‘Gollini, comfortable for so much of the game, was temporarily possessed by the ghost of Brad Guzan.’

The Return of Football

It seems like a very long time since we last saw Aston Villa in competitive action. Something about this summer seemed even longer than most post seasons, even though Villa start earlier this term.

Possibly, it’s because I tried to avoid as much online and newspaper gossip and rubbish as possible this summer, only tuning in occasionally for confirmed news. Perhaps, it’s because following Ireland at the Euros brought an excitement that was worlds away from anything Villa have provided in recent years. Maybe I just needed an emotional break from the factory of sadness?

Whatever the reason, I had a moment of clarity when I somehow found myself at a friendly between Leyton Orient and Charlton, willing Jordan Bowery (once one of Villa’s ‘can’t fault him for effort, just ability’ duds) to score. I knew then that I was ready no, desperate, for Villa to return to my day to day life and so I eagerly awaited this Sunday’s clash.

 

 

As a relatively uneventful first half began with Gardner, Westwood, and Bacuna in midfield, excitement slowly gave way to the usual fear an deja vu that has become all to familiar at the Villa. In true Villa style, a howling mistake led to a late loss and nagging doubt exploded into a more recognisable frustration and a wave of rage across social media. Countering this rage was a backlash of, ‘it’ll be fine.’ One game into the season, we must try not to get carried away.

The Team

The naming of the starting XI showed some level of change from last term. For the most part the players selected were those either not at the club last year, or were ones who didn’t show a lack of professionalism last term (just a lack of ability).

The inclusion of Bacuna, who seems to be going nowhere, was a huge worry though. If today’s midfield grouping is the best we can offer, we may be gracing an even lower league in 12 months.

Here We Go Again

Despite an arguable improved side to last year, too many old habits were on show today. Gardner seemed determined to get dismissed with several needless fouls. My initial happiness to see the fearless Nathan Baker back in the team was quickly subdued by remembering how he loves a reckless lunge. Gollini, comfortable for so much of the game, was temporarily possessed by the ghost of Brad Guzan.

Tactically the frustration of last term reared it’s ugly head again. Rudy ‘the Big Man’ Gestede was deployed up front, but until the final quarter of the game, the team seemed to employ no width. When this finally changed we were treated to Alan Hutton’s atrocious final delivery.

 

While an improved midfield is a huge priority, a new right-back must also be on the shopping list, and a change in left-back wouldn’t be amiss either. Getting rid of those with a bad attitude is a start, but keeping those who try hard but aren’t very good, won’t help us stabilise this club either.

The Bright Side

I’m frustrated, but as I said it’s early days, perspective is needed, and there have been some positive changes.  The transition to this league was never going to be easy and Sheffield Wednesday are far from the worst team we’ll play, especially on their own turf.

Norwich came out of the blocks swinging, but our fellow relegation victims Newcastle also lost, despite being heavy title favourites. One game does not make a season. Villa won our first game last season and look how that went!

Finally we seem to have gotten a manager who doesn’t have substitute phobia, although I would argue that those who came on should have been there from the start. I’m tipping Ross McCormack to have a big season too, once he settles in. It will be great to have a regular goalscorer at the club again. With a more developed understanding the ex-Fulham forward could form a dangerous partnership with Jordan Ayew.

‘It’s good to see leaders at the club again.’

Perhaps the best argument for the importance of McCormack is that he can take a decent set piece too, finally putting to bed anyone who is still mad enough to argue that Bacuna should be in the team on the basis of a couple of free kicks, a couple of years ago.

More signings are needed but there are some improvements that can come from within. Amavi and Adama are going to return to the fold at some stage (hopefully), Andre Green is clearly in the manager’s plans, a number of other youngsters are on the fringes, not to mention a defining season for Jack Grealish.

The biggest positive today was our new captain Tommy Elphick. He was solid today and gladly threw himself into the path of the opposition, getting the job done one way or the other, even after a nasty knock on the head. More players with his approach and we might stand a chance. It’s good to see leaders at the club again.

A New Era?

Villa’s chairman was at the game, what a novelty! Xia’s short tenure is promising but there have been mixed messages from the top. Talk of ruthless culls and war chests have been diluted with talk of selling to buy and building on what we have. Engaging on Twitter is one thing, but actions speak louder than 140 characters.

I’ll reserve judgement and remain hopeful but without additional affirmative action, we may simply be jumping out of the frying pan and into the wok.

Today’s result was a downer but there’s another Wednesday on the horizon and with it comes a cup tie against Luton. It will be a chance to build momentum and morale. Let’s hope the good times are on the way…..

