There’s a couple of stats from Saturday’s game that were a cause for concern. Only 30,267 turned up to see Villa’s opening game of the season. That can be down to a number of things: the shocking home performances of the past three seasons, a ridiculous kick-off time, television coverage and the overall problem of the cost of Premier League football.
The second worrying stat was on the pitch, Villa failed to register a single shot on target on Tim Krul’s goal. They’ll always be a problem with Villa Park attendances if stats like that continue to happen. However, these problems may lift in the long-term, if the below short-term reasons to be cheerful flourish even more.
1. With run of games from hell that begins in September, which we’ve labelled the ‘Sinister Six‘ (basically playing the top six teams last season within the space of seven games), points were important in Villa’s opening three games. The first two fixtures Stoke (a) and Newcastle (h) were games last season where Villa picked up nil points. A win against Hull next week and Villa will be looking at a seven point return from the opening trio of games and will go into the difficult run with the added confidence of being unbeaten.
2. Carlos Sanchez looked decent. Compare his debut to Michael Bradley’s a few years ago, another midfielder with a decent reputation. Bradley seemed overawed by the occasion, making several misplaced passes and mistimed tackles. He was also decidedly off the pace. The USA international never recovered and left his loan period at the club with not so much as a whimper.
Sanchez though looked calm, composed and full of energy as he screened the back four. He’s not expected to cross the half-way line much for Villa, but when he did against Newcastle his first pass was sublime chipped pass into the box. All-in, a promising start for Villa’s new Colombian. Plus with Sanchez, it allows for the shackles to come off Delph, allowing him to drive forward as he did in the later stages against Newcastle. Add a presence up top (see point four) and Villa should be cooking.
3. Villa’s fullbacks are still looking the business. Alan Hutton has never looked better in a Villa shirt (and deservedly is keeping Lowton and Bacuna out of the picture). As for Aly Cissokho…is he really the same player that flopped at Liverpool last season? Hopefully his injury is just a minor knock.
As somebody pointed out to me yesterday, Villa haven’t actually played against a proper striker yet. We only have to wait a couple of weeks until we’ll play against all the best strikers in the league (see point one). That’s when it should get interesting. Looking forward to it.
4. The pundits are still tipping Villa for the drop. Some Villa fans are saying we need to get a striker in. It’s puzzling. Don’t these two camps of people realise we have one of the best strikers in the league returning for us in a few weeks time and also an international back-up. From the first two Villa games so far, there was enough to suggest the missing link at the moment is simply a presence up top.
5. The Brigada 1874 Holte End display. The group of Villa fans finished last season by surfing a huge Ron Vlaar shirt which was spotted by the Villa captain (and he pointed it out to his kids) and it must play on his mind when it comes to thinking about the dilemma of moving to another club (he’s not going to get that love anywhere else!). The display at the Newcastle game brought much positive feedback from Dion Dublin, Ian Taylor and Stan Collymore on Twitter. It’s a small example of what we could really do in the Holte End. Get your thinking caps on, it’s time to do something on a bigger scale. Did you see the atmosphere at the Crystal Palace game this Saturday? Imagine that but twice as big! UTV