Defeat to Manchester City makes it three losses out of the last three games, albeit against a much higher quality of opposition. As Villa are given time to regroup with the Premier League heading into another international break, here’s the Good, Bad and Ugly of Saturday evening’s frustrating but sadly inevitable defeat.
Villa’s harrying of City both on and off the ball was excellent, particularly for the opening period of the game, preventing the away side from getting a foothold in the match for the first 35 minutes or so.
Although we were unbelievably fortunate not to concede in the last five minutes of the first half, the first minute of the second half, and generally large chunks of the game, Nathan Baker and Philippe Senderos defended relatively well at times.
Baker manages the impressive feat of looking like both a disaster zone waiting to happen and an all-guns blazing, confident centre-back, but he is undoubtedly improving and at times genuinely now looks like he belongs as a centre-half in the Premier League.
Christian Benteke’s return was perhaps the most obvious zenith of Saturday evening. It is of course an understatement to say that Villa have missed him hugely, but to have him back to full fitness (even if not full match sharpness) on the other side of the international break will be an immeasurable boost.
Off the pitch, at the end of last week Tom Fox said all the right things in his first public statement since replacing the unpopular Paul Faulkner as the club’s Chief Executive.
Fox spoke of Randy Lerner’s renewed enthusiasm for the club – “when I talk to him now, he sounds like someone who bought the club last week” – and insisted that Villa should be realistically targeting a return to Europa League football over the next few years.
“I don’t think there is any question that we should be a club placed from sixth to ninth – certainly in the top ten – and competing for the domestic cup competitions,” he said, thereby immediately endearing himself to Villa fans who believe the same thing.
“We’ve got to put a solid plan in place but it’s not a wild dream, it’s a journey we can go on,” he added.
Certainly Villa have shown signs that with solid, sustainable investment they could rise up the league table. Despite having suffered three defeats in their last three games without scoring, these losses have been to teams who have fielded at least one player whose individual transfer fee has been more than that of Villa’s entire starting XI combined.
Thus Villa cannot and should not be judged on the last three games. Rather they should be judged on their overall start to the season which – with wins over Liverpool at Anfield, Stoke at the Britannia and Hull City and a total of 10 points from seven games – has been pretty positive.
[Click ‘Next’ below for some home truths in The Bad and the Ugly]