Villa grabbed their first points of the season last weekend after upsetting the cart and shocking Everton. With 3 points on the board, Villa head down to London to seal another victory before the international break.
The story so far
Jubilation heated the night sky. Lashings of Neil Diamond drowned out the hum of midsummer and chants tore at the ear drum. A late Anwar El Ghazi goal had guaranteed Villa’s first victory of the season after Wesley Moraes opened the scoring. Two goals, and Everton boss Marco Silva left with a sour feeling in his mouth - possibly the taste of Villa.
With one win under their belts gained under Friday night lights, a rotated Villa side headed to Crewe and thumped the Railwaymen to the tune of a six-one cup bashing. Villa will now enter the third round of the League Cup and may even have one eye on the chance for silverware. You never know.
Next up are Crystal Palace, fresh from bursting the Manchester United bubble with a surprise 2-1 victory. Roy Hodgson’s team endured a cup knockout midweek, and will now prepare for their next league game.
Both teams, fueled by optimism and promise, will be looking to test their mettle.
Who are ya?
Crystal Palace; the name heralds a bygone era of England. Much like Villa, the name is unique, however, that’s not the only thing going for them. After bouncing back from lopsided yo-yo status and financial issues, Palace have established themselves as Premier League stalwarts and will be looking to cement that status once more this season.
Beating teams like Manchester United is a hell of a way to do that - and Palace haven’t stopped there. Their counter-attack has caught out the ‘top’ six, and makes Roy Hodgson’s side the last team to have visited the Etihad and claimed victory against Manchester City - oh, and at Liverpool and Arsenal too. That’s no joke. Palace can turn over teams - it’s just at home where the troubles can come home to roost - at an often ferocious Selhurst Park.
With a counter-attack led by Wilfried Zaha, Jordan Ayew and Jeffrey Schlupp, Palace can dazzle teams on the break. With the added force of Christian Benteke, they can also do the damage. The focus, though, should be on the midfield might provided by James McArthur,Luka Milivojevic, and Cheikhou Kouyaté. It’s not about what Palace can do with the ball - but how they can win it and create quick moves to bamboozle the defence and create short, sharp and sweet openings. Crystal Palace’s defence isn’t a joke - either. Gary Cahill and Martin Kelly are adept, and there is an attack to fear from the full-backs.
Aside from the counter, there isn't that much going on. Palace lack a threat up front through normal play - and nobody is firing in goals on a consistent enough basis. One of their strikers needs to step up this season and give the front three an edge - otherwise it may as well be the wingers and a bag of sand in the middle.
As long as Palace can hold-out, they will be a danger to most teams. The key? Scoring early, scoring quick and forcing Palace to move onto the front-foot.
Hodgson truly embodies the subheading. The gaffer of Crystal Palace has been around the block a few times, is one of Europe’s more refined managers and has plenty of cultured experience to rely on. What’s more Roy Hodgson wouldn’t be totally out of place in a Guy Ritchie film (before 2010, anyway - we won’t talk about what comes after). Proper Palace? Maybe.
A rough spell at Liverpool, and England, hit his reputation - but he has done a very decent job in South London. Crystal Palace were a shipwreck under Frank De Boer, and the feeling from the outside looking in is one of optimism. The tides are turning.
Hodgson knows football well, he knows the limits of his Palace team - but more importantly, he knows the limits of the opposition well. Big teams have played right into his hands on so many occasions.
One to watch
Crystal Palace made a massive statement this summer by holding onto Wilfried Zaha. The Eagles graduate made his intentions clear, and the offers came in - but he’s still Palace. For now.
It’s been a tricky path to the top for Zaha, but he is the closest thing to an elite wing talent at Crystal Palace. He scores goals, he shoots, he wins fouls, he undoes defences, he leads the counter and he makes fools out of good full-backs. Zaha helps you win games - and players fear him.
What about the Villa?
A first win of the season in their last Premier League outing has brought optimism - and relief - back to Villa Park. Villa defended well - and were also handed quite a bit of luck as Everton fluffed their lines when afforded scoring opportunities.
Villa’s next test will be against Crystal Palace, a team that will chomping at the bit for another slice of success following a shock win against Manchester United - their first at Old Trafford since the eighties.
There are still questions hanging over this Villa side, but they are positive. Will any of the midweek cup heroes see action? Both Keinan Davis and Marvelous Nakamba enjoyed stand-out games against Crewe Alexandra, while Conor Hourihane and Henri Lansbury also impressed.
Villa will still question their energy on the wings. While Frederic Guilbert has claimed the right-back position, Neil Taylor has emerged as the default left-back. At the top, Trezeguet will likely start - again - by default. Jota has earned a shot on the right as well - but with a goal in his last league game, Anwar El Ghazi will be itching for a return to starting action.
Here comes the boring part - the midfield isn’t changing, not yet. John McGinn, Douglas Luiz and Jack Grealish will keep their positions. However, Henri Lansbury, Conor Hourihane and Marvelous Nakamba aren’t just knocking on the door - a display at Crewe Alexandra has given the confidence to kick it in. Villa are rich in midfield and anybody who drops out of the starting trio will find it difficult to get back in - no matter their name.
Keinan Davis showed his might and mettle - as did Wesley - and both will be able to contruibute going forward. Villa could do with another striker who can offer other skills - but Davis and Wesley, as well as Jonathan Kodjia can do the role justice until January.
It’ll be tough for Villa - but they have proven their credentials. Expect a positive and well-fought draw.