Another game undefeated for Aston Villa and the free fall of recent months truly seems to be a thing of the past.
A Work In Progress
It would have been very naive to think that a new owner or manager would be an instant fix. The loss to Luton, and the manner in which it happened, set alarm bells ringing again and it was easy to fear the worse. Di Matteo has openly confirmed that this squad is still a work in progress and this statement is comforting on several levels.
Firstly and most obviously we need to see further improvement and recruitment. I was worried a few weeks ago, when the manager hinted that the existing squad may be the main focus but recent transfers have put that worrying possibility to rest.
Claims that a team is still being built is often a tactic to buy more time and relieve pressure by managers, but what set’s this apart from a simple excuse is the fact that the team is improving, and have now gone three games unbeaten.
The clarity of communication and intent from the club is vital in keeping the fans onside. The fact that the hierarchy realises this squad needs further strengthening and is actively recruiting will mean that a few early draws are something to build on instead of early season failure.
Getting The Point(s)
As nice as a win would be this was a decent result. This won’t be an easy league and as RDM puts the finishing touches to his team this transfer window the important thing is for Villa to keep getting points on the board and improving week on week.
The first half was encouraging but Derby have a talented bunch of players and Villa for the second game in succession managed to soak up considerable pressure from an opponent without collapsing completely. That was almost unthinkable even three weeks ago.
With the squad short on depth, in midfield more than anywhere, the fact that Villa earned a point away without arguably our best two midfielders is a big boost. With Jedinak to come in even more improvement is likely and Tshibola also offers further presence in the middle.
The Magic Number – Points and Improvements
One point was fine on this occasion but going forward points need to start coming in threes. For me there are three major things that need to be improved upon before this starts to happen.
Recruitment must continue. Jedinak is a great buy but one look at the bench shows how few options there are. Equally important as the boost in midfield is the need to improve the full-back positions. Most of Villa’s current full-backs fall under the category of, ‘tries hard but just isn’t very good’. More game time for Jordan Amavi may be a start but depth and quality are a must. Against Derby the game reached a stage where both Bacuna and Cissokho had been booked and that’s a dream for any opposition winger.
The team must now become more clinical if we are to stay at the right end of the table. Improving football and a better attitude are a good start but making and taking chances will be the real key. In several games this season Villa have had large spells of dominance and possession but haven’t churned out a huge amount of chances or goals.
It’s not just finishing that needs to be more clinical but passing, both the simple and the more creative. At several stages on Saturday, Villa looked set to hit Derby with quick counter attacks only for poor passes to halt all momentum and put the team on the back foot again. More time together and an international break on the horizon to further gel, RDM should be able to oil the hinges and get Villa motoring at a better level over the next month.
Considering the shallow options at the club in many positions a lot will revolve around having the key players available at all times. Injuries will happen but needless suspensions can be prevented. Villa racked up the yellows this weekend and even our forwards, McCormack and Ayew, are too keen to collect cards, something we cannot afford.
McCormack has been booked three times in the league this term and on Saturday evening he picked one up for a revenge foul that puts him a step closer to an automatic suspension. It reminded me of a similar reaction from Jordan Ayew against Luton a few weeks ago where Ayew jumped into a foul to petulantly return the favour after being fouled himself.
With our full-backs and forwards picking up yellows and the likes of Garner and Westwood loving yellow worthy fouls, the squad could quickly dwindle if discipline is not maintained.
There’s plenty to be positive about at the moment. Under Lerner the club lacked direction and stagnated over the years taking major leaps in the wrong direction. It’ll be a tough climb back to the top but for the first time in a long time Villa are taking steps in the right direction.
Don’t forget to follow Finn on Twitter – @FinnMongey
And make sure you’re following MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid
Latest MOMS Podcast…new one on Tuesday