Well that didn’t go quite as planned did it? As optimistic as we all were going into the new season, I don’t think many of us really expected to take anything off Champions League finalists - Spurs but the loss to Bournemouth over the weekend will of course be a tougher pill to swallow. Unlike a few silly fans on social media, I’m not writing us off and I’m still proud of the boys despite conceding 5 goals in 2 games…
First things first, who remembers this time last year? A year to the day of writing this article we found ourselves unable to break down a 10-man Ipswich side.. the same Ipswich side who would go on to get relegated from the Championship in last place with only 5 wins. We had just survived a near miss with complete extinction due to embarrassing financial failures caused by the previous powers that be and the idea of a Premier League return felt like the thing of dreams. What I’m trying to say is that we need to keep some perspective here and will need to do so all season because a result like Saturday’s won’t be the first.
Despite the results, I’m still massively proud of the boys. Yes we’ve suffered back-to-back losses but we haven’t embarrassed ourselves in the process. At Spurs we took the lead and managed to keep the European runner-ups out for the majority of the game before a few exhaust fuelled mistakes led to our downfall. It was the opposite against Bournemouth as it was not being sharp enough from the off that led to an early 2-0 deficit which despite our greatest efforts, was too much to recover from. Though look at all the stats - possession, corners, shots and everything else showed we were the better team and when you add to that the miracle of Billing sill being on the pitch come halftime, I think it’s fair to say that we were unlucky. Two games, two bad results but definitely not two bad performances.
I’ve seen a lot of shouts for new boys Matt Targett, Frédéric Guilbert and Jota to be thrown in for Friday night’s game with Everton at Villa Park. I disagree. Maybe it’s just me but I’ve been really impressed with the back four, especially Mings and Engels but even Taylor I’ve been really pleased with. I think there may be an argument for Elmo out and Guilbert in given how wayward some of the Egyptians crosses went on Saturday but even that feels harsh on a player who has been nothing short of excellent for Villa on our way to promotion. To make three or more changes would just be a panic button that really doesn’t need pressing. We just need to learn from our mistakes and judging by the performance Douglas Luiz put in after his moment of madness against Bournemouth followed by Captain Jack’s comments after the game, I truly believe we will learn from these mistakes and begin to move on up the table. The performances have been impressive, cut out these silly errors and we’re golden.
With all that being said, I do think there is one glaring problem area on the pitch and that’s up top. I’m not here to jump on Wesley’s back and give him extra grief, he’s had enough of that from what I’ve seen this weekend. We need to remember he’s new to this league and the country so obviously needs time to bed in, the issue is whether or not we have the time for him to do so. I suppose the problem is that we may be forced into it as we don’t really have a replacement. No disrespect to Kodjia but I don’t see him netting double figures in this league even if he was to start every game. And as good as Kienan Davis is, he’s not a natural goal scorer.
So what do we do? I was onboard the Daniel Sturridge hype train but the more I think about it, the more I don’t think we should go down that road. It feels like something the Villa of old would have done. Spending big money on an older big name in hopes of staying up, it’s no longer the Villa way so I think we should all drop the talk of Sturridge and get behind our young strikers, at least until January when we can re-evaluate the situation. Plus the way the midfield is playing, I have faith in those boys to supply the goals while we fix the problems up top.
So yeah, all in all I’m proud of how Villa have looked on our return to the Premier League and swapping out players this soon will only disrupt what I think is a good dynamic at the moment. The new boys will get their chance but they need to earn the shirt first. We get all uptight when other fans accuse us of ‘doing a Fulham’ and even I was worried about doing just that at the beginning of the window, truth is though if we want to avoid that reputation then we need to give the heroes of last season a chance to keep their spot. Let’s not panic, let’s keep the carnival like atmosphere that we had at Villa Park this weekend and take it into Friday’s game. Let’s continue to show the rest of the league what Villa is truly about now and let’s continue to back the boys come hell or high water. Up the Villa!