It all sort of hit me as I updated the banner, typing in Tottenham Hotspur instead of Rotherham. We’re finally back. And today is the day it all kicks off. And once again, here are the clubs I’d missed playing each week and tried to ignore the last three years. No knock on Leeds or Forest. Derby. Definitely a knock on small heath.

Anyway, here we are, and as I watched Norwich fall to Liverpool, I wondered afresh what the season will hold. Not that Norwich didn’t have some good moments and threat. But it all looks a bit different when you’re playing the European champions at Anfield rather than running away with the Championship on a Tuesday night in Brentford.

Villa? Well, everyone’s had their say through the window, and I’d be remiss not to thank Compass for their backing over the summer. For saving the club. For writing a check and seeing off Dr. Tony, and finally putting the ghost of Randy Lerner to bed.

For my part, I’d meant to freshen up the graphics for our return to the big stage. But while Villa were busy rebuilding, I was busy clicking down every possible transfer link and doing a lot of travel for work. So we’ll see if we just stand pat on that. Might be better luck.

So much to say, but we’ve read it all, said it all. Watched the videos, had our own celebrations and reflections.

Right now, the important thing is that the season won’t be won or lost tonight. While I don’t think Spurs are the second-best team in Europe, they are the current Champions League runner-up, so they’re not half bad. Opening against them in the very shiny new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (which just doesn’t have quite the ring of White Hart Lane), well, it’s straight under the spotlights for Villa.

And that’s going to be the measuring stick, how Villa step back onto to the stage. Be wonderful to get something, and I know Dean will have been working the team all week with that in mind, but really it will be about the performance and character. Points will be a bonus. Which isn’t to say I don’t think we can come away with something. But it’s all going to be a bit faster, and every player in the other shirt is going to be of that much higher quality than we’ve been used to. While no one’s really sure what lineup we’re going to see, we know Poch’s a good manager who’s been in place for a while, and we know he’s got a lot of talent to work with.

Will Villa come out guns blazing? We will be a bit cagey? Will we be able to play our way, or will we be forced to react and adapt to Spurs? All stuff that we’ll soon see. While some might’ve thought Mauricio was starting in with the mind games in his prematch comments…Well, I dunno. I suppose he probably was. Suppose there was some other context there, as well. But Dean, ROK, and JT, well, they’re not going to be intimidated, and they’re going to have done all they can to prepare the side and keep their focus.

You never know what’s going to happen, of course. But fortunately our last match that counted was on a big stage for all the marbles, and the semifinal was obviously a very high-intensity, high-stakes pair of games, as well. So key players like Jack, John, Tyrone and Anwar and Conor have felt some of that pressure and come through. Now there’s Heaton behind them, which ought to make a difference.

The main thing is for Villa to find their feet in the match. Keep it under control, don’t get carved open time after time, take a chance if it’s there early. But mainly not to lose their heads and shape by being too up or too anxious. That might sound a bit pessimistic, and could be entirely off-base, but I really do think it’s about getting a feel for Spurs, stopping them from getting an early goal and a head of steam. Villa need to stay within themselves, follow the plan, and not be dazzled, basically. Then it will all just be a game of football and the advantage goes to them.

For the lineup, I think the only questions are whether Trezeguet starts instead of El Ghazi, and does Nakamba get his debut? I know a lot of folks would like to see Marvelous in there from the start, and I’m pretty sure he’s fit for purpose in a game like this. But Deano might very well opt for continuity and familiarity given Nakamba hasn’t really kicked a ball in anger with the other 9 yet.

Smith will have us coming to play, regardless, and they’ll be prepared. If it’s a rough day, it will only get them working harder. Hoping Jack rises to the occasion…He’s wanting that England call-up and to show Spurs he’d have made them better. He’ll also be getting a lot of attention. He’s used to that, hopefully he can make them pay a little by opening things up for others.

So, all to be revealed. Got texts coming in from all over as I try to finish this. Congratulations, well-wishes, should I place a bet on Villa to draw? I honestly don’t know. But I do know I’m glad we’re back where we belong, and I’ll be fascinated to see how it plays out. All we need to do today is look like we belong. If we do, the rest will take care of itself.

Over to you.

Comments 51

  1. Team: Heaton, Taylor, Elmohamady, Mings, Engels, Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish, El Ghazi, Trezeguet, Wesley.

    Subs: Steer, Luiz, Lansbury, Konsa, Targett, Jota, Kodjia.

  2. All that money and we have two full-backs who are proven to be not premiership quality.

    I don’t understand the decision not to buy another striker.

    I fear for the worst and hope for the best.

