Ashley Westwood is preparing himself for a return to where it all began for him at the age of 7, as Crewe Alexandra entertain Aston Villa in Villa’s sixth game in preparation for the upcoming campaign. This game could yield the first victory of the pre-season schedule. One question then really: is this pre-season form a cause for concern?
Now, I’m not about to start panicking and predicting another season of relegation battles, the chewing of fingernails and sleepless nights which involved hot flushes whenever we thought about the opposition winning a corner or a free kick, but for me performances at this stage of the season so to speak need to be better than they currently are.
Firstly, we had the tour to Germany and I completely agree with those who described it more as fitness preparation and a way helping to integrate the new lads in to the squad rather than worrying about the scorelines against teams who had already been back training for a good 3-4 weeks before Villa. We ended the tour unbeaten and managed to make the six new signings feel very much part of a squad that had togetherness, optimism and self belief in large quantities. The signs were promising and the anticipation of the dawn of the new season was beginning to gather at a speedy rate.
Following the tour it was time to head home, time for the players to familiarise themselves with Bodymoor Heath once more and time for the real hard work to kick in! Overall, since the tour of Germany, Villa have travelled to Wycombe Wanderers and Luton Town and are still to emerge victorious on English soil after those games. Of course it is still early and we still have 5 more games before the trip to Arsenal but, now that the Chelsea game has been moved and sandwiched in between Arsenal and Liverpool, the urge to start fast and start well has never been more prominent.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the pre-season so far has been the seemingly continued shaky display that some of the defence have shown: goals have been gifted to teams such as Wycombe and Luton and a problem that was such a burden last year doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.
Perhaps I am reading too much into this and we will go out tonight, win 4-0, win the remainder of our pre-season games and everything will be fine but the fact of the matter is that performances need to be better, regardless of the result. Performances of late have not shown what we are capable of or what we should be delivering and fans can gloss over it as much as they want but if we continue to perform like this against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool then there is no doubt we will be royally turned over.
Of course, results in pre-season mean nothing when it comes to actually playing Barclays Premier League games week in, week out: for all we know we could have a disastrous pre-season yet go to the Emirates and continue the impressive record we have there but I am not the only one who is starting to see frailties that are all too common last season begin to make a return.
Well, onwards and upwards regardless of the result tonight and let’s enjoy the upcoming campaign and put all the worries and fears of last season firmly behind us.