If you listen to twitter, Aston Villa played like absolute garbage and are doomed to be relegated. Not to League One, but probably out of the Football League altogether simply on general principle.
If you listen to me, I actually thought this was pretty encouraging, and apart from one MASSIVE howler, I enjoyed my time watching this thing.
The truth, as it usually does, probably is somewhere in between those two. Aston Villa were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday today in their Championship debut. The first half saw Wednesday looking dominant, the second greatly favored Aston Villa. But a poor clearance from debutant goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini that brought back memories of Brad Guzan was the difference. Fernando Foristieri managed to finally capitalize on a day that saw him looking dominant and it was a 1-0 defeat for the claret and blues.
But it’s not the worst performance we’ve seen in ages, in fact it’s far from it. In addition to Gollini, Tommy Elphick and Ross McCormack made their Villa debuts today, and both looked to be promising additions to the club. Elphick, in particular, had a fantastic day. After clashing heads with Steven Fletcher and bleeding (yes, it was already claret and blue), Elphick carried on and put in a performance that showed skill and leadership. Exactly what we needed from him. Nathan Baker, too, looked pretty solid at centre-back.
The problems really started out wide. Alan Hutton and Aly Cissokho provided almost nothing today, and the lack of midfield width (provided mostly by Leandro Bacuna and a version of Jordan Ayew who was incredible with the ball and listless without it) only compounded the issue. In the first half, Wednesday exploited this problem and dominated play and possession. But, for what it’s worth, Villa never looked likely to totally screw things up. They just looked not great.
In the second half, the team started taking it to the hosts a bit more, and chances aplenty were created. As much as Wednesday dominated the first half, Villa took the second. The losing blow came against the run of play when Gollini tried to clear a ball, had it slice off of his foot, and fall basically to Foristieri, who made the most of the ensuing 1-v-1.
But outside of that, we saw more good signs from McCormack, a great substitute performance from Aaron Tshibola, and plenty of other reasons to think this all may be okay.
The dumb mistakes are still there. And the midfield looks to be a shambles. But this was already a MASSIVE improvement over last year’s team. Yes, that’s a low bar. A VERY low bar. But this match is not a reason to panic. Nor is it a reason to think we’re going to fix things and win out. It’s pretty much what we expected. Rough edges and a bit of hope. And for the first match of the season, I’ll take that.