Well that was a refreshing way to start the season, wasn't it? With the return of weekly football comes the return of our weekly feature where you can get everything you need to get caught up to speed on Aston Villa. We'll have all the basic facts you need, recaps of the matches that happened, and a look to the week ahead. And while the window is open, we'll have a roundup of transfer rumours, too. Let's stop dallying and get straight to Setting the Table.
Just The Facts, Please
Form (Last 5): W - - - -
Results Last Week: Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa (EPL)
- First Team:
at Chelsea (EPL) - Wednesday, August 21, 1945 GMT, 1445 Eastern
Liverpool (EPL) - Saturday, August 24, 1730 GMT, 1230 Eastern
New Injuries Last Week:
- Yacouba Sylla - twisted ankle (story)
- Nathan Baker - foot/ankle
- Paul Lambert's Tracksuit - missing, hoped dead
Transfer Rumor Roundup
- Before I get to any of this, if you want a convenient place to look all week, make sure to bookmark our transfer rumor hub. Every new story we put up with any transfer news in it will be there, from now until forever. You'll find no better amalgamation of our transfer coverage.
- And if you'd just like a list of all the rumours from the summer, click here.
- Darren Bent finally completed his summer transfer, as he signed on a season-long loan for Fulham. Rumour has it that the loan came with a £2 million fee. Even better is finding out that Bent is ineligibile to play against Aston Villa this year. Not quite the £6 million we were all hoping for, but not a terrible end to the saga.
- Aston Villa expressed, in no uncertain terms, that it will not be pursuing FC Nuremberg's Hiroshi Kiyotake. Hopefully that rumour is dead now. At least until December or so.
- The club also apparently looked at Sochaux winger Ryad Boudebouz. The Algerian player hasn't been connected to Villa since then, but hey, we're just letting you know what's out there.
Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa (EPL)
Olivier Giroud (6'), Christian Benteke (22', 61' PEN), Antonio Luna (85')
- What a way to start the season, right? This match had everything: fast, wide-open play, goals, and chippiness. Plus, it had some terrible officiating to boot.
- About that officiating: plenty of Arsenal fans are complaining that the ref was Villa's 12th man. And to be sure, he made some puzzling decisions here and there. The biggest complaint has been the second penalty awarded, where it looked as if Laurent Koscielny had cleanly tackled Gabby Agbonlahor. But a quick look at the replay shows that Koscielny actually took out Gabby's ankle before he ever made contact with the ball:
Doing that in the box? Yep, it's a penalty.
- And much of the complaining ignores a huge call that went in Arsenal's favor. The first penalty, in which Wojciech Szczesny (god I hate recapping Arsenal matches) brutally took out Gabby and denied a clear scoring opportunity should have been a red. There's no way to look at that play and see yellow. But the ref did, and Arsenal were able to play with 11 on the pitch for a bit longer. There's no denying the officiating in this match was poor, but it was hardly one-sided.
- Furthermore, a lot of that complaining ignores another huge fact: Arsenal simply didn't play very well. They had 64% possession, and could only manage one goal against a pretty weak Aston Villa defense. Furthermore, their defense was even more atrocious, essentially giving up all three goals on counters (yes, there were the two penalties, but they don't exist unless Villa is seriously threatening with a counter).
- That counterattack, by the way, looks to be the hallmark of this Villa offense. We know that they've got the legs up front to score scads of goals, and I think we can expect to see lots of this type of match: high goal totals from low possession. If that's true, we may never rest easy, but we're in for some thrilling football.
- You can find our recap here.
- The WhoScored recap is here.
- Well, things certainly don't get much easier from here. After taking on a weakened Arsenal side, they've got to travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on Wednesday and then return to Birmingham for the home opener against Liverpool on Saturday. If they can win either of those matches, I think we'll be thrilled. If they can even eke out a draw, I imagine most will be happy with 4 points from the first week.
- But I really do think they can take 3 points this week. I've given up the Chelsea match for dead (though heck, why not dream of one point?) but the Liverpool match is winnable. The club only managed one goal against a weak Stoke side in their home debut this season. Their defensive standout was new keeper Simon Mignolet, who preserved the shutout and win with a penalty save. Oddly, almost no defense scares me with the new-look Villa offense. On the other side, Liverpool aren't the most potent attacking team. Playing at home for the first time all season, Villa could easily take a win and head out of the first week from hell near the top of the table.
- Chelsea, on the other hand, were never tested by newcomers Hull City. I really don't expect much from Villa in this midweek tilt. A close, well-contested match would be enough for me, even if the result was a loss. Any points from this are merely icing on the cake.
- For further coverage, check out SB Nation's Chelsea blog (We Ain't Got No History) and Liverpool blog (The Liverpool Offside).
- The NextGen Series - which Aston Villa's U19 squad won last year - has been unable to secure funding and will thus take a year-long hiatus. Hopefully they get back before too long.
- Kevin Hughes gives his take on Villa's season-opening win. I'm starting to really like Hughes' writing, so expect to see more of him here.
- A quick look at tactics from some matches around the EPL this weekend. No mention of Arsenal's "Complain about the ref and see if that works" strategy, oddly.
- A word from NBC for our US readers so they can figure out how to watch the matches this season. My initial impression is that we've got a significant improvement over previous seasons, though there are still some bugs to be worked out.
- Here's a fascinating infographic that rates how tough each team's fixtures are for the season. We're apparently getting the second-worst part of our season out of the way now. And then, we wait fearfully for March to crush our souls.