Expectations were at an all time low after a summer of unfulfilled wishes of Aston Villa fans, as the sale of the club went nowhere and Bodymoor Heath seemingly became somewhat of a retirement village for Premier League has-been players. In fact, the most thrilling signing of preseason was our assistant manager.
What a difference a game makes! Villa looked extremely solid with a virtually brand new back four. The team hassled and hounded Stoke in their own backyard like Villa’s number two did to most teams throughout his career. We had the best chances and deserved the three points.
I have to say I was sceptical when Lambert bought in Keane as his number two. I had doubts whether this was done for publicity to make the Villa ‘interesting’ again and not for football reasons. Saturday however, it all started to make sense. That now infamous picture of the passionate Scotsman and crazy Irishman screaming at the linesman sums up the enthusiasm on the Villa bench now which was emulated on the pitch.
But what of the performers on the pitch?
The Aston Villa Star Players of the Week
MOMS has decided this season to expand last year’s ‘Proper Man of the Week’, so we can discuss the merits of three Villa players. Points will be awarded to the top-three performers of the week, so we can have a running tally throughout the season, which will then lead to a Proper Man of the Year at the end of the season.
3rd Place – Kieran Richardson (1pt)
A player that has not received the praise for his performance he deserved. I raised an eyebrow when Richardson was playing in central midfield for the game. But he played with great tenacity and was chief harasser in the engine room. An attitude summed up by chasing down Begovic to force a mistake and should have bagged himself an assist, if it weren’t for Gabby’s flatfoot finish. He looked composed throughout and gave us more than KEA provided in the same role.
It is likely that he would be the one to drop out in midfield with the arrival of the Colombian Rock, Carlos Sanchez. However, he has certainly showed what he can bring to the team wherever he is played.
2nd Place- Philippe Senderos (3pts)
One of the most solid, no nonsense performances you will ever see from a Villa centre-back (as was Vlaar’s, who carried on his World Cup form). It was the type of centre-half performance that we have begged for since the breakup of Collins and Dunne.
Vlaar and Senderos in the heart of defence gave the team a solid base to play off and counter attack from. Their partnership was almost instant. They cover each other’s weaknesses so well and do what defenders should do… DEFEND. His experience and guile looks an invaluable asset for the squad.
It was thought that Senderos was going to be just a back up to Okore and Vlaar but following this performance you have to say he has gave a serious selection headache which i am sure Lambert will enjoy having.
The Proper Man of the Week – Aly Cissokho (5 pts)
The first game for a good few years that Villa fans haven’t had to bemoan the performance of our left-back. Here it was third time lucky in buying a left-back. After the failings of Bennett and Luna, Cissokho really looks the real deal. Firstly, he is a proper man in how huge the former Liverpool player is. Any little whippy winger will be terrified coming up against him and with Hutton at right-back, we have a huge back four like the one we had under O’Neill. Cissokho was solid all game and knew when to clear and when to play out.
The most encouraging thing I saw from Cissokho was how good he was going forward. In the first half especially bombing on he was creative and put in a few very good crosses into the box which begged to be attacked.
If these performances are signs for the rest of the season then I have to say I am a lot more optimistic going into the rest of the season especially with our defence. Amazingly, all three players are new signings made by Lambert over the summer. This is a positive sign considering the Villa boss has pretty much farmed out most of last summer’s signings already.
The Player Who Has to Pick Themselves Up and Go Again:
The normally dependable Guzan looked a little shaky between the sticks. His handling was not the problem, but with the ball at his feet he looked extremely dodgy. His distribution throughout the game was frankly shocking. Balls were sent out of play or straight to Stoke players quite a few times. One of few negatives from a generally good weekend for the Villa.
Stat of the Week
Stoke only lost three times at home during the whole of last season. This makes the win all the more impressive for our mighty Villans.
Follow Ashley on Twitter – @bannyboy95