Welcome back to the Premier League, sunshine.
The story so far
You know the drill. Villa fell off the wagon. Jack came back. Tyrone stepped up. Jed saved and Conor hit the ball as hard as he could. On the seventh day God created John and Anwar and they delivered the holy land.
Villa are a Premier League team once more - and first up is Tottenham Hotspur - an initial duel of the fates that will see Villa wrapped up in a tangle with the team that they should be.
Turn on the taps of envy and let flood.
Big stadium, big games, big boss and big players. Tottenham are class - and they roared to life at the exact time Villa faded and died. We tried to copy them by bringing in Tactics Tim Sherwood but for all of his charm - we simply collapsed and went away.
Purgatory followed, with the Villa faithful travelling the country. Battering Rotherham, collapsing at Reading, cannibalised by Cardiff, winning over Wolves, beating Birmingham (again, and again, and again). The path eventually led to the Play-Offs, where we fell to Fulham. Then we did a Fulham the next year and beat Derby in the final.
Easy peasy. Almost. Now, we return with Captain Jack Grealish leading us out against the team he should be playing for.
Oh, the narrative is juicy.
Who are ya?
Don’t be rocked by the poor Football Twitter patter. Tottenham are proper. Their owner, Daniel Levy, happens to arguably be the best Director of Football in the game. He handles negotiations and he never seems to lose. Tottenham always get their way in the end - even if the initialobject of their desire never turns up.
They missed out on Grealish last season, but bringing in Lo Celso, Ryan Sessegnon and being involved in a major haggle for Dybala of Juventus shows that they never lose out. Not truly.
Seemingly with ease, Levy has crafted one of the most likeable teams in the Premier League. The shirt is nice, the stadium is nice, the players seem nice (most of them). Everything about Tottenham urges with a weird class. Something I hope Villa can play a part in smashing to pieces. Destroy something beautiful? Yes please!
Spurs are after a league title, and they’ve come so close. Last season saw them defy Ajax to reach a Champions League final - that’s big. Spurs lost that final against Liverpool and are now mocked. Greatness is purchased with victories, but at least earning the shot is something. They’ve got the credentials to compete.
Don’t count these lot out, ever.
‘Poch’ knows his stuff. He knows he doesn’t have a say in club transfers - or bidding or bargaining - but that’s ok. He’s a fantastic coach and a brilliant man-manager and this job is only the tip of the iceberg. He’ll be revered one day, if he isn’t already. His free-flowing style of play lines up well alongside the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City.
A cool customer, Pochettino is desired by Manchester United - and he’ll end up there one day - but not before he cements his legend at Tottenham and he could do that this season. Anything seems possible with him in charge and he’s got plenty of goodwill in reserve at Spurs.
Able to adapt with a back-three, happy to push his entire team up the field. Mauricio Pochettino favours an attractive form of footballing domination. He won't take a loss lightly - and isn't afraid to reconfigure the plan.
One to watch
Son? He’s suspended. Dele? Injured. Harry Kane? Come on, it’s August. Make this one Tanguy. Ndombele, Tottenham’s first ‘superstar purchase’ is legit. He’s came through to the top by sprinting up the hard way. The twenty-two year old was once unwanted and wasted away as an unfit midfielder. Now he’s here, at Tottenham, with the world at his feet and almost walks into this first team as one of the first names on the team sheet. He’s ready to take his chance, and he’ll try to boss Villa from the get-go in the midfield.
What about the Villa?
Anwar El Ghazi is recovering from a knock, so Trezeguet may be called upon to make his league debut in Villa’s return to the Premier League. Jota isn’t losing his place and Wesley is the man to lead the line - for now. Hourihane will start at defensive midfield having picked up the most minutes at the position in pre-season, and Villa’s ‘duel eights’ in McGinn and Grealish will lead Villa’s midfield pack. The defence is a forgone conclusion.
If El Ghazi doesn't miss the match due to injury, James Chester definitely will. He's got a hamstring issue and likely won't feature in August.
For Villa, this really is the match of two people: Mings and Grealish. Grealish now has the chance to demand a place in the England setup thanks to his Premier League status. What’s more, he’s opening up the team that courted him for a move just a year ago. Time to show them what they are missing, Jack.
As for Tyrone Mings - he’s got a right job on his hands with Harry Kane. The centre-forward isn’t renowned for bagging a lot of goals early on, but he’s a creator as well. Despite the 'August Curse' for Kane, he's still a danger and will likely be firing on all cylinders to remove that particular tag. Mings can’t afford to lose out - and he’ll want to justify his transfer fee to the watching world. Go get ‘em, T.
The ‘big six’ might kick lumps out of Villa this season, but if there’s a time to face one of them, it’s on the first day of the season. No team in the league can claim to be the finished article on day one - so this is effectively a ‘free hit’ at Spurs. They won’t be easy - but this is Villa’s best chance to make a statement. Defend well, frustrate in the middle, get lucky and break. It’s not going to be that pretty, but Villa have a chance to win the midfield battle through McGinn and Grealish to engineer a chance while Ndombele finds his feet. Bag one of them and bring it home. With luck, this might be one-nil to the Villa. Dare to dream, folks.