Last season was a roller-coaster ride – and it wasn’t your boring ‘local fun-fair’ type of roller-coaster, but one you would stand in line for hours at Thorpe Park or Chessington to go on!
We saw it all. We had some great victories and some shameful defeats. We had injuries, shocking decisions, inexperienced debutantes and individual errors which nearly cost us our Premiership status. On the other hand, we had some outstanding goals, brilliant passages of play and some great performances by the team and certain individuals. One thing you could never call last season is ‘boring’.
Compared to last season, have we improved?
We’ll look at the figures and compare last season’s opening fixtures against this season’s opening fixtures and see if we can definitively conclude that there’s been an improvement.
When I saw the opening fixtures last season, I thought we were extremely lucky that did not have to play a ‘top 4’ side in our opening nine games; it’s certainly something that happens very rarely. With a new manager and new signings, a new sense of optimism surrounded Villa Park. But that all changed.
2012/2013 Opening Fixtures
Looking back at those games, I am reminded of how badly it started for Paul Lambert. What is worth bearing in mind though is that he didn’t know who his best eleven players were and still had the cast-offs from Gerard Houllier and Alex Mc(*cough*). Still, one win in nine games was certainly worrying as we were expected to beat some of those sides. Apart from Everton and Spurs, I think on paper we should have done much better, especially against the likes of Newcastle, Southampton and Fulham.
We all know how the season turned out. We struggled defensively most of all but the emergence of Benteke and the newfound sense of togetherness saw our fortunes turn around after December, when we went on a roll to secure our Premiership status.
Roll on the 2013/2014 season.
As the fixtures were released this year, my first thought was “I can’t believe this is happening! Why, god? Why?”
We had to face Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in our first six games. Someone at the F.A. hates us! I was scared. Looking at the fixtures, it wasn’t hard to see us sitting bottom of the table come mid-September, if things didn’t go our way. The players must have felt the same and it could have been disheartening for them.
But what followed was a sign of not only improvement but quality too. We went to the Emirates and beat Arsenal 3-1 after a tremendous performance. We sent Arsenal into turmoil. Fans starting revolting against Arsene Wenger, who then had to publicly apologise to all the fans in his post-match interview. Yes, we made Arsene Wenger issue an apology!
Next up was a trip to Stamford Bridge. I don’t really want to talk about this game because, in a game in which even the neutrals saw how poor the refereeing decisions were, we didn’t get what we deserved out of the game. The performance we put in was great. Despite being furious at the referee, I was still happy with the way Villa played and that wasn’t often the case when we played last season in matches we lost.
We lost 1-0 to Liverpool but the only goal of the game by Daniel Sturridge was a goal good enough to win any game. It was a superb solo effort and, unfortunately, we just couldn’t break down the Liverpool defence at home.
The next game against Newcastle was a game I honestly thought we were going to win. We were very poor that day and lost 2-1. Again, the other team’s most effective player, in this case Hatem Ben Arfa, was on fire. He had a great game and helped his team win by putting in a man of the match performance.
Beating Norwich has become a bit of a habit for us so I was quite confident we’d go there and get a win, which we did.
The result of the next game against Manchester City was one I probably never would have predicted. We beat Manchester City at home, where we’ve been struggling all year. This was a City team that had thrashed Manchester United 4-1 the previous week. The best thing about this game was that we beat them without Benteke and Agbonlahor! It was quite unbelievable.
Oh yeah, we also drew last weekend to Hull in a goaless draw but the less said about that game the better!
In terms of stats and figures:
After seven games, we’ve had three wins, one draw and three losses. I can definitely live with that, considering the wins were at Arsenal away, Norwich away and against Manchester City at home.
I think it’s fair to say we’ve definitely improved this season, compared to last.
After seven games in the 2012/2013 season, we only had five points and all those points were earned against mid-table teams. P7, W1 D2. L4
After seven games in this 2013/2014 season, we’ve got ten points and that tally was achieved by beating two of the top four teams in Arsenal and Manchester City, as well as beating Norwich and drawing to Hull. P7, W3, D1 L3.
We’re currently sitting in 10th position and I’m hoping that if we can sustain our away form and improve our home form we can finish comfortably in mid-table. If we could finish 10th this season, I would honestly consider that a big step in the rebuilding process we are currently undergoing at the club, which will mean we will push on from there. It’s like a house: start with a solid foundation then you can really start building.
Onwards and upwards. UTV!