The last couple of iterations in this series were pretty tough to write, given the misery that surrounded last season. So we're kicking off this season on a much better note, because although we lost on Friday night against Manchester United, there were actually a load of positives to take away from the game. So make yourselves comfortable, make yourself a cup of tea, and enjoy!
1. Jordan Amavi
It's still early on in Jordan Amavi's Aston Villa career, but I'm honestly of the opinion that he is the best left back that we have had since I started following the club over a decade ago. I know there's a few of our regular commenters that have been following for even longer, so if you can name a better left back than Amavi, then please do let us know!
Against Bournemouth, Amavi was solid defensively in the first, and dangerous offensively in the second. Unfortunately he was unable to get forward as much on Friday night, but in defence, he was impeccable. Manchester United failed to launch a meaningful attack from their right side all game, and that is thanks to Jordan Amavi's defensive capabilities. Like against Bournemouth, Amavi's play got a little sloppy in the closing stages due to fatigue, but he was hardly alone in that regard, the majority of the Villa side looked out on their feet in the closing stages.
Once the Villa side starts to gel, the chemistry between Amavi and the likes of Rudy Gestede will surely develop, and we will fully be able to appreciate the crossing prowess of Amavi, and the heading ability of Gestede. Patience is required, but the signs look good.
2. Villa lacked a playmaker, but they have options
Villa rarely threatened the Manchester United defence, and when they did, they lacked the crucial final ball which would have turned half chances into full chances. This doesn't sound like a positive thing, and on it's own, it isn't, but when you consider that Villa played without three of their most dangerous players in Carles Gil, Jack Grealish and new signing Adama Traore, it doesn't sound as bad.
On a couple of occasions, with the right pass, Aston Villa would have had a clear chance on goal. Jack Grealish and Carles Gil are two of the better playmakers at the club, so when they come back from injury, against Crystal Palace next week in all likelihood, the Aston Villa attack will be in much better shape.
It's not to say that the players that Villa had on the pitch on Friday aren't good enough, but with Jordan Ayew and Gabby Agbonlahor making the same runs often, it limited the possibilities. With another playmaker to support Ayew and Sinclair, it opens up more channels offensively, which in turn should allow for Amavi and Bacuna to be given more opportunities to play in Gestede. This will definitely be helped by the arrival of new signing Adama Traore, who by all accounts is a fine playmaker. Although it didn't exactly look this way at times on Friday night, but Aston Villa's attack is in fairly healthy shape.
3. Ashley Westwood is good, and he's here to stay
Earlier this week, Ashley Westwood signed a new five year deal with the club, and this was great news, because although he rarely grabs the headlines, Westwood is one of the best players at the club. This was shown again on Friday, as he was probably Aston Villa's best player.
Ashley Westwood's passing was on point against United, one pass especially was a world class volley ball out to the flank. I can't find any footage of the pass sadly, so instead I've included a clip from last season. I'm told that Newcastle's Paul Dummett still has nightmares about this moment.
One of Westwood's main strengths is his reading of the game, and when his new teammates start getting comfortable at Villa, there will be far more scope for Westwood to play his killer passes.
Villa Park was sold out on Friday night, and the atmosphere was incredible. I'd liken it to the European clash against CSKA Moscow a few seasons back in terms of how great it was to be there on the night. And this came after traffic issues delayed many of the fans' arrival to the ground.
From the pre-match unveiling of Adama Traore to Leandro Bacuna accidentally winning himself a corner in the second half, the Villa Park faithful was buzzing. Now, I'm no psychologist, but you have to think that having Villa Park full to the rafters and cheering the team on will be a good thing for morale, and morale should impact on Villa's home performances this season. Hopefully, this will see Villa Park reverting back to the fortress of old.
5. Villa didn't look out of place
Manchester United are title contenders in the Premier League. Top four at least. But Aston Villa went up against them on Friday and didn't look out of place.
Villa limited their opponents to just two shots on goal, and the shot that did go in took a huge deflection. This is crucial because it shows that our defence wasn't ever truly threatened. If Villa can come out of a game against United without looking terrible, it looks good for the rest of our season. As soon as the strikers get their thing together, things are looking up in the world of Aston Villa!
If you agree or disagree with anything, or just have a point of your own to make, do let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!