After a summer that truly had everything for Villa supporters, we’re finally here - at the home opener. Expecting a dilapidated team, fans will no doubt be relieved that fan-favourite, Jack Grealish remains at the club, as do others. In fact, it’s Super Jack himself who sums up the attitude of this Villa squad right now:
“Let’s get back to work.”
What to know about Aston Villa
It’s not every day that we see AVFC take three points in their opening game. It’s not often we seen Villa come back from a goal down to take a match. It’s not at all regular for Villa to push on, despite poor play, and win. What’s more, there seemed to be an almost toxic aura lingering over VIlla’s first match with Hull City due to Villa’s acceptance of a Jack Grealish transfer. That didn’t come to pass, and semiotically, it could mean a lot more to Villa than simply keeping a really good player around.
This feels new. This feels good and we’re only heading into the second game. The positivity is back. However, a loss in the first home match wouldn’t be a nice thing to contend with, especially with what we’ve come to realise about the Championship. Every single game matters. Villa will be absolutely haunted by a missing three points come the end of a season, so you must take these games and you must extract every goal, or point, out of them that you can.
That only happens if Villa improve. Hull City seem to be in dire straits, as much was clear from their play and their attendance. A team like that will fold, because we’ve been there in the past. There’s a lot more to be happy about in Wigan, who have just finished an amazing season, have kept Nick Powell and will move forward.
Villa will bring three new players into the squad. Ørjan Nyland is Villa’s new number one and seems set to start, as does Axel Tuanzebe, on-loan from Manchester United seems like he’ll start, and there’s every chance John McGinn will be in and around the first team picture. Still, Villa have a few options. They’ll need Jonathan Kodjia to become a complete forward who works for the team, and that means opening up the game in the final-third. He doesn’t do the best job of that, and what I mean is that he simply doesn’t pass the ball when he needs to. Kodjia is such a good player, but his playing-style can be so destructive towards the main goal of the team.
With a transfer move no-longer in progress, Jack Grealish should now have the clarity of mind to be able to wreck it for Villa across the midfield. The handy signing of John McGinn frees Grealish up to move forward, or drop lower. Either way, that can suit Villa - it’s all about the options.
Villa’s defense looked solid for the most part, and that should improve against Wigan. Jed Steer should be more comfortable in goal, and Axel Tuanzebe will add a lot more mobility and youthfulness to the backline. Still, any team can get caught out on their counter and Villa should have one eye on that.
What to know about Wigan Athletic
Wigan have a lot to be happy about despite losing Dan Burn on deadline day. They’ve kept Nick Powell and they’ve already bagged three points by sinking a big (but terrible) Championship side in Sheffield Wednesday. I’d not be unhappy with that.
I expect Paul Cook’s side to soak up pressure and deal with Grealish, and Villa, cruelly. That’s not to say that they’ll deploy butcher’s cleavers instead of studs on their boots - but I feel like they won’t suffer Grealish gladly. I’ll expect him to be fouled over five times. Bet on that. That might come to bite them back.
Counter-attacking is where it’s at for Wigan, so look for rapid-play down the wings if Villa aren’t taking their chances (this ties into Jonathan Kodjia creating up front, if he’s cocking up, he’s giving Wigan chances). A trifecta of Will Grigg, Nick Powell and Michael Jacobs can be too much for some - but Villa should have the quality to deal with them.
It has to be a Villa win, but it might not be terribly easy. I’ll go for 4-2. To Villa.