It’s been a full week for Villa, with friendlies Wednesday and Sunday, and a bit of travel in between. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the game in Minnesota, and as you’ve no doubt read elsewhere, it was a surprisingly lively, raucous, and well-attended outing.

What wouldn’t be surprising to hear is that I encountered a lot of optimism and excitement. The club did a great job engaging with fans via the supporters’ groups, who in turn did a lot of great work pulling things together to make an event of it where all were welcomed with open arms. Deano popped round the HQ at Brit’s Pub for a pint, Christian Purslow did a Q&A there as well, and fans got to see a training session and meet the players. All the attention only served to get everyone even more on board with the new regime than they already were. Especially with Purslow assuring us that the only direction is up, and that we’ll be playing to win. As you’ve all seen, he’s engaging and thoughtful, and he stressed the fact that his number-one priority was making sure Villa are never again in the dire financial straits we found ourselves in last summer.

I didn’t plan on spending two days in the pub and generally on the p*ss, but it turned out that way. Spirits were high, camaraderie was good, and while the optimism is perhaps running a little too hot, all you can say is “why not?”

Minnesota’s new Allianz stadium is lovely, and Villans made their presence felt, giving the home crowd a taste of real football atmosphere. The 3-0 win was a nice way to wrap things up, regardless of what Minnesota had out on the pitch. Given a hot and humid week, Villa’s conditioning work will have been tough but good.

My initial impressions of the new boys have been positive. They seem to be bedding in fairly well, and there was a lot less of that “well, they haven’t played much together” look than I might have expected. A basic grounding has clearly been covered in training, and the important thing is that it seems like the additions actually do fit into the way Smith wants to play. There’s speed, quality on the ball, and good awareness. Despite the mix-and-match XIs deployed in each half both in Minnesota and at Shrewsbury, there’s as much cohesiveness as you could reasonably expect. We’ve also seen a few sloppy periods and missed connections, but overall, I think there’s a team in there that can come together over the next three weeks.

In contrast to Minnesota, Villa got a much feistier opponent in Shrewsbury, which is never bad. The Shrews came to play, and exerted a physicality and pressure to help get the attention of newcomers to football in England. For me, it didn’t quite look to be the kind of game Villa wanted to be having (as I’m sure there was still a bit of jet lag and the sinking in of real conditioning), but everyone settled in and got on with it. Nothing spectacular, but more minutes against motivated opponents.

Obviously it’ll be good to get the Trezeguet and Luiz business sorted as soon as possible, and I really hope Maupay or someone like him is still on the cards. Keeper? Well, don’t know that Steer did himself any favors Sunday, and since we seem to want one and it seems like Kalinic doesn’t have a future, you’d want to see that happen pretty quickly, as well.

Anyway, that’s where we’re at. Hard to believe the season kicks off in three weeks, but it does. I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far, but given two of our four goals have been scored by midfielders with uncertain futures, I’d really like to see the attacking set-up gain more edge. Along the same lines, I would think that means we’ll start to see more of what Smith sees as his starting XI coming up. Two more games come quickly before the last warmup against Leipzig, so perhaps we’ll still get a mix-and-match against Walsall, but we’re going to need to start dialing things in here.

Over to you.

Comments 67

  1. Another excellent leader JC,

    which sums up my feelings so far, about how things are going.

    I am sure that we are going to need most of our squad now, and we do not want to be letting players go, before we have got a fully bedded in squad, as already we have players dropping out through injury, although more precautionary, than serious, I suspect.

    Was impressed with Chester, and feel he should remain a Villa player for a little longer. Maybe for this first season back in the Premiership, we should look more at loaning players, rather than selling them.

  2. Maupay reportedly on strike…why aren’t we moving for him!?

    Perfect foil for Wesley.

    Thinking about luiz playing in the crucial cdm role. 21 and didn’t have a lot of minutes on loan….gamble. Linked to another mid nakamba who is alson on strike.

