After three games, we have seven points. That’s a more than decent start to the Premier League season. The basis for this productive run is without a doubt our newly-shaped defence, consisting of goalkeeper Brad Guzan, Alan Hutton, Philippe Senderos, captain Ron Vlaar and Aly Cissokho. Building from this solid back-line, our success should prove to be more than just a fluke but our goal-scoring record this season hasn’t really impressed and our opposition has been far from the world-class teams we will be facing in our next few games. With our defence still untested against this type of attacking-threat, we need to score more goals of our own in order for us to increase our chance of winning. The question is: where will these goals come from? So far, we have managed to turn the few chances we have had into goals, securing points, but with our back-line soon to be under a lot more pressure, only a handful of chances per game might not be enough. So do we have the ability to be a threat to every opponent? Yes – and here’s why.
Our last game saw our overall game improve once more, especially going forward, and if we can play like we did during the first half against Hull City, we will be a threat to any team we face. Two very important factors now come into play – consistency and competition – and the latter should ensure the first. The arrival of Tom Cleverley makes it even harder to decide on our best possible line-up and this is the case for a very good reason: we simply have too many options to name our best XI. This is what the transfer activity this summer was all about – improving quality and quantity alike, creating competition and giving the manager the different options he needs to change our tactics as required. It is now easier for us to create (tactical) problems for our opponents while they will have a hard time predicting our actions. With our budget, it wasn’t easy to get to this point and the manager will be delighted we have progressed this far and are moving in the right direction: forward!
While we are moving forward as a whole, we also need to make sure that we do so on the pitch and score more than we have done in recent games. We know we have the players with the ability to do that but it has to be remembered that many of them are coming back from injury, the “bomb squad” or have joined Aston Villa from other clubs. They all have to adapt and learning to play as a team can take time. Our results from the first three games have given us the opportunity to go about this without being in a rush and the major part of the process is probably done already. Once this phase is complete, the good team spirit will provide us with a positive competition for places and the players should push each other. They will know consistency will then be key to securing a safe place in the starting line-up and good performances on a regular basis should be the result. If not, there will be someone waiting to take his chance. Team spirit is a very important component for this idea to work and should always be kept as positive as possible. This is one of our responsibilities as supporters and the reason why we should go about things with a positive attitude. Recent results give us no reason not to do that.
Should the players then play close to their potential, we would have already made another huge step forward, as we all know what our players are capable of when playing at their best. Gabby Agbonlahor seems to be finding his form again playing as a striker up front, showing there is more to his game than just speed, and he has been given another boost by his contract extension. Andreas Weimann has already put his name on the score and assist sheets multiple times and Darren Bent has been promised another chance. With Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak nearing their return to full fitness, we again have more striking options than a normal line-up could accommodate and competition (hopefully triggering consistency) once more comes into play. The same applies to our midfield that offers more options than it has in recent times and with players who love getting forward (Tom Cleverley and Jack Grealish are only two examples) we should now be able to link midfield and attack even better while the more defensive-minded players (Carlos Sanchez could be a great signing here) should give us the right balance and support the solid back-line.
Choosing the right line-up and tactics has never been so difficult for our manager and for me this is the proof of the drastically increased quality of our team. If we manage to keep injuries to a minimum, we should be in for a very positive and exciting season and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it.