Last week, I wrote a heartfelt apology to new Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given. Now I feel the new gaffer is owed one as well, as after just one match, Alex McLeish has managed to convince me that many of the previously held beliefs I had about his style and tactics just might have been, well, flat out wrong. In my defense, my thoughts that McLeish would be overly defensive and play boring football seemed well-grounded, based on what we'd seen of him at Birmingham City.
But, as Aaron has mentioned before, a limited amount of time with one club, particularly a club that has very little money, does not paint the most accurate picture of a manager's ability. McLeish was restrained while in charge of our crosstown rivals, having little talent to work with, and no cash to add to the squad. So he did what he had to do -- capitalized on the strengths in the squad, which meant sending out a team that hunkered down and defended.We all know this. We all watched the bluenoses last season. So it probably wasn't just me who was surprised about what we saw from the Villa against Fulham. We were a visiting side and we...attacked. McLeish put forth a side including Darren Bent, Gabby Agbonlahor, Charles N'Zogbia, Emile Heskey, even Fabian Delph (I include Delph here because at least he can pass forward). Our fullbacks got forward and they were mildly successful at it, even if Stephen Warnock should never ever ever cross a ball again. And none of it was done while leaving our defense exposed, except perhaps when Luke Young was involved.
McLeish has a philosophy, and that philosophy is simple: "There’s only one ball and somebody has to attack that ball." And apparently, he doesn't mean the opposition. This is a man both determined to fix Aston Villa's set-piece defense (we conceded 27 goals in this manner last season, ay dios mio) and to capitalize on the players' ability to quickly attack. That's not a recipe for boring football -- that's potential to have a team that's actually fun to watch. Granted, it's still a team that features Emile Heskey, and that seems to be missing a right winger, but when the quick passing and overlapping occurs, it's an actual joy.
Now don't let me down, Alex. Next is Blackburn. We're all tired of Blackburn. Demolish them.