Nine months ago we were sent a test. When Glenn Whelan equalised in the 91st minute, we failed that test.

On Saturday that test came again, only this time we passed. And there can be no denying that this time around we look stronger and better equipped for the fight. Last seasons loss of Laursen was huge and without him we looked vulnerable. But the strength in-depth and form of our current defence looks worlds apart from last season’s backline. No more Knight, Shorey, and NRC as a makeshift right back anymore.

However, we are far more than just a solid defensive unit. We are now capable of posing a real attacking threat to any defence in the world.

Martin’s transfer activity this summer did a lot more than add depth and quality players to the squad. He added something else, something that has only recently become apparent. He has added another dimension to our play.

We had become one dimensional and teams had worked us out. If they sat back and doubled up on Webcam we didn’t have the creative ability to break them down.

Many of us, my self included in a post earlier this year, have called for Jimmy to be given a chance alongside Stan. Downing coming back has enabled that to happen and we now have more dimensions than a sci-fi novel. The slick interchanging and passing we’ve witnessed of late, is more reminiscent of football enjoyed at the Nou Camp than at B6.

In the Doc’s excellent P = MV post, he said the Stoke match would be the “defining game of the season”. I would venture that the true test still lies ahead.

You may be expecting me to put forward the back-to-back games against Arsenal and Liverpool as the biggest test of our credibility to break into the elite. As massive as these games are, there is something that will be of even greater importance come the 9th May.

And that is how we react after those games.

Bad results and we will need to dust ourselves off and have the strength to re-ignite the momentum. Good results and we’ll need to overcome our collective ‘upper limits’ and continue winning. With the players showing the mental strength to deal with the pressure, ignoring their sub-conscious as it whispers to them “you’re exceeded expectations; it’s now okay to lose”.

I for one believe and will continue to believe even if the road becomes bumpy along the way. That next season, the Champions League will be graced with the presence of the great Aston Villa.

Gavin goes by the user name MerryMan on the site