Having grown up watching football as a kid in the 1980’s and suffering 11-odd years without a win against Liverpool, there’s no sweeter victory for me than beating the Reds at Anfield. The latest victory was especially joyous since there’s been a few Liverpool fans from the 80’s crawling out of the woodwork to glory hunt again after they challenged for the league last season.
To win at Anfield while not at full strength just added to the result (although Liverpool had a couple of key men missing too), as did Villa ending up second in the league at full-time.
Five reasons for Aston Villa fans to be cheerful…
1. The Lambert Plan.
Come on lets be honest. When we saw the teamsheet and learnt that Vlaar hadn’t made it, we feared the worst. Especially since we were also missing Liverpool’s chief Anfield tormentor Christian Benteke.
There were other doubts too…What was Richardson doing in there instead of the World Cup golden boy Carlos Sanchez? Surely we needed Sanchez to protect the centre-back pairing of the kamikaze kid Nathan Baker and Philippe ‘Accident Waiting to Happen’ Senderos?
In the end, the game made me think of twisting a famous Brian Clough quote to:
‘We had an average team on paper. Luckily, the game was played on grass’.
And to throw another quote into the mix – ‘It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog’, as Archie Griffen once said.
It was a totally committed and inspired performance by Villa, typified by the performances of both Baker and Senderos. The defence and midfield were disciplined and organised, sticking to a game plan that limited Liverpool to a mere single shot on target.
2. The Complete Picture
A total contrast from Lambert’s previous two seasons, at the moment the defence and midfield look to be organised and effective. We’ve previously been let down by both departments woefully at times and Lambert’s team has been largely propped up by their attacking prowess on the counter and the efforts of their talismanic Belgian striker.
The good news is one Mr Benteke is back in training and will return soon (potentially end of September). When he does , will we be witnessing a fully operational Aston Villa team for the first time in several seasons?
3. Senderos’s Italian Job
We’ve mentioned Senderos’s application above already, but he deserves further mention for the job he did on Mario Balotelli. With Suarez shipped out, Sturidge sidelined and Sterling held off until the second half, there’s no doubt Liverpool’s number one threat came from the Italian striker who loves to score against the Villa.
Batotelli had scored more goals against Villa than any other club during his time at Manchester City, this time though due to the close attention given to him by Senderos – by fair means and foul – he never had the chance to find his stride and bully the Villa defence again.
Senderos visibly seems to be reveling in his time at Villa as a member of an increasingly tight-knit defensive unit. A spirited guy, maybe Senderos needs to be in the thick of a fight to stay focused and switched-on, to avoid the lapses that previously plagued his career.
Also, perhaps his previous clubs like Arsenal, Fulham, Valencia, didn’t provide him with the kind of ‘in-it-together’ brotherhood and kinship that his passion seems to thrive on. Already this season we’ve seen him kiss Vlaar in celebrating a clean sheet and his big brother hug of Baker against Liverpool. His conviction to the cause is certainly getting addictive.
Being a Villa fan over the years it always seem natural that Villa have two international centre-backs at the heart of their defence. Mellberg (Sweden) and Laursen (Denmark) being the most salient example that springs to mind. Then came Richard Dunne (Ireland) and Collins (Wales).
Potentially though Vlaar (Holland) and Senderos (Switzerland) could be as good as both of those pairings (depending on how long Vlaar sticks around). They’ll perhaps benefit from having more capable fullbacks too then the previous duos, if Hutton and Cissokho keep up their revelationary performances.
4. Midfield Snap, Crackle and Pop
The midfield quartet of Delph, Westwood, Cleverley and Richardson performance against Liverpool was one of the most energetic and committed midfield performances from a Villa team in ages. The team worked tirelessly and selflessly for each other with great drive and gusto.
Now Lambert possesses something of a midfield Swiss army knife with the options of N’Zogbia, Sanchez and Grealish on the bench to offer a different twist and variation to the trio of Delph, Cleverley and Westwood to tackle different types of games.
We’ll see how effective it is over the course of the next few weeks, but one thing is certain, endeavor and effort is something that is hard to tactically prepare against, because first of all a team has to match their opponent’s application. That won’t be easy for any team, even the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City.
5. Milking it
The home game against Arsenal gives Villa a chance to improve their goal difference to peg back Chelsea’s before the top of the table clash at Stamford Bridge. While it’s too early in the season to call it a title decider, the result in just under two weeks certainly will provide solid clues to Villa’s title challenging credentials. 😉
Bowery Shout Out
Big congrats to Jordan Bowery for scoring a stoppage-time equaliser for Rotherham at the weekend. To see a Bowery goal was on most Villa fan’s bucket lists (not counting his og vs Hull) with ‘If Bowery scores, we riot’ being a popular Tweet during Villa games last season. So we’re pleased he managed to finally break his barren run and score the first for his new club after coming on as a sub against Bournemouth in the 1-1 draw. He never lacked effort at Villa, so good luck to him and may he bag a few more this season.