Preston or bust?

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Di-Matteo struggled in the Championship

I think we can all agree that this is not the start of the season that we were hoping for.

After ten games in the Championship, we find ourselves in seventeenth place with just one win to our name. Having spent approximately £50 million on recruiting players over the summer, the statement was clear – to give the Villans the best chance possible to gain promotion at the first time of asking. Nevertheless, the Villans are level on points with Burton Albion and closer to the bottom of the league than they are to the top.

We have very different aims this season, which means expectations are heightened. If we were in the Premier League, even with our current record, we could be more content with the situation. We could see that change is happening and afford Di Matteo more time to take the next step – winning football matches.

If the boys in claret and blue do not get a positive result against Preston North End on Saturday then Dr Tony Xia may be looking for a new manager in October. This has got me thinking about a parallel I can see with Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp inherited a talented squad of players in October 2015. The aim was for Liverpool to challenge again in the Premier League and win the title. At the end of his first season, the team finished eight, a poor finish by Liverpool’s standards, but he had used the season to implement his blueprints. Formations, tactics and players had been experimented with and knowledge gained to help build a serious challenge the following season.

With the mission to gain promotion at the first time of asking, it is clear that we don’t have time to be patient and to follow this strategy. We need results now. How long do we wait for the manager to get things right? On paper, the squad has some of the best individual talents in the division. It has been assembled at a cost that blows our league rivals out of the water and Xia will keep spending until we return to the top league.

We all hoped that Di Matteo would bring instant success. We craved the ‘Di Matteo’ effect that saw him inherit Chelsea’s squad in March 2012 and deliver the Champions League trophy two months later. Presently, he doesn’t have time to play around with the team, tactics and formations to find a winning formula. The squad is there for him. What’s needed is an ability to increase confidence and belief, to improve tactics and devise formations to outwit opponents and help Aston Villa Football Club win football matches.

He will have been in the job for four months on Sunday. However, if we suffer a poor result the day before then this anniversary may be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

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