Roundtable discussions are fun. They offer the writers of this blog a chance to share snapshot opinions about Aston Villa. As you will be able to tell — information can change during the conversation (like players going out on loan). We welcome all to pull up a chair and join in.
The question is a simple one as we gather around — What are your key takeaways from Villa’s first three matches?
James Rushton: Villa seem odd. We’ve won three games. But we haven’t really earned that win and even if we have it hasn’t felt like it. Am I being too picky?
Elis Sandford: We are not doomed. Halfway through July you think, we’ve got no money, we’ll have ourselves a fire sale, and we’ll start the season with a skeletal shambles of a squad - think Robert Huth as our key player. Despite all that, we’ve come out of three games, not looking incredible, granted, but showing enough to suggest that we could, and dare I say it, should, be up there at the end. I’m satisfied.
James Rushton: Oh yeah. It’s not like I’m not satisfied. I just want to see where this takes us. At the moment I have no idea and I’m pretty sure my crystal ball is still blurred from preseason.
James Rushton: Also, how about that John McGinn. If we sold Jack I reckon it’d have been some consolation to have brought McGinn on board.
Kyle Devitte: McGinn looks to be the real deal, which is great becuase eventually someone is going to figure out that if you man mark Grealish instead of giving him 15 yards of space that he’s far less effective and then there is no plan B. Kodjia has to finish. How many free headers did he have against Wigan? four? The new goalkeepers need to be blooded in before they can even be judged, but I think depth is the key issue. Does anyone trust the youngsters? Because they look flat out bad on the ball at times and at other time get muscled out far too easily. The championship is beefier this year and teams are going to be more physical down the stretch.
Robb Jones: Mostly I’m thinking that winning when we shouldn’t can mask a lot but it’s what’s going to be the difference come the end of the season. If we were getting points last season through the first month or so while everyone seems to be finding footing, it’d have been the difference between the playoffs and going up automatically.
That’s not terribly ground breaking or anything.
Smaller picture positives are that all accounts point to Andre Green being ready for the next step, John McGinn being a lock every match, and Jonathan Kodjia maybe (hopefully) playing more unselfishly. The back line is a huge concern with constantly playing everyone out of position and hopefully Steve Bruce will sort that out quickly. It’d be a big change from his time at Villa if that became our issue this year.
Matt Booher: I’m going to beat this drum all year - it’s Aston Villa. It’s remarkable to me how far expectations have fallen for this club. So, the football is not good enough and needs to improve. The points are critical as Robb points out. But even after the disaster of the summer anything less than promotion is a failure.
Phil Vogel: Bruce seems, SEEMS, to have learned one lesson from last year and that is to rotate the damn squad. Far to early to make a definitive statement on it. It would be a huge improvement and would benefit the squad all campaign.
James Rushton: Yeah. I’m comfortable with it all. Three games down, let’s gather the data and see where in are next time. Six or ten games will give us a good sample of this team.
Robb Jones: So far he defines “rotate” as everyone shift a spot on the pitch though, doesn’t he, @PBVogel Hopefully soon it’ll be players coming into and out of their actual positions.
Phil Vogel: Fair point. Jedinak isn’t the one I was thinking off. I really like Whelan and BB switching. Now that De Laet is back from suspension he should be in the mix.
Robb Jones: Yeah I was just goofin’ on Bruce, Phil. I agree with you.
Alex Carson: I think the biggest thing that shows Villa might actually be committed to squad rotation is the signing of John McGinn despite Jack Grealish staying. Conor Hourihane is too good to sit on the bench week-in, week-out, and I’m not sure all three can/will start together.
Elis Sandford: We’ve seen pretty much everyone (injured players and McRichards aside), yet Bruce has said we’re looking for potential loan signings. First three games suggest to anyone else that the defence in particular needs tightening up? That about it?
Phil Vogel: Defense (CB/LB) and wide players, especially if Bjarnason is playing in the middle.
Alex Carson: I’d like to get a proper left back in before the window closes to shore up the defence, and obviously, the Joe Bryan pursuit showed that Villa share the same desire. Whether or not a deal can come together remains to be seen, but I think that paired with Axel Tuanzebe pivoting over to centre back would go a long way toward solving the unsettled feeling at the back.
Adding centre back depth might not be a bad idea either, because I’m really not sure what to make of Tommy Elphick.
James Rushton: Alex, you’re right. Tommy is a bit all over the place, while Axel looks a massive talent. Maybe it’s time to circulate Suliman. That being said, Elphick wouldn’t be a horrific backup.
Elis Sandford: If we’re thinking Suliman, why not Mitch Clark too? Think he can play at left back too. But ideally, an experienced head, and one that doesn’t look quite as shaky as Elphick would be nice. And certainly someone more mobile than shunting Mile into CB
Jake Fenicle: It’s sort of a weird situation, all in all, where we feel like we want more from the team. But there’s not really much more to do when we have 3 wins in 3 games.
I like the look of our depth most places on the field, but our attackers have got to start scoring.
Alex Carson: I think young defenders are a special case in general, because there’s a lot of pressure on them to perform well from the start. If a young forward or midfielder needs time to ease into first-team football, it’s generally fine, because the attack is more about a collective effort and others can step up. But if a young defender needs time to ease in, he’s probably going to make mistakes that hurt the team.
Alex Carson: I think Suliman’s a player who’ll come good for Villa, but I don’t think he’s at “Championship promotion contender” level yet, or really anywhere near it. He struggled to get game time on loan to Grimsby Town last season, which isn’t a great sign. While there’s a case that both of them could be useful, I’d like to see Easah and Jacob Bedeau follow Clark out the loan door so we can get a better idea of what they can do. Maybe loans through the end of December would be good.
James Rushton: All in all a good idea. It’s clear Villa need a few bodies in to help out, though.