Well doesn't this all feel better now? After two weeks of gloom and misery, Aston Villa gave us a week to remember. We had four goals, one match won, a fantastic draw at Newcastle to receive the first points of the season, a move from the bottom three, and oh yeah... a bevy of new players brought in by Paul Lambert.
We've been saying since the preseason that the changes made by this team will not put them back into Europe immediately. There's going to be a long process involved in making Aston Villa a perennial contender again. But as easy as it is to say that, the losses to West Ham and Everton were painful to watch. This week gave us a glimpse of excitement in the transfer window, and a bit of hope from the way the team played in their two matches. Aston Villa isn't "fixed" yet, nor will they be for a while, but it's good to know they're on the path to a better place.
In the week ahead we've got... not much. It's the international break, so go find a country and cheer for them. As usual, you'll find a wrap of last week below, some quick match recaps, and a look at the week ahead. Hopefully it's the perfect way to start your claret and blue week!
Just The Facts, Please
Form (Last 5): - - L L D
Results Last Week: Aston Villa 3-0 Tranmere Rovers (League Cup, Rd. 2); Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa
at Southampton (U21 League) - Monday, September 3, 1430 GMT, 1130 Eastern
Southampton (U21 League) - Saturday, September 8, 1400 GMT, 1100 Eastern
Aston Villa Depth Chart (Now woefully out-of-date, since it came before all the transfers but it gives you some idea)
New Injuries Last Week:
- Karim El Ahmadi - ankle (removed during Newcastle match) - no word on severity or return. It didn't look too bad, though.
Returned from Injury
- Gabby Agbonlahor - knee
The Week That Was
- There is absolutely no way I can put all of our news here and have you still actually read this. So much happened in the Villa world, and most of it was transfer news. I'll just put the highlights below, and you can feel free to browse our archive for everything.
- We'll get the non-transfer news out of the way first: Aston Villa beat Tranmere Rover's in the Capital One League Cup 2nd round by a score of 3-0. More on that below.
- Villa also managed to pick up their first league point of the season in a 1-1 draw at Newcastle.
- Now for the signings. The club came into the week knowing that they'd need to pick up a few players, and they worked furiously towards that goal. What made things really frustrating (or incredibly fun, depending on how you think about this stuff) is that the moves all came towards the end of the week, mostly on Friday.
- The really amazing thing about the transfers was the balance of immediate- and down-the-line impact players. Not everyone was brought in with an eye towards starting at Swansea in two weeks.
- The first player to come in was Middlesbrough left back Joe Bennett. The 22-year-old agreed to terms with Villa and will be here as part of a 4-year deal. He's likely a piece for building around, as he has been a Championship player for his career. Don't expect a huge immediate impact from him.
- Jordan Bowery, a striker from Chesterfield, was the second domino to fall. He, too, fits the mold of a player for later. He's a big target striker who could be really interesting to watch grow.
- Then, in the waning minutes of the deadline, Aston Villa came to terms with Genk striker Christian Benteke and Crewe Alexandra midfielder Ashley Westwood.
- The former came for a rumored £7 million fee and will be here for 4 years. Genk tried to get more money from Villa, but it seems that they finally came to their senses. Benteke is a solidly built target man who will pair very well with Darren Bent up front.
- Westwood is another Paul Lambert special, a young, promising player from a lower league. He's apparently got a knack for controlling the ball and should prove helpful in making Villa more creative.
- In the one bit of outgoing action, Nathan Delfouneso was loaned to Blackpool for the remainder of the season. With Bowery and Benteke coming in, and Fonz having shown such poor form lately, it was a move that makes a lot of sense. Hopefully he can show something there and finally start fulfilling the hopes that Villa fans have placed on him. If he can't, it might be time to cut ties.
- The shock of the week, though, came when we all found out that Villa had successfully placed a bid for American Clint Dempsey. Apparently, however, Dempsey didn't want to stoop to our level and decided to say no - even when another offer wasn't on the table. The absolute best part of this was Paul Lambert's reaction. In short: "if he doesn't want to be here, I don't want him." Guys, Paul Lambert is just the best.
- And to get caught up on ALL of the summer's moves, you can check out this handy list.
- Brad Guzan, who was impressive against Newcastle yesterday, got the call-up for the USMNT World Cup qualifier against Jamaica.
Aston Villa 3-0 Tranmere Rovers (League Cup)
Fabian Delph (38'), Chris Herd (65'), Darren Bent (81')
- This was exactly the result that Aston Villa needed from their midweek cup match. Coming off of a two-loss start to the EPL season, Villa couldn't afford to lose a match to a mediocre League One side at Villa Park. Luckily, they didn't!
- As Aaron noted in his recap, all three of Villa's goals came from successful crosses. We've complained a lot about wing play thus far, but the team seems to be doing something (anything!) about it. We had this hunch reaffirmed at the Newcastle match, too.
- In addition to the goals, reports from the match agreed that Stephen Ireland put in a fantastic showing.
- It's nothing to get too blown up about, but the convincing win was a sign that this is not a team in shambles.
- For the third round, Villa have drawn an away trip to Manchester City. So, you know, it'll be nice to focus on just the EPL and the FA Cup after that.
Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa
Ciaran Clark (22'), Hatem Ben Arfa (59')
- If you were looking for a sign that Villa were not doomed, this match provided it. After all the excitement of transfer deadline day, it was nice to actually get to see the club play some football (even if none of the new players participated).
- Villa looked the better side for most of the match, and were creating opportunities in a way we hadn't yet seen this season. The strike pairing of Andreas Weimann and Darren Bent looked particularly potent. I saw some fans complain that Weimann looked poor, and he did have a few less-than-stellar moments, but overall he was a nice complement to the star striker.
- Shockingly, Villa's only goal came off the head of Ciaran Clark. Even more shockingly, that ball was put on Clark's head by an incredibly precise cross off the foot of Barry Bannan. Take a look:
It's not the most stunning goal you'll ever see, but it was efficient and exactly the type of opportunity that Aston Villa should be making and finishing with regularity.
- Brad Guzan - who was playing instead of Shay Given - was really fantastic throughout the match. The Ben Arfa goal was a lot like last week's strike by Karim El Ahmadi: unstoppable. Again, take a look:
Aside from that, Guzan played with a really audacious style, coming off his line and out of the box more than you would expect from a keeper with fewer than 10 Premier League starts to his name.
- Particularly impressive was Guzan's save of Cabaye's last-ditch free kick from about 25 yards out. The ball seemed destined for the net, yet somehow Brad got there. Without the amazing effort, Villa lose a 2-1 heartbreaker. Thanks to Brad, the team got a point. Shay Given may have seen his time pass. If Guzan continues to play like he did at Newcastle, it will be hard to pull him.
- Aaron's recap of the match can be found here.
- The WhoScored statistical look at the match is here.
- We've got the international break this week, so any momentum Villa have from the League Cup win and Newcastle draw will surely dissipate. Whoever thought "Hey, let's have a break after only three weeks of football!" should be shot.
- That said, look for stories coming out of Bodymoor Heath about the new players and how they're gelling. Given how dangerous the lineup looked yesterday, it will be interesting to see what Lambert does for Swansea next week. I imagine that we'll start to get some idea as practice happens this week and next.
I'd like to take a quick moment and thank you all for coming by. Last week was, without question, the most successful in this site's history. It was a blast to cover the deadline, and even more so thanks to your interaction and reading. Thanks, from all of us!
We'll have all sorts of news and analysis coming up this week, including anything of note from the international matches. Be sure to come back regularly!