Our start to the season has been a mixed bag with one win, two losses and two draws across all competitions. Having said that, like many Villa fans, I have decided to forget about that night in Luton completely. I think it is better to focus on our league performances and the squad that is now playing week in, week out. Having watched our new look side, I believe that there are many things to feel positive about for the season ahead. The main one, in my eyes, is our new look defence.
Now, our back four is far from perfect. The two full backs currently being played, Aly Cissokho and Leandro Bacuna, can hardly be labelled fan favourites. Bacuna is slowly winning back the fans’ support and has looked better this campaign, although he can still get caught out defensively and is too inconsistent with his crosses at the other end. Cissokho is incredibly frustrating to watch. Often clumsy, he is never far from giving away a foul in a dangerous position. I would still play Amavi over Cissokho, even if there are some doubts over him defensively, but we’ll see what Di Matteo decides to do over the course of the season. The full backs, therefore, are replaceable but don’t appear quite as shambolic as they have been in seasons gone by.
I don’t want to focus on our full backs, however, as I’d much rather praise the heart of the defence. The acquisitions of Tommy Elphick and James Chester will, in my opinion, prove the most significant ones that we make all summer. Elphick, as the captain of the team, is proving to be everything that Richards and Lescott weren’t last season. He is strong, fearless, a natural leader and a man who cares about the club and the fans. He is exactly what we needed this season. Put him alongside James Chester, a solid, calm and consistent defender, and we have what is potentially one of the best centre back pairings in the division.
Indeed, if you look at the goals that we’ve conceded so far in the league, both have come from (debatable) goalkeeping errors. Gollini himself, aside from his kicking, has really impressed me and convinced me that he is a definite upgrade on Guzan between the sticks.
Yesterday, Ritchie De Laet signed a three-year deal with Aston Villa Football Club. Operating mainly as a right back, it is expected that De Laet’s arrival will see Alan Hutton’s game time reduced further. However, De Laet has been known to play at centre back and his arrival gives Di Matteo yet another defensive option as he looks to strengthen his squad further.
All of this suggests that Aston Villa will be a tough side to break down defensively this season. Compare that to last campaign, when we let in more than any other club, and there is certainly reason to feel optimistic about the season ahead. The next step is another clean sheet away from home and, hopefully, our second win when we travel to Ashton Gate on Saturday.