to face a team that is yet to win in the league this season.
The game marks Harry Redknapp’s first as Rangers’ new manager but even he will be hard-pressed to turn the Londoners into an incisive attacking force with Djibril Cisse as his only fit striker.
An appointment with a similarly-constipated Stoke City side at home on December 8 and suddenly Villa’s hopes of matching performances with results looks a little more achievable.
“We know there is a lot of football to be played and if you look at the table we are not in a position that we want to be,” Guzan admits. “But at the same time it is a long season and long way to go.
“In this league you pick up one or two wins and link them together and you are flying up the table, depending on how fast the games come round.
“Even in defeats you look at the positives out of it as well because it is important to not just take negatives when you lose a game. It’s important to reinforce the good things you have done. I think we have a good understanding of how we learn from things and hopefully you are able to correct things for the next time.”
Villa will also be looking to correct the defensive lapses which limited them to a 2-2 draw the last time they met QPR , at home last February – when Darren Bent scored his hundredth Premier League goal. Not that another is likely this weekend.