In Villa's last game before the international break, we welcome Sunderland to Villa Park. Gary, editor of the Sunderland site We Are Wearside, was kind enough to give us a glimpse into the Black Cats' season so far.
After losses against Leicester and Norwich, Sunderland claimed a hard-fought point against Swansea last weekend. One point from the first nine certainly isn't great, but does this recent result change your opinion on the club's future?
WAW: Not really. I never completely bought into the media frenzy that we were already relegated and that we are a complete joke. I always thought we would struggle again this season, like we always do, as that is what happens when you don't sufficiently invest in your squad or plan for the future.
Dick Advocaat has come out and said the squad need a few more players in order to avoid another relegation-threatened season. He's also said that the "entire squad is for sale". Who might be coming and going in the last few days of the transfer window?
WAW: I'm not sure we will see too many players who we consider important leave. As I type this Emanuele Giaccherini is on his way out and some of the fringe players like Liam Bridcutt and Will Buckley may leave. But I would be surprised to see players like Jermain Defoe, who has recently been linked with a few clubs, leave.
Coming in will be two desperate deadline day loans as usual.
Despite the poor start, there have been a few bright spots for the Black Cats. What impact have players like Jermain Defoe and Jeremain Lens had on the squad this season? Who's been the most impressive member so far?
WAW: Defoe scored a stunning hat trick [on Tuesday] but I am really looking forward to see how Lens does this season. Seldom have Sunderland had a winger with genuine pace, purpose and ability which it is already clear to me this lad does have. If you are going to be worried at all about individuals in our squad, it should be Lens. Yann M'Vila looks a class act too.
We have some decent footballers but to put our defence into perspective, conceding three goals at home to a League Two side is more the norm than surprising.
Club owner Ellis Short has come under heavy criticism from fans, who are upset with his lack of ambition. Is this front-office turmoil proving to be a distraction for the players and manager?
WAW: Advocaat can not do a press interview now without moaning about the lack of transfer funds. Whilst it is a frustration I echo, it is worrying to see just how annoyed he is about it and I find it difficult to believe it has no effect at all. If I am going to be harsh, this team is the same team with which he kept us up, only adding to it Lens and M'Vila whom I have already lavished with praise, so you have to question why we are conceding so many goals.
What are your thoughts on Advocaat? He secured safety for Sunderland last season, but can he help the club take that next step?
WAW: I am a big fan of Dick (not just for the childish puns), he encourages attacking football which is the complete opposite of Gus Poyet's turgid, sideways and backwards style. However, his one-year appointment is just further evidence that the board really haven't got a clue what to do going forward and is confirmation we will not be progressing anytime soon.
Sunderland have a brutal spell of fixtures over the Christmas period: Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool all in the month of December. Does that daunting list of matches make it even more important to pick up points early in the season?
WAW: In a common sense kind of way, yes. Though we are quite accustomed to doing things the opposite way around. In 2013/14 we dropped points at home to pretty much everybody; West Ham, Hull, Villa, Norwich, Palace amongst others but instead beat Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton away and took four points off Manchester City. Mental.
After three matches, how do you think Sunderland matches up with this new-look Villa team? Is there anyone in particular Villain who has impressed you?
WAW: I don't think we are going to see what Villa's new influx of players are capable of for another month or two so in that sense it is probably a good time to play Villa. That said, our record against you is terrible and it is an even better time to play us.
As long as the points keep coming in the meantime whilst everything gels, I think Villa could have a decent season. I have to say, I know very little other than what I have heard about the vast majority of Villa's signings except for Rudy Gestede, who looked a cut above when he was at Blackburn, so I wouldn't like to pass judgement on the squad as a whole just yet.
I would be surprised to see Villa battling it out with us for a relegation spot.
Once again, huge thanks to Gary for chatting with us! Be sure to head over to We Are Wearside for some pre-match reading on the Black Cats.