After another opportunity missed this weekend against Burnley, the next two games take on added significance ahead of the October international break.
A stuttering start has left Villa down in 18th place, although I for one don’t attach a great deal of importance to league tables at such an early stage of the season. Of more relevance is the fact that we have ‘enjoyed’ a relatively kind start to the season but have so far failed to take advantage of this.
The most important thing for me is that we have been competitive in almost every one of the seven games so far, the exception perhaps being Crystal Palace, although it could be strongly argued that we ought to have come away with a point from that match, despite being well off the pace.
What’s done is done, however, and we need to look forward. The forthcoming fixtures against Norwich and Brighton have taken on a fresh importance in light of our inability/failure to capitalise on winning positions in the last couple of matches.
We run the risk of getting into a rut with each passing failure to win a match, and we have the perfect opportunity to address this in the next two games. I’m not suggesting that Norwich or Brighton are any pushovers, but these are exactly the kind of matches we will need to get something from if we’re to avoid a protracted relegation battle, or worse.
Although collectively we have been ‘in’ the matches so far, on a player-by-player basis, we have been a mixed bag. Individual errors have cost us dearly so far – Grealish at Spurs, Heaton and Luiz against Bournemouth, Engels at Arsenal and Taylor on Saturday.
Wesley remains enigmatic – there looks to be a striker in there and I think those writing him off already are judging him far too harshly – it’s not as if he is missing chance after chance. He’s simply struggling to do what he is being asked to do – we keep playing direct to him and he’s clearly having problems holding the ball up, which is clearly not his game.
But there have been a number of positives – Marvelous Nakamba has largely lived up to his name, while John McGinn continues to ridicule his £2.5m transfer fee and has looked every inch the Premier League veteran. Jack Grealish has arguably flattered to deceive so far, but it’s patently obvious he belongs at this level. Frederic Guilbert has also improved each game.
Amid the summer spending and the hype of promotion, it’s easy to forget we came 5th in the Championship last season and squeaked in via the playoffs. Progress will be incremental and I’ve seen enough so far to suggest we have the capacity to stay up.
In the fledgeling table, it’s interesting to look at the goal difference column. Watford and Newcastle are badly deficient, while Brighton and Norwich are also worse off than ourselves. That in itself is encouraging.
Admittedly, we have yet to face Manchester City or Liverpool (not long now though…!), but we have played Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton and have hardly been tanked. Our defeats so far have been of our own making (with some assistance from VAR) so if we can keep up the levels we have sown so far, there is no reason to suggest we’ll get a battering.
I share the anxiety about the lack of options up front, but so far this season, scoring goals has not so far been a problem – game management and preventing goals have been our Achilles’ heel and it’s far easier to sort this than to produce goals when we are struggling.
I genuinely believe we have plenty of reasons to be cheerful, despite the early season misfires and missteps. If we hold our nerve and stick together, I honestly believe we have enough to survive this season, and maybe even push up towards a 12th/13th/14th finish.
It would be remiss of me not to mention our mighty leader’s new book!
“A fascinating look at his battles and victories…” (it says here…)
You can see all the details, how to buy and the reviews at The Fear.net and on Amazon (if you don’t have Prime, it is cheaper to buy directly and means he can donate more to the AVFC Foundation: Amazon and reviews there: Fear Conquers All – Reviews
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