  3. Trez has done well, I think they all have, really. Taylor and Elmo are what they are, but Villa are happy to let them have it wide so far, happy to stay compact, keep them playing through the middle.

    Have to remember, very dangerous side, largely kept them in check at home, handled the pressure pretty well.

  4. For me Elmo has been ok, & Taylor, to be fair is having one of his better days, which is not world beating.
    But SJM, well what can you say.
    The spuds are dirty.
    I don’t think a lot of the ref either.
    We also had more goals on target + WE’RE I-0 IN FRONT

  5. Wasn’t an unfair scoreline, no PW. But like I say, I think the side will adapt, and Dean will, too.

    Players thought they’d have longer on the ball, is mainly what I saw, and Spurs were relentless closing down, regaining possession. Quality throughout, very few errant passes, etc.

    Won’t be like this every week by any means.

  6. Heaton, Engels, Mings, McGinn, Grealish, too…Mings had a very good game.

    Dean went very conservative with the lineup, strategy worked for a long time, but we didn’t get that time to rest on the ball we’re used to.

    Need more steel in the middle, which is why I think Nakamba and Luiz will make a difference.

  7. Feel very sorry for 9 of our eleven players who did everything they could to win the game, but Wesley looks like our most expensive dud to date. I would have brought Kodija on sooner, and maybe replaced Hourihane sooner with Luiz, but would have preferred to keep trezeguet over Jota.

    Unfortunately, captain Jack grealish cost us dearly today, when he failed to pass to trezeguet first time, for what would have been a certain goal, and then trying to dribble out of his own area , instead of moving the ball on.

  8. Not the game we were expecting. Really hadn’t expected us to sit back after scoring but it was good to see how solid we were for 70 minutes.
    Very impressed with Engels, and Mings looked worth what we paid for him.
    Disappointed that Wesley showed his frustration. . . . his body language was awful but this was always going to be a really tough opening game for him; being isolated up front. You can bet that’s not what he was expecting and hopefully it will be different in games to come!
    Jack will be rightfully furious with himself but let’s hope he doesn’t dwell on it. He needs to show a captains character and put the c**k-up behind him for the next game.

  9. PW comment about Bournemouth and Everton is spot on . . . . those are the games which will show whether we can a) survive and b) do a bit better than that!

  10. Paul Whiting – not a single comment from you in over two weeks and then, after a very tough first game back in the PL, you come up with FIFTEEN negative comments inside two hours! That is simply not being a supporter.

  11. Turn it in pal – I’m not any kind of ‘happy clapper’ (you might have noticed I rarely comment on here, prefer to keep my own counsel & read others comments) and only a fraction of what you’ve said could pass as the ‘truth’. The next few games will show where we’re at and somehow I’ve got a feeling we won’t be hearing much more from you!

  12. Too nervous to watch the game and spent the time in the Surrey Quays Wetherspoons with Millwall fans who were trying to make the best of drawing at the Baggies…
    They got quite excited with me for a while…
    Nothing to worry about… Gave the European Cup finalists a bit of a scare…
    We’re the real deal!! We’re where we belong. We invented it!!!!

  13. r0bb0,

    “Disappointed that Wesley showed his frustration. . . . his body language was awful but this was always going to be a really tough opening game for him”

    Agreed. He’s definitely got the most to learn, and it won’t be easy. We’ll see what kind of character he’s got.

  14. JC Dean Smith doesn’t like his players showing frustration so he’ll need to learn quickly.
    Wesley will get much better service and be more involved in games to come so hopefully he’ll then start to show the qualities that the club saw in him.

  15. r0bb0
    I don’t think that we sat back deliberately, but with the pressure they absolutely ran themselves into the ground, which contributed to the last 2 goals.
    Out of pressure come mistakes.
    The spuds just manipulated the space better than we did, & pressed better.
    But it was when Ericson came on when we were knackered to the point of making silly mistakes, that led to the last 2 goals.

    Other than that, the players new to the EPL now know the differences in the tempo in the play, which affected everything, especially when to exert energy.

    It is an understanding that can only come through experience, where they are all learning as a team.
    The same goes for Norwich, but with SU, I’d be a little more concerned, but they know their limitations.
    Also the subs may have come on a little too late, when the cohesion had gone,

    I certainly don’t think the reality is as bad as PW is saying, as we lost to the losing champions league finalist, as Norwich did to the winner.
    But I agree that we really need a CF, & another winger if I’m being greedy, but maybe in January.
    As far as Wesley is concerned, it’s a little too early to bury him, as he is never a lone forward, but he must not have been training just to be left to be stranded & outnumbered, with hopeful service mostly.
    He will toughen up or disappear.

Leave a Reply