God how I love the international break. Oh how I enjoy watching some of our most important players jetting halfway across the world for a game that means nothing to me, especially when the player hasn’t played for us for weeks due to injury, yet somehow it seems fine to stick them on a plane and try and get a game out of them.
However what it does do is give me time to watch some lower league football, reflect on our season so far, and think about doing some of the stuff I should do whilst not being obsessed with football.
All that really happens is that I get bored of lower league football, get in to arguments about miniscule details of the team, and I don’t actually do the stuff I should be doing.
I have thus decided to spend my time I could have wasted on the above writing this article instead.
So where to start? Who’d have guessed we would have won the games we have so far, or even the points we’ve managed to accrue?
Let’s be frank, even the most diehard optimists amongst us never had us on this many points after 7 games. Wins against Arsenal and Manchester City, being oh-so-close to getting points against Chelsea and Liverpool, a disappointing result and performance against Newcastle, and much of a muchness, but four points taken, against Hull and Norwich.
We’ve managed to achieve all this and our strike line hasn’t really got firing on all cylinders yet. Andreas Weimann has looked clumsy in possession, Gabby Agbonlahor has been carrying an injury, and Christian Benteke was still scoring but not really being the menace he was before he got injured.
Matt Lowton and Ashley Westwood, our stalwarts of last season, have struggled for form and have looked off pace, but will be back and all the better for it.
Jores Okore getting a horrible injury and being out for the season is another big blow after a tentative but promising start.
Have Villa played well yet? The results say yes, but the eyes say no. What we have done is stuck together, worked incredibly hard and never let our heads drop.
I am looking at this situation and thinking that to win ugly is a fantastic attribute, but there is clearly more to come from this team play wise. The football we played toward the end of last season says as much. Our performance and form hasn’t peaked – all the stats show that – but the teams’ character has seen us come through a horrible patch of games with some very good results. Ignore all the stats in those games – the only statistic that counts appears in the top left of the screen. You know, the score line.
We have had a bumpy, bumpy start, yet for all of this we have still been able to come out of it will a respectable return.
Paul Lambert has juggled his teams, he has given Yacouba Sylla, Alexsandr Tonev and Leandro Bacuna a chance to stake a claim in the team. All have shown potential.
Bacuna has really began to step up, but it is a long season.
Who is to say Tonev won’t find his range and have a really impressive second half of the season? Yes, he has been wayward and wasteful, but one thing he does do is drift between the lines, finding time and space, something we’ve needed from our midfielders.
And who is to say that a change of formation may result in Nicklas Helenius coming in after appearing to struggle initially with the pace of the league and show the clinical touch he demonstrated at his previous club? Could Kovak and Benteke strike up and powerful attacking partnership?
There are options and improvements to come over the season, but what is positive is that we have got what we’ve got.
Let’s not get carried away, but we have a lot to be positive about and look forward to. We have not been great so far, but the points on the board suggest a better season ahead and, fingers crossed, if last season is anything to go by, a strong second half to the season. That means it could see us not only pulling away from the relegation scrap, but potentially putting the scares on a few of the teams aiming for the Europa spots. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but playing badly and winning is a trait of a good team.
The most important thing we can do though is back the lads on the pitch. Give them all the more reason to run the extra mile, to keep trying and never let their heads drop. As the City game showed, we could have gone into our shells, but this team don’t know when they’re beaten, and a great atmosphere at Villa Park can only help that attitude.
The only problem is this article is written during the international break so I’ve now inadvertently tempted fate. Queue crutches for our internationals. Oops.
Whatever happens during the break though, we can go into the Tottenham Hotspur game, refreshed and full of confidence. They [Spurs] will have been jetting back from all over the world, and I really do feel the way Spurs will set up will play right in to our hands. If Benteke is back, I’m sure he will want to show Daniel Levy why he is worth more than Roberto Soldado and repay some of the vile abuse he received online from Spurs fans after he signed that new deal at Villa. Another 3-2 anyone?
There are lots of twists and turns ahead, of that we can be sure, but at least we know when we watch the Villa now that the commitment is there – we enter games to try and win and there is no one not pulling their weight, something that can only improve the team.
As Villans, let’s embrace that and encourage the team to grow – the future is bright.