Thoughts and issues regarding the past and present of a great football club by "The Chronicler".

Saturday, 24 August 2019

My Stomach Feels Better Now!

Oh, that's a relief! Points on the board at last.

It was still not an ideal performance from the lads but, importantly, the spirit is there and also quite a lot of skill. It needs simply more time for them all to play together to get the understanding straight.

Wesley still needs better support, but he does work hard and took his goal well. Lovely play by Jota to see the opening, and Jota thoroughly entertained me throughout the first half. He seems to be a better signing than I had previously thought. El Ghazi came on with something to prove, and one rasping shot was bettered by a nicely-taken goal: he proved his point perhaps.

Jack continues to frustrate me. He has quality, without doubt, but is not stamping himself on the game enough, in my view.

But the rest of the team - with Mings outstanding as always - stood their ground pretty well.

Now, with some points on the board, perhaps the Villa will go on to show us what they're really capable of.

I feel positive we'll get something at Palace.


Sunday, 18 August 2019

Needed: A Fully-working Mojo!

Well, if you let the opponent in so early in the match then the game is bound to be difficult - especially when you're trying to find your feet in the PL with so many new players. Their second goal was bizarre, with a shot that went in off the post having taken a huge deflection off Mings' back. In fact, I thought the shot would have gone out but for the deflection.

It was also bizarre that having conceded such late goals at Spurs we start the second match in like vein! Five goals conceded in something like 30 minutes over the two matches!

The Villa's shooting shortcomings of last season were manifest in this match, with not enough shots going in on goal to test the keeper, and Jack still not showing the command that he continually promises to produce but rarely manifests. Two good chances to score for him early in the second half, and one of those should have been taken. If taken then the game could easily have swung heavily in Villa's direction.

I am more disappointed with El Ghazi, though, and I feel that Green should not have been allowed to go out on loan. I think he'd be a better proposition to El Ghazi given the right encouragement. El Ghazi showed up well in the Championship but he's got something to do to get up to scratch at this level.

Otherwise, it's a question of the team settling down, with Luiz and Trezeguet looking to me as being potentially great players once they really get their act together. The big trouble is that once you start having a run of defeats the pressure to win becomes greatly increased. I'd have preferred the third match to be away from home to take off some of the pressure, but Everton at VP it is and so all we can do is hope that all the lessons have been learnt from the two opening matches so that we do not have a hat-trick of 'nil points' matches.

It does occur to me, though, that Wesley needs to work in tandem with another striker. I feel that Davis may just be the man.

It's crazy, though, that having spent a basic £130 millions plus, we're still short of adequate cover in important departments.

In the end all I can say is, "Jack, please get your mojo working to fulfil that promise that keeps promising!"


Tuesday, 13 August 2019

A Top 'C' For Clarity, Conciseness and Commitment

Since last summer, my confidence in the new owners has steadily increased. I think they have gone about their job very well, and Dr. Xia is now, having failed to settle Randy Lerner's final (over-the-top) pay-off, no longer a voice that counts. We must thank Dr. Xia, though, for bringing in what appear to be two very competent new owners.

Thanks partly to one of the new owners, we are developing an Egyptian flavour in the squad, with two Egyptians now on board. And in Trez we seem to have acquired what might well be a match-winner. So Egypt has emerged with more than the structures of the Giza plateau to show off!

But in Dean Smith and the other football management and backroom boys we also seem to have a lot of quality in place.

However, a key signing for me is one who is not a person with a history as a player or football manager or coach, but the man who runs the business of Aston Villa FC on a daily basis - Christian Purslow, the CEO.

In this interview, our CEO shows the enthusiasm that we'd hope for from someone in his position, and also the Clarity, Conciseness and Commitment to earn him a top-rating from me. A top 'C' to you, Christian! It's a pity your name is not Albert, for then I could award a top 'A'!

As I see it, we have in all these gentlemen a quality that is a huge difference to the crew that sat in control at Villa 10 years ago, and who proceeded to guide a great club downhill. 

It is today's men at VP that give me confidence in Villa's ability to succeed - a situation that I have not confidently felt in 40 years. In the setup we now have, I feel that we could go a lot further; not straight away, but soon enough.


Sunday, 11 August 2019

Yes; We're In The Premier League Now, Chaps...!

Before the match I strongly felt that we had the capability of grabbing a point at Spurs, and until the 80th minute, I was pretty well convinced that's what we'd do. Sometimes the Spurs' quality seemed to demand that they'd win, but the Villa's fine defensive organisation (no doubt substantially due to John Terry) remained intact. Until late on.

