Today is the day and football is most definitely back as Aston Villa get their latest campaign underway on their travels, heading to the KCOM Stadium to take on Hull City tonight.
With the transfer window closing on Thursday and the ongoing confusion of FFP along with the latest takeover it’s come around pretty quickly.
Having immersed myself in all things football this weekend it’s further reinforced my belief along with many others that fluid, attacking football in the Championship tends to pay off even to the detriment of defence at times.
Granted, it was only the first game of the season and all teams are only just beginning to introduce new players and ideas etc. but there were some standout performances.
Firstly, Brentford under Dean Smith put five past Rotherham. Some of the goals and chances created were great to watch. Fast paced, sharp, one-touch passing and constant movement off and around the ball saw further evidence of what Smith is creating and achieving with minimal budget in respect to what others have spent.
The second stand out performance this weekend was Leeds United. The appointment of Marcelo Bielsa has been dubbed a 50:50. Either a stroke of genius or a complete failure but one thing is for sure it will be an entertaining ride.
Leeds took the game to Stoke City, many people’s favourites to win the Championship this season under Gary Rowett.
Energetic, hard tackling, chasing every ball and an obvious tilt towards playing on the front foot caught the eye and if it continues, Leeds could well be on for their best season for some time.
A nod to the teams promoted last season and it’s a similar theme.
Wolves and Fulham were the highest scoring teams and played the most attractive football. Fresh, attacking as much as possible and bullying teams into dropping deep.
Cardiff were more about grit and hard work all over the park but one thing is for sure, the consistency that Neil Warnock was getting from his men was admirable and ultimately effective.
Away from the drama off the field, Aston Villa have enjoyed a fairly successful preseason in terms of results. Not that it has any correlation to the season itself mind. It has however shown up an ability to counter attack at pace and specific players have stood out.
Andre Green and Jack Grealish, two of our homegrown favourites have looked sharp and raring to go. Green who has been incredibly unfortunate through injury is tipped to be a standout performer this year. The two of them provide pace, confidence, raw talent and can bully defenders given the chance.
Ritchie De Laet has shown an ability to bomb forward as a wing back and has looked assured on the ball. Another player to suffer from injuries since joining Villa, the Belgian’s time on loan to Royal Antwerp appears to have paid off for all parties concerned and he would effectively be like a new signing.
It is being reported that we are close to securing a second successive loan for Manchester United’s Axel Tuanzebe. The versatile prospect is highly thought of and he brings pace and strength in abundance.
I believe he may well end up being the centre half partner for James Chester this season, should he stay fit and it may well have a knock on effect as to how we approach games.
The pace Tuanzebe would bring at the back would allow for a stronger faith and belief in the attacking football we all crave. Pushing up in the knowledge that we have a quicker defensive cover would be refreshing and hopefully effective.
Further links to players such as Joe Bryan and Tammy Abraham, would also add in to a more attacking approach and belief.
Bryan caught the eye at left-back for Bristol City who started their last campaign on fire before slipping away from a promotion push after their incredible League Cup run. Bryan was a standout performer in the competition and scored a memorable goal against Manchester United, racing forwards and driving in a superb strike into the top right hand corner from the angle.
Abraham has Championship experience, again with Bristol City. Part of the impressive Chelsea academy, the striker was joint second highest scorer in the 2016/17 Championship and spent last season on loan at Swansea City. He brings further pace and is a skilful, ruthless finisher.
Only time will tell as to whether Villa can bring these players in. Abraham could well be kept back at Chelsea as they face a headache over who to keep and who to release with the likes of Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud facing uncertain futures at Stamford Bridge.
Ultimately, the style of play and the emphasis will be down to manager, Steve Bruce.
Having been kept on by the new owners, Bruce has his chance and there won’t be room for excuses. The ever growing presence and mention of super-agent Jorge Mendes may be forcing the hand of the Villa boss as it appears he is being used to try and help target talent to drive Villa forwards.
The start to the season will be crucial as poor results and performances will more than likely lead to another change of management and the last thing the club needs is another wasted season.
To add to this saga, the appointment of a new and experienced CEO has been a priority.
Reports started to emerge yesterday that Peter Kenyon may well be the man that majority owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens turn to.
It would symbolise a huge step forward bringing in a man of Kenyon’s experience.
His work at Manchester United started in 1997 before assuming the position on CEO just three years later. Kenyon played a huge part in keeping Sir Alex Ferguson at the club and persuading him not to retire back in 2002. His wealth of contacts and willingness to alter the contract structure saw him be influential in bringing in players like Rio Ferdinand.
The brand of Manchester United grew rapidly around the world whilst they remained financially sound throughout this development.
Kenyon went on to work as CEO at Chelsea and was later linked to Jorge Mendes in regards to player ownership. Another reason this story could have some truth to it.
This next week or two and the players brought in could have a lot of say on what we do going forwards but belief in our ability to attack is an absolute must.