Transfer deadline day came and went. Aston Villa made no signings. And everybody flipped out. But it's gonna be fine, guys.
The number of points Aston Villa have from their first three fixtures. A good start to the season doesn't guarantee success—or anything near it. Alex McLeish's six match unbeaten streak to start his tenure at Villa Park proves it. But what it does show is that the Villa have been getting results against the teams they need to get results against.
As I talked about before the season, the difference between Stoke City or Crystal Palace and Villa had nothing to do with the results gained against the top clubs, rather it was the performances against the fellow bottom clubs that pushed the first two forward and kept Villa from pushing up the table. Stoke and Palace both managed survival on results against the other "bottom 13" sides alone last term while Villa just managed 28 points from 24 such fixtures. But this year, Villa have seven from three in these crucial fixtures—the start of a trend that could prove very beneficial for the Claret and Blues' fate.
And perhaps the most important thing about it all? Villa were, of course, without Christian Benteke in those three fixtures. To get that kind of return without the bottom 13's best player in the lineup is impressive and shows that Paul Lambert's figured out how to get the tactics right—at least early on. When Benteke gets back, those crosses into the 18 actually have a head to reach. I'm looking forward to it.
The number of bona fide, first-team quality players Villa have this year that they didn't last year. Villa have made five new signings, have brought three "Bomb Squad" players back into the fold, and have promoted a promising youth player into the fold, all while losing just two players most Villa supporters would've even felt remotely comfortable seeing in the XI.
Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole, Kieran Richardson, Aly Cissokho and Carlos Sánchez are five guys brought in to perform roles and, more importantly, are marked improvements on what Villa's shipped out or relegated to bench duty. Would you rather have Senderos or Baker? Cole or (insert player that doesn't exist here)? Richardson or Tonev? Cissokho or Luna? Sánchez or Sylla? While not necessarily sexy signings, Paul Lambert's made moves that improve the side. And that's something to be happy about.
And as far as guys Villa already had under contract? They'll add something to the team too. We've seen Alan Hutton perform brilliantly so far this year at right back (better than Lowton or Bacuna have, that's for sure) while Charles N'Zogbia has started all three league games so far this campaign. Darren Bent—regardless of his night against Leyton Orient—will probably bang in a couple of goals for Villa off the bench this year and if push comes to shove, he wouldn't be the worst starting option in the world.
And then you've got that Jack Grealish kid. I like him.
Goals by Andi Weimann this season. Now, I know a lot of you don't like Weimann—and there's a lot of relevant criticisms of him to be put forth—but ultimately, Villa's going to have to get goals from someone not named Christian Benteke this season to have success. And through three games, Weimann's put in two solid shifts and played a part in each of Villa's three goals.
We worried a lot about where the goals would come from without Villa's star in the lineup and before we go further, let's all agree that Villa aren't necessarily pouring in the goals. Going forward, Villa still hasn't been the best, managing just five shots on target (though two off the post) in three matches. But they've gotten three goals from those shots, using the most of their opportunities.
It's not going to be enough for Villa if it's just Benteke knocking in the goals. And I'm skeptical to believe Libor Kozak can work overly effectively alongside Christian Benteke without at least a smaller, pacier forward to join them. And if we're looking at guys with potential on the side, Weimann's one of those. He's at a crucial point in his career—after a breakout 2012-13 campaign, he took a step back last year. It's Andi's time to "shine bright like a Weimann" or find himself in the Championship next year. Two goals from three games? That's a good sign on that proposition.
Number of shots on target allowed by Aston Villa to their opponents this year. I could've gone with simply the number one here—how many goals Villa's conceded—but I feel like this better captures the defensive effort going around at Villa Park. As last year's sometimes-anemic offense showed us, teams don't have to be good defensively to not concede. But the number of shots on target Villa are allowing their opponents tell us about how they're defending, not whether or not their opponents are finishing.
A large part of Villa's success this year has been down to channeling opposing teams to attack from outside the 18-yard box. Against Stoke, Villa kept their opponents firing from distance and the same generally occurred against Newcastle and Hull.
And consider this for a second: West Ham put the least number of shots on target last year of any team in the Premier League. Their average? 3.2 per game, higher than what Villa's allowed so far this year. If Villa keep channeling their opponents into having to convert the spectacular in attack, things are probably going to go well on Trinity Road.