Finally, it’s time for Aston Villa’s season to begin in earnest.
So far in the 2013/14 season, it seems there’s been an international break every other week. It’s been, in a word – annoying. Aston Villa’s season certainly hasn’t developed any flow to it yet. Over three months into the start-stop season and Villa have only played 11 games. The intensity now though, steps up a notch.
The team will play the same amount of games in less than a two-month period by the time we play the Baggies in the return fixture at Villa Park in January.
Six of those games will be against teams in the lower half of the league, a distinct lightening of the schedule that had Villa wading through Top Six team quicksand to get pick up points (relatively successfully) at the start of the season. There’s also tricky tests away at Southampton and Liverpool to prove themselves, while hopefully a stiffening of home resolve will be seen when United and Arsenal come to Villa Park.
So far, the stand-out beacons of consistency in Villa’s personnel have been Ron Vlaar, who as well as being Villa’s top boy statistically, has been ever-present in a defence that has certainly matured and cut out the frequent mistakes (and own goals) of last year. Delph too has been a revelation, with Guzan another pillar of strength in the team.
Four clean sheets in 11 games, after going what seemed an eternity without one, breeds a confidence throughout the team that cannot be underestimated. Adding to Vlaar’s vast improvement, Clark and Baker have certainly learnt from their follies of last year. The addition of Bacuna playing at right-back in the back four seems to also contributed to its added toughness.
While, it’s too early to go over board about Bacuna just yet, his ability from free kicks has certainly added to Villa’s armoury up front. With Benteke looking to get his mojo back after injury and the distraction of international duty, it’s great to have an alternative source of goals.
With the upcoming games coming thick and fast, hopefully both Weimann and Agbonlahor will get their rhyme back and join the goal-scoring party in earnest too. The next month will also give Lambert a proper look at just what he’s got with the possibility of further additions in January.
From late December onwards, we may see Gardner being eased back into the fold and perhaps Albrighton’s last chance to shine, when he returns from his loan spell at Wigan. I could mention Charles N’Zogbia, but lets leave him in the box marked ‘enigma wrapped in a conundrum’. Since the Frenchman was marked up for the bomb squad before his holiday injury, Lambert may just detonate him off in the January transfer window.
I for one I’m glad the internationals break are finally on ice for a while now. Hodgson’s England? Zlatan vs Ronaldo? Sorry, but I’m more interested to find out what kind of Villa team we really have on our hands.
Lets get on with it.