We unfortunately wilted, and a lot of that was due, sadly, to our midfield, who did not deal with the ball as it should have been and mistakes were made. Most sad of all was that our skipper failed to clear on two occasions and those non-clearances led to two of their goals. Our skipper, clearly, must learn from those situations. As Dean Smith said after the match: "...We’re always learning lessons, today’s game has set a standard for us.” But there's no getting around the fact that the skipper has to set the example; Jack's tendency to dither at times can be fatal at this level.

Although we were only playing half a first-choice Spurs side, today's fixture was probably just the benchmark that Villa needed. But despite that being the case, I did not see enough in El Ghazi and Jota to believe they would thrive at this level. Wesley was mostly on his own, and it would be callous to throw criticism at him, although he, too, will have learnt a lot. I am a bit worried, though, as to whether we have enough punch up front.

Engels, I thought, was magnificent until the last 10 minutes. But, again, I am loathed to throw criticism at him. For most of the time he was simply great, as indeed was Mings, who also showed his constructive abilities in that fine long pass that enabled our goal to be scored. Ably supported by our keeper, of course, who made a couple of great saves.

It's too early to properly assess most of the other Villa players in this match, but I do think we still have a problem at left-back, and Elmo is not consistently the assured defender that we really need at right-back, in my opinion.

The effect of all the new team-building must take awhile yet to settle down, but experience tells us that it's wise to start getting some points on the board pretty quickly. Next week's home game, then, will be an equally big test, but one that we should pass. We need to.

Nevertheless, that was a brave start to the season. We are all disappointed, but not totally dejected.


Monday, 5 August 2019

Big Times A-comin'?

A 100% pre-season winning programme culminated with a win on the ground of a club that finished 3rd in the Bundesliga last term, and that looks to have been the icing on the cake. However, it was mainly down to the work of new keeper Tom Heaton and also Tyrone Mings and his mostly capable crew who prevented Leipzig from taking a second-half lead before Villa took over.

It has to be said that Villa's midfield and attack did not look too effective in a lot of the match (though not lacking in commitment). They seemed to find it very difficult to play their way through the opponents' defence, and it was left to Conor's trusty left boot from free-kicks that gave Villa the boost before McGinn's very late third.

Having said all that, this is a very new team that Dean Smith is trying to put together, with several new players still to make a significant appearance. Though there are positive signs, I feel we must allow a couple of months at least before we can see what kind of progress the squad is really making.

However, let us turn to Brian Little (he who walked on water) who has said (reported in the Express and Star, Aug 2, 2019)...
"I’ve felt it for a period of time now, a real togetherness,” he said. “I have been at this club for a long time now and I have seen three big waves of momentum. The first was 69-70, coming in and seeing the club relegated to the Third Division and 12 years later winning the European Cup.
"I wasn’t here for the Graham Taylor revival in the late 80s but that led into Ron (Atkinson) being successful as a manager, me being successful as a manager and John (Gregory) to being successful.
"That momentum of a team. I do feel it now, genuinely. I think the supporters feel it too. There is a real togetherness. ..."
And he then went on:
“I know a lot of people say if you buy a lot of players it takes time for them to gel. But I honestly think if you do your work properly, you get the type of player you want.
“I’m very comfortable, watching what is going on. It is a challenge, but if you have done your homework you will get the players you want.
“They have picked players for specific roles. It is a structured plan and I think they are executing it very well.”
Dean Smith himself has said that he wanted to keep his core team with the likes of Jack Grealish, John McGinn and Tyrone Mings. And Anwar El Ghazi and Kourtney Hause are no strangers to Villa Park either! So, although so many new purchases have been made, three of those have already been at Villa Park for a good length of time as loanees, and have been well received by the Villa faithful.

With three days remaining before the transfer window closes, one or two more signings can be expected. But these are the purchases to date (click on image to enlarge):

The most alarming aspects of these signings are two-fold:
  1. The sheer number being signed all at once (they amount to more than a complete team);
  2. That only one of these has any significant Premier League experience: keeper Tom Heaton.
In Tom Heaton, the Lancashire media observed about Burnley's exiting goalkeeper:
Heaton's influence and importance was as much off the pitch as on it.
He was captain, a leader in the changing room and someone who shared the vision of Dyche and could translate that to the players.
A modest man, quick to praise others and with a personality that is take home to meet your mother in law material, Heaton has cemented his place as a modern day Turf legend.
What better signing to act as inspiration for an otherwise young team at Villa Park?

I am disappointed, though, that some of the brighter home-grown young players have gone out to play elsewhere this season in favour of new purchases. But I shall swallow that disappointment and look forward to a successful season - perhaps in winning a Cup!