The Aston Villa formula: P = MV

Having dipped my blogger's finger in the supernatural a few days ago (and thanks to Louise Taylor of The Guardian for having read those words so avidly), I thought I would return to the black-and-white world of natural sciences today.

P = MV. Of course it does, but then you knew that all along. And therefore I won't bore you with the dull pedantics of it, but it's the Law of Momentum.


Now, the boring scientists amongst you would have us believe that momentum is all about the relationship between mass and velocity. Those scientists, presumably, were the same ones advising Martin O'Neill when he went all out to get very big, very fast men "down the channels".

But, as Villa are beginning to prove right now, those dowdy, bearded and bespectacled old professors have it all wrong.

Because momentum is neither about mass nor velocity - it's about belief. And this latest incarnation of Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa team has that belief coursing through its veins.

Our back four doesn't believe it can be breached. Stan Petrov genuinely believes he's the new Owen Hargreaves. Ashley Young, James Milner and Stewart Downing believe they can move like ice hockey players around the midfield so that spectators and opponents alike have no idea where the puck, sorry the ball is. And I rather fancy that Gabby believes he's on that plane to Johannesburg.

Belief is a strange thing. Its cursory and capricious nature accounts for incredible triumphs - perhaps the greatest examples being the one-in-a-million comebacks of first Manchester United and then Liverpool to win the European Cup in 1999 and 2005.

But it also tricks fools into disaster. I can't help feeling that Rafa Benitez's crazy "guarantee" that Liverpool will finish in the top four this season will go down in history as a madman's mumbo-jumbo.

Let me return, though, to this Villa side. We've agreed before that there hasn't been any great change in tactics or formation. But earth-shattering changes have been evident. The print and online media have all switched from viewing Villa as a rather predictable "also ran" to suddenly seeing us as the panther in the dark, the genuine contender, the "real deal" in terms of genuinely viable contenders for the Top 4.

And maybe we are.

But it will all be about momentum, you see. If we keep the run going and beat what will be a tough and defiant Stoke side on Saturday (and let's hope we play for 90+ minutes and not just 84, like last season), then Villa will go into those critical games against Arsenal and Liverpool with danders up.

Any slip up though, be it through complacency, tiredness or otherwise, and we may just go into those games with an itching, niggling self-doubt which either the Scousers or the Arse will sniff out pretty quickly and exploit.

I'd never have singled out the home game against Stoke as the defining game of the season. But I believe it is. Because I think that if we win it convincingly on the back of what we've already achieved in the last few games, we go to the Emirates and entertain the 'Pool at home on a roll.

And that's all it really is, isn't it, this "momentum" thing. Being "on a roll".

Let's keep it going. Oh, and by the way, "I believe".