So far this campaign, albeit only three games in, the Villans have proven that experience gives a team solidity and maturity.
After attending both home games against Newcastle and Hull, I have walked away from Villa Park satisfied – something I haven’t felt in a very long time.
Paul Lambert’s summer recruitment drive should be applauded given the funds he was granted by want-away chairman Randy Lerner. With a kitty reported to have been in the region of £10 – 12 million, Lambert used the money available to sign Joe Cole, Philippe Senderos, Kieran Richardson, Aly Cissokho, Carlos Sanchez and Tom Cleverley – and let’s not forget that we have also seen Charles N’Zogbia, Alan Hutton, Darren Bent and Shay Given return to active duty.
The efforts of the back five in particular have lifted the pressure when we are defending a lead, something which we have struggled to maintain in the past and where we would have inevitably buckled without the new recruits. I believe that this is the finest back four we have had in years. Ron Vlaar, having enjoyed an outstanding World Cup campaign, is clearly flourishing with the composed Philippe Senderos next to him and, let’s face it, a composed defensive partner is something of a luxury for our club captain. On top of that, the poise of Cissokho and Hutton has given the team two clean sheets in three Premier League games, with only one goal conceded. Their combined efforts have been a breath of fresh air in B6 and their endeavour is set to be a huge asset for the team. I am hopeful that it will lead to success and improvement over the course of the season and that the anxious clearances and nervy defensive displays of last season could well be a thing of the past.
The real test of character will begin against Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday evening and it will continue over the course of four weeks, when the Villans will face Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton in succession. I believe that after that run of fixtures we will be better placed to assess how the new recruits will serve the club. In any case, our maturity will determine how we cope when we have a difficult spell, which is inevitable for every club, every season.
Here’s to another clean sheet on Saturday.