There’s no doubt Aston Villa will be kicking off their new season far from prepared. Lets be honest, another two or three weeks of preseason would have been ideal.
Most of the new bodies are now finally in, with maybe a couple more to come, but Sherwood is frantically battling against the clock with daily double-session training and 11-a-side Bodymoor Heath training matches, as he tries to shape the new boys into a team to face Bournemouth this weekend.
Do to the shortness of some of his player’s preseason with Villa, it’ll be interesting to see if the Villa boss elects to slowly drip feed the likes of Jordan Ayew and Jordan Veretout into the team as the season starts to help them acclimatise to the Premier League. Perhaps Idrissa Gueye and Jordan Amavi though, are ready-to-go.
The trip to Nottingham Forest, as well as proving to be a good away day out (wouldn’t it be great if Premier League away tickets were reasonable too) and a chance to give our flag a public outing (see pic above), proved there is much work to do.
The main concern…
While questions remain about Villa’s forward line and whether they’ll be an experienced face to join the squad, judging from preseason – especially in the Wolves and Forest games – the defence remains the key concern. While new contracts for Clark and Baker are justified, you wouldn’t bet Villa’s Premiership future on them. Okore is again out injured and Micah Richards judging by his preseason performances so far, seems a little off the pace.
With clubs traditionally going for four centre-backs in a squad, it remains to be seen, if this is Villa’s lot. Are they a top-half Premier League team quartet of centre-backs? They have youth on their side, but do we need an experienced head and leader at the back too?
Jordan Amavi should finally solve the perpetual left-back problem, although it will be interesting to see the defensive side of his game against the Premier League’s better teams.
Right-back remains a concern. We don’t have the definitive starter yet. Both Baunca and Hutton have their weaknesses, and is Crespo really an upgrade on Matthew Lowton? Maybe the Spaniard offers more versatility across the back line, but he doesn’t possess Lowton’s delivery or ability for the occasional worldly strike.
There’s no doubt Villa need a more solid defensive foundation than recent seasons, and at the moment they will be relying on their centre-back quartet coming of age and Amavi coming up trumps.
Judging from watching Gueye in the midfield for 45 minutes against Forest, I don’t think we’ll be missing the snake. Ashley Westwood also seems to have continued on from the end of last season and stepped up his game, as he was the pivot for most of Villa’s play at the City Ground.
While Jordan Veretout had a quiet cameo on his debut, he will probably be the player who defines any overall improvement in Villa midfield. Delph’s influence in the final third was limited at Villa, with pretty much less league goals and assists in his whole Villa career than Veretout managed just last season for Nantes.
On a side note, Veretout will also make life difficult for Gary Gardner to make any proper breakthrough in what is a make or break season for him.
The big question that most Villa supporters have asked themselves is how do we replace Christian Benteke’s goals? Because that’s pretty much all Villa has had to offer over recent seasons. Curiously, I’m fairly unconcerned by the issue.
They’ll be goals to come from Rudy Gestede, who Sherwood will perhaps see as his main man up top. Then, what the Forest game backed-up to anybody who didn’t already know is that Scott Sinclair is a quality finisher.
Remember him going through against West Brom to score Villa’s second in the FA Cup quarter-final against the Baggies? Would you have been confident of Agbonlahor scoring in the same position? Probably not.
Sinclair’s record with Swansea was better than 1-in-3, but he needs starts rather than just cameos. The question is where? Currently, I’d favour him over Ayew and Agbonlahor for a striker’s berth, never mind as a winger. He has a directness that is also refreshing, that Villa’s previous crab-like mentality has lacked.
Other goals will certainly come from Carles Gil and Jack Grealish, if they are allowed to blossom, plus Veretout has goals in his game. With Veretout and Gil hopefully improving Villa’s set play prowess (after the team has been fairly woeful in recent seasons), Villa should hopefully profit more from corners and free kicks. Certainly Richards coming up from the back for set plays should hopefully contribute occasional goals throughout the season.
They’ll be a better balance in the team than in recent seasons, but the lack of real leaders is still a concern. Sherwood himself adds something from just his presence on the touchline, but he needs some generals on the pitch too.
It’s certainly an interesting and exciting season ahead, as it could pretty much go any which way for Sherwood’s evolving Villa team.
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