Has this summer offered up a good pre-season for Aston Villa? Is MOMS confident that Villa are now ready for a much-needed promotion push?
Not totally, but there are flickers of hope that this upcoming season will finally be different to the last five or six seasons of woe.
In terms of pre-season, the nosies from the Villa camp seem to suggest it’s been a good one in terms of the fitness and training. With the extended Portuguese training camp central to that.
In terms of matches, it was a big shame that the full 90 minute game in Germany was called off against Arminia Bielefeld (after that replaced the cancelled Vitesse Arnhem fixture).
With that odd one-day 45-minute match tournament (and even odder trophy), the pre-season, in terms of actual games felt a bit disjointed.
A couple of more games certainly would not have gone amiss in terms of working on patterns of play and giving the new recruits more time to integrate.
Still, in John Terry, we now have the division’s most famous player, so lets all bask in his afterglow as we march on to lift the title!
In the meantime, here’s five reasons to be cheerful as Villa fans…
A New Formation
You could argue that Bruce didn’t really have a ‘Plan A’ last season, never mind a ‘Plan B’, but the starting formation of a 4-2-3-1, looked like it should go straight into the previously empty plan book.
As i waffled on about here previously on MOMS, it does give you a solid defensive shape with springboard for fluid counter-attack. If the AM gets on the ball and pulls the strings, then the potential is huge. Please step up either Conor Hourihane or Jack Grealish.
Thou Shall Not Pass
Villa haven’t conceded while John Terry has been on the pitch wearing a Villa shirt. This is a promising start. Yes, he hasn’t really faced any tricky strikers yet, but with James Chester alongside him and Mile Jedinak in front of him, I don’t think we’ll be sweating like we used to in the closing 10 minutes of games.
Also, there’s big Chris Samba to throw on, if further reinforcements are needed. Did you see him meet everything that came into the box when we played against Hertha Berlin? I wouldn’t keep crying about Baker, if I was you. I think this is the best defence we’ve had since we last had an actual defence!
No Show Pony Signings
Bar John Terry, Bruce has potentially been boringly good in this transfer window, in terms of both value in hardly spending a dime in transfer fees and also, from the point of view of getting legitimate performers in.
If you’re going into a promotion battle, you want players that are up for the mission, and are not at the club just to enjoy the lifestyle of being a well-paid footballer.
It looks like Glenn Whelan may excel all of our guarded expectations and become someone supporters miss, if he’s not on the team sheet. He’s a grafter and has no time for midfield man buns or the like. He has tattoos because he’s hard, and not from peer group pressure or from wanting to be a wannabe hipster poser.
Lets hope our first impressions blossom further throughout the season.
The same goes for Ahmed Elmohamady. So far, so good with him too.
I can’t believe Villa look like they’ll have a proper right-winger once again. If he gets released up the right by his teammates and then they get on the end of his deliveries, the Egyptian international could give us much needed extra dimension.
Chris Samba may be an under the radar secret weapon. Lets not forget a couple of seasons ago, he was on £100,000-a-week. He has something to prove. Watch this space.
Tools For the Job
Look at the squad…it’s all there to be successful in this division. While normally a relegated Premier League would have to further asset strip in a second season in the Championship, Villa have actually got stronger (if only in the short-term).
A lot of this summer’s outgoings like Veretout, Sanchez and Gil, were on loan last season anyway.
Now it’s up to the players to be focused and determined, and for Bruce to get it right tactically.
Competition Has Weakened
I’m looking around at other teams in the division and I don’t see any team particularly scary. A few of the Championship teams that impressed last season (while we were messing around) have lost key players.
I think Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday and Derby will be sniffing around the play-off spots, but Villa surely are a better bet than them for an automatic spot.
While Middlesborough look strong, the other two relegated Premier League teams, Sunderland and Hull City, have internal ownership problems and are still trying to build teams.
None of them offer the obvious threat that Newcastle did last season.
There really are few excuses this coming season.