    Butland & Maupay an absolute must for me after trezuguet and luiz. In a perfect world nakamaba and a winger too but prob not

  3. I loved the look of guilbert against the shrews. bombed forward. Jota looks a very classy player. Could be a absolute bargain. Wesley showed some great touches and a great set up play for Hogans goal. Konsa looks a axel mark 2. classy.

    If we can get butland and maupay over the line id be very excited. Hope we don’t leave ourselves short

  4. PP,

    Cheers…Yeah, watching Chester, I’d almost forgotten how well he reads the game and how assured he can be. Don’t know if he’s up to it physically, but the right kind of player to have around the team.

    And depth. Depth is so important, as you say.

  5. H&V…

    Thought it was Nakamba on strike/AWOL. Maupay had apparently been sent home to sort his head out amidst the speculation.

    Obviously lots of people talking about Marvelous not showing up. Unless there are ‘extraordinary’ circumstances, I’m not sure that’s the kind of player Dean wants.

    Guilbert had a rude introduction yesterday, but found his feet. Think he was surprised he couldn’t just run through the gears at will against the Shrews. Jota is talented and looking to score, and Konsa, well Smith’s obviously a big believer. Wesley’s touch for Hogan was superb, and he looks to have better feet and strength than Tammy.

    So, yeah, I think Maupay, Butland/Heaton will likely come in. Not sure how much of a risk Luiz is. He’ll take a little time to acclimate, that’s almost a certainty. But there seems to be no doubt about his ability, and he should be very motivated.

  6. think maupay is the same thing…he has been left out of threre pre season plancs now. Get it done!! Nakumba does look decent to be fair. Reminds me of Kante, bags of energy and dynaic.

  7. Thanks JC, Think it will take a while for the team to settle and find how to best service Wes. He won’t be stood waiting for crosses players need to hit the areas he prefers and leave him to get on it which he’s quite good at. Matter of reading his game a bit better. If we don’t then he’ll end up an expensive hold up man which he is also adept at and is very unselfish with his thinking.

    Really hoping Luis and Trez are as good as they look they will make a huge difference and I can see a quick ball up to wes and laid off to Trez becoming a thing this season, at least in my head.

  8. Thanks JC,
    I still see gaps & a slight imbalance in the squad which would not be helpful in the EPL/
    Nakamba? Reading the reports, maybe he’s a little too delicate for us, & mercurial is all well & good, but it can go both ways.
    Prematurely Nakamba could end up with egg on his face.

    I’m waiting to see the whites of their eyes before getting too excited.

  9. I also saw what the play is like without El Ghazi, so we really need another class winger.
    If O’Hare is not loaned out, he would benefit from being in the Ist Team squad with a strengthening regime, as our facilities are much better.
    Maybe he needs to get a boney arse like McGinn

  10. welcome trez. at the expense of benrhama though 🙁

    BUT overall deep down you have to love the new regime. 30mill for Phillips.. no thanks we go to plan b luiz 15.

    We aint going to be mugs anymore and overspend which has to be applauded. However much I love benrahama!

  11. JC – Can we say much about Villa’s prospect yet?

    Sam Allardyce has already given his response. He thinks we’ve made far too many changes and questions the quality of player being purchased when the money is spread thinly across the team. Well obviously Big Sam has no idea of the mess left behind by Dr X and Spud. So it just remains for Deano and the players to shove those words back down his throat.

  12. JW – Spud put a 3.5 million quid buy out clause in his contract with Sheff Weds. That’s how much loyalty he had for them. The Wai Ayes have given him a 3 year contract!! What fools. Ashley doesn’t care as he’s leaving the pay off problem to a new owner.

  13. Plug,

    True enough. I can understand the broad take, but I think they’ve been good buys overall, and like you say, all necessary. We’ve kept what we could, the rest were either not PL quality or too old. Holding on to them wouldn’t have done us any good. We’d be criticized for that, as well.

  14. It really is unreal…the competition for places is going to be really robust.

    A bit surprised about going through with the Marvelous deal after he went on ‘strike’, but maybe there’s more to that story. Could be the club were branding him AWOL for public consumption. Who knows, but seems like Dean isn’t worried.

