Bodymoor Blog: Bannan on Arsenal, Cazorla and dressing room pranks
21st Nov 2012
First up, I have got to tell you this is the happiest I've ever been at Villa - and a lot of that is down to the gaffer.
He has been a breath of fresh air for this club. He's just been brilliant.
The sessions are fantastic and the lads really enjoy coming into training each morning and striving to improve each day ahead of the weekend game.
But, more than that, he's just a great boss. His man-management skills are second to none. He believes in his players, he trusts his players and that really comes across to us as a group. He's just so positive.
I appreciate the fans are worried about being in the bottom three but it's not fazing us and it's certainly not fazing the gaffer. He has real belief in his players and where we're going as a team and as a club.
I've never met anyone with such focus and drive. He's so single-minded. And the great thing is that's based on us - his players. He has total, utter faith in us. That creates masses of confidence in the group.
We're not stupid. We know we need results and we don't want to stay in the lower reaches for long. But we know we're heading in the right direction.
We have had some really tough games. And we've been beaten by Man Utd and Man City. But I think most people would agree that we've improved as a group of players. I think we're playing better football.
We're getting used to each other and the vibes are really good.
The mood is so positive. We're all so close and really believe in each other. The camaraderie is so good. We're all focused on Aston Villa and we're absolutely determined to succeed as a group of players for the good of this football club.
I always think it's a good sign if you can have good fun and good banter together when you're not training.
Only this week, we came in from a good workout to find all our clothes chucked over the floor.
Someone had gone in and taken all our stuff off the pegs and from inside the lockers and just launched them together in a pile on the floor. It took us ages to sort out socks from pants from jeans from tops. But we were all howling with laugher.
I don't want to point the finger at anyone. But Shay Given had better watch himself over the next few days!
All our focus is on Arsenal this weekend now.
It should be a great game of football because both sides want to play the right way.
Arsenal have been known for many years as exponents of attractive, attacking football.
And there's no question that's the sort of football Paul Lambert wants us to play. He wants an enterprising style - good football but winning football too. That shouldn't be forgotten. Yes, we want to play good stuff but not at the expense of winning.
That style of football, I think, is best demonstrated by the midfield area.
At the moment, it's Ash and I in the centre. We both complement each other really well and it's been fantastic playing with him. He's so neat and tidy on the ball. He's not been in the top-flight long but you'd think he'd played at this level all his life.
He's settled so quickly and I've really enjoyed playing with him. We both want to play football the right way and that's why I'm enjoying life so much at the moment.
If we do partner each other again on Saturday we look like coming up against Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta.
I think Cazorla has got to go down as one of the best buys of the season. He's been sensational.
He's so tricky, skilful and I've really enjoyed watching him when Arsenal have been on the box. He's won some games all by himself!
Importantly, in my opinion, he's another prime example that 'smaller' players can flourish in central midfield.
I have said it for years and it's been proved time and again that it doesn't matter about your size.
What matters is your skill, you quality, your work-rate, your desire and your determination.
In fact, I've noticed that there's been a definite shift in the type of signings made by Barclays Premier League managers over the past few windows.
As well as Santi Cazorla, look at Eden Hazard at Chelsea, look at Samir Nasri and David Silva at Manchester City.
They aren't big, strong, strapping midfielders. They are good on the ball and able to open up defences. That's been good to see.
Hopefully I will get the chance to come up against Cazorla and Arteta on Saturday.
But I know I might not. There's Karim and Fabian waiting in the wings, desperate for a chance to impress. I need to really work hard and show I'm the right man for the job over the next few days to secure a place in the team.
The gaffer has no favourites. He picks the 'right' player in every position - the player he thinks will flourish in that particular game. If it's not me and it's Fab or Karim, I'll be cheering them on from the bench along with the other lads. We're all in this together. And long may that continue.
Finally I want to congratulate Eric and Kat on the birth of their daughter Ava. I am delighted for them!
On the subject of Eric, I would like to congratulate him on the marvellous moustache he's growing for Movember.
He's not messing about with it - it's a proper handlebar!!
Other players would be a little worried about the reaction in the dressing room but not Eric. He's not the kind of guy who cares what others think.
So fair play to him. More importantly, it's for a good cause. Well done Lichaj!
Snap up your tickets for the Arsenal clash.
Shop now for your perfect festive prezzies.
darren bent, blogs, arsenal, barry bannan,
Go to full match coverage for Barry Bannan 24 November 2012, Aston Villa 0 - 0 Arsenal
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