Date: 25th July 2019 at 6:53am
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Aston Villa’s excellent pre-season campaign continues, with last night’s annual encounter against neighbours Walsall seeing Villa emerge 5-1 winners at the Banks’s Stadium on a glorious summer evening. Having seen off Minnesota United and Shrewsbury Town in the previous matches, Villa remain unbeaten so far this summer.

But how much should we read into these games? Matches against an MLS team, a League One side and a side recently relegated to the fourth tier hardly represent a difficult test. But the forthcoming games against Championship outfit Charlton and RB Leipzig of the Bündesliga should offer a much stiffer challenge.

To my mind, the opposition in these pre-season games don’t really matter. The point of these matches is to improve players’ fitness levels and allow newly-signed players the chance to ‘get to know’ their new team-mates on the pitch.

Forum user Merd agrees: “You can read nothing into a friendly… played at half pace and players won’t commit to tackles so that hopefully no-one gets injured. ATM all they are interested in is setting up partnerships and a system of play.”

Almost all of the squad played for 45 minutes in each of the first two matches, while in last night’s game at Walsall, the starting XI were left on the pitch for 70 minutes, and we can expect more of the same in the remaining two fixtures as Dean Smith looks to nail down his first-choice side ahead of Spurs on 10th August.

Fans on social media have been largely positive:

Not everyone has been overly impressed with the summer so far, feeling the standard of opposition has been below-par and arguing that we should be playing against teams from a much higher level.

“We definitely need testing more than we have been so far.”Fulford

“I just wish we’d play some friendlies against a higher level. We can’t say we’re ready for the PL after friendlies against Shrewsbury, Walsall and Charlton. Ok we have Leipzig but we should be able to do better than this.”Pride of Lions

“Good run out against very poor opponents. We really need tougher friendlies.”Silhillvilla

But as forum user holtelower points out, most Premier League sides are involved in international matches or mini-tournaments, opportunities not available to Villa due to our absence from the Premier League.

The key takeaway must surely be the fact that these matches are the chance for the team to nail down the style of play expected by Dean Smith and the coaching staff and allow partnerships to build as the new signings settle into life at a Premier League football club.

“Whatever the standard of opposition, what is evident is our style of play and what we are trying to achieve.”Melon Donkey

“Regardless of the playing staff we have a set style of play, if you blinked and did not see the changes and looked again you would think the same players were playing. I think we are on the verge of something absolutely incredible.” OVB

“I know not everything is coming off (it never will), but you really can see an understanding of what players are thinking in attack… so, so, so different from the old days of hit it high and long and hope somebody has the pace to get there first.”Mike Field

Plenty remains to be done before the season proper begins in just over two weeks’ time, and it’s more than likely one or two new faces are still to come. But the early signs are encouraging and the mood of optimism around Villa Park is as high as it’s been for a very long time heading into a new season.

Incredible away support at Shrewsbury and Walsall has shown the extent to which Villa fans are buying into Dean Smith’s vision and the key now will be for Villa to build on this promising start.

Which shouldn’t be a problem. After all, we’ve got McGinn, Super John McGinn…


* Just a reminder that Villa’s remaining pre-season fixtures away to Charlton (Sat 27th July at 3pm) and RB Leipzig (Sat 3rd August at 3.30pm local time) will be streamed live on the club’s YouTube channel.

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