  15. Welcome to the Villa family Douglas. Can’t wait to see you on the turf at VP.

    This is the jigsaw piece I’ve been waiting for. I’m stoked. Hope he doesn’t disappoint but I’m sure Deano would not have signed him if there was much chance of that.

  16. Jota looked lively last night. I know Walsall are only League 2 but…… was less than a year ago we were at Yeovil……and struggled.

  17. JC – I’m surprised too about the news today concerning Marvelous. His attributes on the field must outweigh his poor behaviour of it.

  18. I was at the game last night, and apart from a great display from Wesley Moraes, once again, Henri Lansbury was the stand out player, and I am sure he is going to figure in Dean’s plans. Hourihane was ok, and Jack put himself about and scored a good goal. Even Green hit the bar.

    However what was interesting was that Dean aloud his first 11 to play 70 minutes, and the only real standout of the subs was Bjarnason again, with RHM showing some moderate flashes, but McGinn again was hardly involved.

  19. I like the football I’m seeing with this team . I like the atmosphere around the club and I like the no bulls**t approach of Dean Smith. Dunno how they will fare in the pl but I’m optimistic they will do well and I’m sure it will be exciting. Yes, our weaknesses will be exposed but so will every other teams.
    Can’t wait for it to kick off!

  20. It’s like waiting on Santa at Xmas all over again,even if only half players are a success, need one of them player pictures chart to know what they look like,roll on spurs

  21. PP- agree on lansbury looks class while Mcginn looks busy but ineffective. when he plays the ball forward it is often a looping pass not the accurate type that Jota, Grealish and wes thrived off. He worked hard and I’m sure he is feeling the pressure, there is going to be a lot of competition and unbelievable amount this season. That said when you are the one trying to cope with the poorer half of the team its not so easy.

  22. we had a friendly against the Kuwait national team yesterday. The guys that’s finished the Walsall game started and the others came on after 70….getting 90 mins in there legs.

    Lansbury and conor good back up to mcguin and jack

  23. Luiz interview was great. So mature for 21 years. I hope we don’t sign Marvelous. Heaton and a striker will do.

    I hope Lansbury does well, but if a fly hits him he’s out for 2 months

  24. H&V,

    Don’t think Hourihane and McGinn have the same vision, and eye for a pass that JG and Lansbury have, which is why I think that Lansbury has featured more. His ability to spray 30 yard passes accurately has been outstanding in pre season, and he is much quicker, with him and Jack striking an excellent partnership.
    McGinn may feature more in the next couple of games, but we will have to wait and see. Whatever players achieved in the Championship has no relevance now. This is a new team in a new league.

  25. I cant belive the doubt in Mcguin! The man is goals and assists and will run non stop. Lansbury is great on the ball with time, looking good spraying it around but work ethic for a mid a concern.

  26. Heroes, I have no doubt whatsoever about SJM. On a schitty night in Burnley or Sheffield he is just the warrior we’ll need.

    For me, it’s up to the others to try and dislodge him from the starting line up. And the best of luck trying.

  27. HMV – Are you talking about Roger McGuin, cos he’s a tad ancient, but Great.

    Plug – I take it the S is for SIR John McGinn, as I have never seen the initial used, could you clear this up for me?
    Agree about winter nights in Burnley, but Sheffield has more class as well as more snow.

  28. Looking very much like McGinn will have to earn his place to me, with Two DM lined up that means conor, Jack, lansbury and even Jota are vying for two places. That might even be 1 if we go 4231 with two DM’s against the top sides. One things that very clear so far is we are playing down and through the middle way more with crosses from the FB’s being from a wide position. When Trez is up to speed its going to be a formidable attacking side on paper.

  29. I also can’t wait for the new season to start.
    Mind you the signings haven’t finished yet, so the squad isn’t complete, but so far it is encouraging as the new players appear to have bought into the club’s ethos.
    I’m also intrigued with what part Lansbury will play, as he has shown to be very skillfull & fit & committed, as PP indicated.
    There’s a lot of wait & see to come yet until the picture clears.
    Looking forward to the Charlton game also.

