Welcome back to Aston Villa in the Premier League. Villa have three points on the board, a backlog of losses and a single win to their name.
In other words, it’s time to start standing up and being counted.
The story so far
Villa wuz robbed. A late decision by a referee cost Villa a goal against Crystal Palace last time out. Villa should be on four points, but alas, they are not - they only have three. A single point probably won’t make much of a difference for Villa, or at least we can hope that it won’t.
The truth is, the refereeing decision that turned the tables on Villa might provide anger - anger that Aston Villa might hope galvanise. There’s nothing like an ‘us against them’ mentality in football, and while it can be falsely created - Villa should be rightly lashing out, and ensuring that they can turn the tides of a game themselves.
It’d be a stark difference to the 2015/2016 Aston Villa team - which decided to feel sorry for itself far too early. You cannot let these things slip, otherwise you’ll become the doormat of the league; that means relegation, and not a pretty one either.
Aston Villa will now face West Ham United, and should be buoyed by a ferocious home support once more.
Who are ya?
There is a certain romanticism in West Ham United - such that a producer and a writer can create a film about a spindly-wristed Elijah Wood ditching the Fellowship, Sam and the One Ring for the mean streets of Newham to play at football hooligan. Green Street this ain’t.
Still, the Hammers have managed to capture the imagination via - yuck - their branding. Proper old English team ain’t it? Slap the Union Jack on the third kit. Drop Mark Noble into the pub for the kit release. There’s a mysticism about the club, and symbolism lays thick like treacle. Knowing their boardroom - it’s probably meant to be like that, because nostalgia and symbols sell.
After a few years of fractious performances, West Ham seem to be on the up-and-up, and that’s all because of Manuel Pellegrini. The semi-legendary manager is creating a West Ham that can play with style - and one that has a decent talent pool. This season’s West Ham will be eyeing European football.
Their only loss comes from a thrashing by Manchester City (no shame in that) on opening day - and West Ham have been picking up the points ever since.
Manuel Pellegrini, like Roy Hodgson, is one of the Premier League’s elder statesmen. The former Real Madrid and Manchester City boss - a Premier League Champion - is now in his second year at The Hammers. He’s certainly the right man for the job - especially after the blood and thunder of Slaven Bilic. West Ham United find themselves in-between the meta of the Premier League. They aren’t relegation contenders, and they aren’t top-four contenders, thus they will be aiming to be the best of the rest. Pellegrini fits nicely into that category, and is possibly the best manager West Ham could’ve hoped to have hired.
Brainy, adaptable and tenacious - Pellegrini has a pedigree in the game and holds banks of knowledge to tap into. The Chilean will deploy a well-drilled and entertaining team, without the branding, and mainstream recognition, of his peers.
One to watch
Three games, three goals. New signing Sebastien Haller is proving to be a real menace for West Ham United in the opening stages of this new Premier League season.
A complete forward, not many teams have been capable of stopping Haller’s threat. Capable in the air and on the ground, Haller is the template forward that most teams are looking for.
What about the Villa?
Villa will be looking for a point - at the very least. A loss might be ‘okay’ with the fanbase, but Dean Smith won’t be able to accept nothing less than a hard-fought draw at Villa Park.
A home game presents Aston Villa with a winning opportunity. There is quality in this Villa side and Villa Park proved it’s use against Everton when the ‘12th man’ came to town. The atmosphere on that night won the game. Villa must go into these prime-time home fixtures aiming for the win. They can beat West Ham.
However, they will need to show a lot more than the display against Crystal Palace. They were man-handled by Palace’s midfield, and only the wits of Jack Grealish and Henri Lansbury kept the game alive. Declan Rice and Mark Noble will provide the perfect test for Villa - and they need to showcase some improvements against physical and capable midfielders.
With Norwich succeeding and Watford fighting back against Arsenal, it’s still unknown as to where Villa fit in this season’s league. If the results mentioned are outliers, then Villa will probably be fine - if they aren’t, then Villa need to sort themselves out, and quick.
Topsy-turvy performances on the wings won’t help - and with Trezeguet serving a ban, Anwar El Ghazi will come in with opportunity lying before him. Villa’s wingers need to start producing.
Apart from the enforced wing change, Villa will probably deploy a pretty-much unchanged XI against West Ham. Douglas Luiz probably needs to be benched though, for cutting the best trim in the league - and for having himself on his phone case.
Desculpas meus amores ♂️ pic.twitter.com/mCITU28NGG— Douglas Luiz (@dg_douglasluiz) September 14, 2019
Let’s be honest - it’s powerful.
Again, it’ll be tough for Villa - but they are at home and under the lights.
Two-one to the boys in Claret and Blue - the good ones.