VTID

Don’t forget to follow Finn on Twitter – @FinnMongey

And make sure you’re following MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid

 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Well, RDM did it – he started Bacuna. First half he was truly awful, along with the whole side which essentially looked much like the one relegated – slow, uninventive, and impotent. Midfield dire and both full backs sub-standard. Grealish, Amavi and Tshibola on the bench ? Really ? Gardner looked like an apprentice still (I remember Wigan away a few years ago (0-0) and he looked like a lost boy – now he’s a lost bloke and a red card waiting to happen) and changes should have been made at HT. RDM didn’t make any, and although we dominated the 2nd half we were wasteful up front. It had to be a mistake to gift them a goal, of course, because this is Villa we are talking about. Frustrating doesn’t even come close . . . .

    That said, Wednesday could have been out of sight at HT on another day, which is why the starting XI was so disappointing. Bacuna should be shipped out, and Gardner played selectively (that is, rarely). If we’d started with two out of Grealish, Amavi and Tshibola, it would have been a different game. It’s not rocket science. We needed to avoid defeat, and we didn’t.

    I’m actually fed up already, and it’s only Game No. 1. How could RDM start Bacuna ? How could he start Bacuna ? – see my lengthy post after Molly Jennens’ piece “The Villa Influence: New Manager, Same Old Aston Villa?” on the Boro pre-season friendly. I’ve repeated it below here as I don’t think anyone saw it. The club said they passed it on to RDM as a direct e-mail from a fan. I hope so – I couldn’t be more clear, and I stand by every word . . . .
    __________________________________________________________________________________

    I have sent this as an Open Letter to Manager and Owner, but the Birmingham Mail hasn’t published it.
    I must speak for many many Villans as we head towards the weekend opener . . . .

    _______________________________________

    Dear Mr. Di Matteo and Dr. Jiantong,

    I will keep this letter brief.

    You have two players – Joleon Lescott and Leandro Bacuna – who have become emblematic of everything rotten at our poorly managed and dysfunctional club. Last season their performances lacked technical ability and too often displayed a shocking and unforgivable lack of energy, professionalism and pride in playing for AVFC. They have become hate figures – booed from the moment they appear pitchside – and are toxic individuals at the club through the anger and resentment they generate among supporters. I’ve never witnessed the kind of abuse they attract (all self-inflicted), and this will continue I’m sure. They’ve crossed a line of acceptable behaviour as far as I’m concerned, and there’s no way back because of their dire performances and more so their poor attitude – on and off the field – which has shown complete contempt for the supporters at times.

    You need to understand that there are probably a number of fans who will abandon the club so long as these two characters are around. You simply must ship them out, or sideline them until an opportunity arises to move them on. You owe this to the thousands of loyal supporters who have stood by the club over the last few years and had to witness its slow demise and eventual relegation. Last season was unimaginably bad, and Lescott and Bacuna were at the centre of much of Villa’s slow death. I personally never want to see them in club colours again, and I am not alone. They embody everything that the fans do not want to see – an overblown sense of self-importance, and an arrogance that beggars belief at times. The fact that they are at best mediocre players just adds to the insult fans feel. We deserve better – much better. To include either of them in the opening game at Sheffield Wednesday would tick all the wrong boxes, and would more than take the edge off any optimism for the season ahead in front of a big away following. Please get rid, a.s.a.p., and do the club and the fans a favour. If the squad needs trimming, these two chronic underperformers and malign influences surely have to be at the top of the Exit List. They are a drain on the finances of the club, and on the emotions of supporters.

    I wish you both and the team good luck this coming season.

  2. If we’ve learned anything from the last 3 seasons it’s that opening fixtures give no indication whatsoever of how the season is going to pan out. I was just happy to see the team put in a bit of effort and show some guts for a change.

  3. Everybody hates Bacuna. He had a decent game, should have had two assists. Gestede is a bigger liability, doesn’t do anything in my eyes, same for Westwood, would like to check the stats though to be sure, but since Lambert bought him we have struggled in midfield.

    And well ghosts of guzans past. Argued we don’t need another keeper, reserve the right to change that in January but for his confidence I would stick with him. Let’s see how the team respond.

  4. As rants go that was quite mild! But I suspect like most of us we have become weary and expect nothing better! Surprising how quickly any early optimistic is washed away, for me as soon as I saw the team selection (Hutton, Cissockho, Bacuna FFS). What really guts me is that Holloway is right and we will end up 16th if we are lucky .

    We have two proven championship goal scorers but if RDM insists on playing tippie tappie football they will never get the service they need to score!

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