  30. Leicester have signed Mitch Clark, I hope it doesn’t turn out to be another Albrighton.

    And Lydon has gone to Swindon.
    I wish him well. as injury robbed him of his chance, & then when he got fit the chance had gone.
    Another might have been,

    And Boateng has returned as a Youth Coach.

  31. We now have so many new signings that Dean can play with 5 CB’s and 5 Mids, plus a goalkeeper, and confuse the opposition so much, they will not know who is defending, who is attacking, and who has got the ball, who do they mark, meanwhile a CB scores , and it starts from a mid fielders tackle on his goal line passing out to a centre back…..!!!!

  32. PP- It appears that every team member is attacking and defending as it should be. Targeting players comfortable on the ball regardless of the position and capable of chance creation should really be common sense but it really hasn’t been with players having a set role.

    Smith does buy players for a set position rather than someone that can fill in but at the same time they have the freedom to play, and they train in their team mates positions in training to get a better idea of their requirements from them in play.

    IanG- yes I wish the graduates all the best too, shame for some of them that the champs period wasn’t used to best effect for them. Puzzled as to why Clark was dropped though. At the end of the day Villa could of given contracts and tried to squeeze a few bob from them rather than on frees but thats also kind of sporting of us. Would like to see a buy back clause like Man city use inserted in future.

  33. I wish all the young lads that get let go by any club the best, it’s not their fault. Would have been great to see Mitch make it here, but what can you do. How much chance do o’Hare, Doyle-Hayes and RHM have? Little to no chance this year, they have to go out on loan

  34. Great comments and observations as per. It’s been fascinating so far, and as everyone knows, we’ve not seen the finished squad, and may not yet for a little while.

    Been working on getting something up prior to Charlton, but it’s not going to happen, so I’ll watch and learn, and get something up shortly thereafter.

    A bit more mix and match today:

    Steer, Elmohamady, Konsa, Mings, Taylor, Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish, El Ghazi, Trezeguet, Davis.

    Subs: Kalinic, Hause, Bree, Guilbert, Engels, Targett, Lansbury, Jota, Green, Hogan.

  35. Coverage stopped! Grealish looks terrible so far, got caught dreaming on the ball twice. El Ghazi is quality. 9 of the championship team starting! Davis also looks quality, probably best player on the pitch so far

  36. Not a bad outing…fizzled out a bit (and the technical issues were truly unfortunate), but different players, same system throughout, nice continuity. Not what Charlton would’ve wanted with the season starting for them next week.

  37. That’s why mcguinesta starts. Superb and what a second goal.

    We are playing some great footy. Clear style. Not been this excited since big rons days.

    Praying for a perfect end to the window. Gk, st and winger.

    All areas covered then

  38. Jota is going to bring the best out of grealish. And guilbert looks like he could be a bargain.

    Targett looks steady but the difference to Taylor is he is more dynamic and gets forward. Taylor does everything in slow motion. Didn’t do anything wrong and was actually ok today but he plays it safe too much.

  39. Villa md

    I love Davis so much. My ideal striker is someone who makes the ball stick. He is great at it and lovely left foot and awareness to give a good ball. I’d sell kodger and hogan and sign Maupay and keep Davis as 3rd st.

  40. The Addicks ran, chased and pressed relentlessly. They displayed all the attributes required for the Championship. And they got battered.

    Compass have not funded a team for survival. They are aiming much higher. Bring on the new season. We have goals in us with the set up established by Deano and co.

  41. my thoughts although slightly p*ssed are that a very tired looking Villa side ran rings around Charlton. Its not very often in pre-season or even in season you can say that. The majority of our goals are well worked and am I right in saying not one headed goal yet? This lot can only improve, If we were in the Champs I’d be putting my house on us winning the league. Long way to go yet but boy we look good on the eye.

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