Unofficially, the Villans played their first friendly of the season last weekend, which resulted in an emphatic 0-8 win against GAK 1902 whilst at the training camp in Austria. Looking back at the highlights, it was a very easy game but I could see some new tactics and skills being used by the players including Jack Grealish chipping in with a lovely heal-flick on the edge of the penalty area leading up to a goal. Nevertheless, this was a game that we were expected to win comfortably and so the attention now turns to the more important pre-season games.
Tomorrow sees two Aston Villa sides in action, one against AFC Telford and another against Worcester City. Tomorrow could be last chance saloon for some players, with Roberto Di Matteo’s having to decide who he wants to keep, if possible, and who he wants to scrap. In a recent interview, he made it very clear that he wanted players to leave soon, saying, “Probably over the next two or three weeks I need to look at getting some players out as well.”
It is apparent that the club cannot afford the large squad that we currently have.
Next the players will travel to play Bristol Rovers on July 20th, a game I’m lucky to have tickets for. For me, this will be the first real chance to work out who will be good, who has improved since last season and whether I feel Di Matteo needs to add anyone else. I don’t think we will see another transfer until after this game as, like us, Di Matteo wants to be sure he is getting a player who is needed. We should win this game regardless of who is playing.
Due to the transfer of Jordan Veretout, the team will travel overseas again to play the French side FC Nantes on July 23rd. I would consider us to be the underdogs. Nantes probably has a more streamline squad, with players who have gelled together over a long period of time. Whilst we are in such a mess, I won’t be surprised, if there are no further additions to the squad in the coming week, to see the visiting Villans lose this game. The Nantes game is potentially one of the hardest the team will face in these friendlies so it’s important that Di Matteo has at least got his team trained up well and tactically improved before we even enter the new season.
As is always the case in pre-season, Di Matteo and his staff will be looking at performances rather than the results as they lay down solid fitness foundations. Having said that, the players need to understand that the fans will not take another dreadful season lightly. I hope the return of Petrov to the squad will give everyone the boost needed to stay positive and keep focused during the long Championship campaign ahead.