Over the past few seasons, the word ‘progress’ has been used frequently by officials at the club, even though there was no real evidence of any until recently. The team has been strengthened by the additions of Aly Cissokho, Philippe Senderos and Carlos Sanchez in particular and we are yet to see what Tom Cleverley can offer us. The team is also sitting third, currently unbeaten in the Premier League.
However, last season Villa fans, myself included, also thought they had seen progress after three games. The Villans had to play Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool all in one week. Fans thought we’d end up with no points and that our goal difference would look shocking but the team surprised many by securing one win against Arsenal. Furthermore, the Villans were unlucky not to get anything out of the Chelsea game.
Despite this good start, the club didn’t really have a good season, narrowly avoiding relegation again. Villa fans may already know not to get too carried away with the start to this season but hopefully this season won’t pan out like the 2013-14 one.
Lambert deserves credit for what he has done this season and fans acknowledged this against Hull, singing his name positively rather than negatively as we heard, especially at away games, towards the end of last season. Paul Lambert has been extremely shrewd with his signings – as he has had to be due to the tight budget he had been given. Despite spending only £7 million on eight players (including the two youth players signed from Southampton), he has improved the team and made it the strongest and most competitive team we have had in recent years. The re-emergence of the ‘bomb squad’ has also improved the team.
The new signings have proven their critics wrong so far. I have to say I had my doubts about the signing of Philippe Senderos and he has proven me – and many other Villa fans – wrong. The partnership he has quickly established with Ron Vlaar is remarkable; the two have gone a long way towards mending the team’s defensive frailties thus far.
Tom Cleverley is another player who many fans may have been critical of in the past while he was playing for Manchester United and especially for England. However, now that he is a Villa player, I will give him all the chances he needs to succeed. The talent is there but whether Lambert can utilise those talents remains to be seen. Roberto Martinez certainly got the best out of Cleverley during his time on loan at Wigan, which is the reason why he wanted to work with Cleverley again at Everton. David Moyes wasn’t able to get the best out of him, which is perhaps the reason why he has come to us, eager to prove his worth.
After the international break, the fixture list isn’t too kind to the club, pitting us against the top five teams of last season in five successive fixtures. As I mentioned, last season we had to play three big teams in the space of a week. If we play with the same commitment and put in performances like the ones we saw against Arsenal and Chelsea early last season, I don’t see why we can’t upset some of the big teams again this season, as the players will certainly have the confidence to do so after their start.
The positivity has returned to the club and hopefully fans who didn’t want to come back after last season can back the team at Villa Park, especially after a disappointing crowd came to the game against Hull City.