Another top drawer Anfield away day, another win for a Villa team who have had a simply superb start to the season in terms of (league) results. Here is the good, the bad and the ugly from the tremendous Liverpool away victory.
Villa could have been found at anywhere between 6-1 and 12-1 to beat Liverpool at Anfield, the longer end of which looked a terrific price considering the two teams’ respective starts to the season. Anyone thinking Liverpool would be faced with a walkover clearly hadn’t paid much attention to the defensive performances Villa had put in their previous three Premier League games.
The news that Ron Vlaar was to miss out made Villa’s task, both in terms of getting a result and continuing their superb early season defensive record, so much harder. However, the much-maligned (sorry for everything, Nathan) Nathan Baker stepped up to the mark magnificently, winning the man-of-the-match award for his superb display, in which he made an impressive 15 clearances – one every six minutes.
Alan Hutton’s new three-year contract might win an award for ‘sentences you were least likely to hear six months ago’, but it is also unquestionably deserved. It is not only his impressive performances on the pitch which have won Villa fans to his cause in the opening month of the season, but he has been the model of professionalism in the way in which he has fought for his place in the side since being given a reprieve by the manager who had previously consigned him to ‘Bomb Squad’ status.
Tom Cleverley put in a solid, if unspectacular, debut, and the fact that he had a higher pass completion rate than any other member of the Villa side hinted that he could become an integral part of the club’s midfield.
Beating a side whose new central defensive signing cost more than the entire Villa starting XI is overwhelmingly satisfying, but even more pleasing is the fact that Villa have the best defensive record in the league. Three clean sheets and only one goal conceded in four games, how good are those stats? Remember when Villa didn’t know they were allowed to not concede in a game of football?
In the absence of Christian Benteke and Libor Kozák, Gabby Agbonlahor and Andi Weimann have netted two crucial goals each, despite not doing a particularly large amount else on the pitch. With four goals from just six shots on target so far this season having earned Villa 10 points from their first four games for the first time since 1998-99, Villa may not have created many chances this season, but they’ve not done badly in taking the ones they have had.
Villa’s shape and discipline throughout the Liverpool match was excellent and, apart from Philippe Coutinho’s late post-rattler, it was one of those incredibly rare occasions when Villa actually look comfortable defending an early one-goal lead. The players seem to be enjoying playing for the club again – it’s amazing what a string of good results can do for players’ confidence.
It was also no surprise to hear Gabby putting this season’s success down to the teamwork and togetherness within the side – that is another facet of Villa’s displays which has been evident throughout the first few games.
Even more good news has arisen since Saturday with Benteke confirming he has returned to training after five months out with an Achilles injury, and Villa apparently hopeful that he will return to playing action before the end of the month.
[Click ‘Next’ below for – The Bad and Ugly]