So here we are – in the midst of yet another international break. I’ve lost count of how many there have been, probably because I don’t especially care for international football, let alone pointless friendlies. These friendlies against Chile and Germany needn’t have been pointless but they’ve been rendered so by Roy Hodgson’s squad selection. Other than the Southampton contingent, there are very few surprises. Why doesn’t Hodgson give some new players a chance in these matches when he still has eight months before the World Cup warm-up friendlies start?

Anyway, enough about that; let’s get back to Aston Villa.

We’re now eleven matches into the 2013/2014 season, so just over a quarter of the campaign has gone. How has Villa’s season been going? Let’s have a quick recap, shall we?

August

Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa

Two penalties from Christian Benteke and a late break-away Antonio Luna goal gave Villa the perfect start to the season. Things looked bleak when Arsenal took the lead through Oliver Giroud after six minutes. However, the Villa players showed the character and resilience that kept them up last season to hit back and win the game in fairly convincing fashion, although Brad Guzan did have to make a couple of brilliant stops to keep Arsenal at bay despite the fact that the home side has been reduced to ten men. It should be noted that Arsenal went unbeaten for ten league games after this match.

Chelsea 2-1 Aston Villa

Another very promising performance and an excellent finish from Christian Benteke were the positives to be taken from this defeat. There was a lot of fortune involved in Chelsea’s victory, starting with the opening goal which came after the ball deflected into the net off the helpless Antonio Luna. Then, after Villa came back convincingly through Christian Benteke, Chelsea were lucky to keep Branislav Ivanovic on the field when the defender avoided a red card after elbowing Benteke. Ivanovic then went on to score the winning goal, powering a header into Villa’s net from a free kick. Villa also had strong penalty appeals turned down in extra time after John Terry clearly handled the ball in the area.

Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool

Perhaps the two excellent displays in London took their toll on Villa here, as the home side completed its third game in seven days. Liverpool were dominant in the first half and took the lead through Daniel Sturridge. Villa improved during the second half and Liverpool stopper Simon Mignolet pulled off two great saves from Benteke. Nevertheless, Villa never came close to the levels of performance seen at The Emirates and Stamford Bridge.

September

Aston Villa 1-2 Newcastle United

Fans witnessed one of Villa’s poorest performances of the season as the home side came back from the international break looking nervous and lacklustre. Newcastle dominated the first half and took the lead through Hatem Ben Arfa. Villa rallied at the start of the second period and equalised through Christian Benteke from a corner. Unfortunately, Newcastle regained the lead through Yoann Gouffran after he was set up by the impressive Ben Arfa. Villa never really recovered from this and in truth Newcastle could have added to their lead.

Norwich City 0-1 Aston Villa

Paul Lambert’s men returned to winning ways at his old stomping ground, despite losing top scorer Christian Benteke to injury midway through the first half. It was his replacement, new signing Libor Kozak, who converted Gabby Agbonlahor’s cut-back to score his first goal for the club. This came after Brad Guzan brilliantly denied Norwich winger Robert Snodgrass from the spot. The Villans held on to keep their first clean sheet in twenty seven games and to see their first win in three matches.

Aston Villa 3-2 Man City

Villa recorded a brilliant win against title contenders Manchester City, despite falling behind on two occasions. Manchester City dominated the first half, with Villa’s committed defending finally breaking down just before the break to allow Yaya Toure to tap home after a scramble in the home side’s box. Villa equalised just after the break through Karim El-Ahmadi, only for Eden Dzeko to restore City’s lead five minutes later. The game turned in the space of three minutes when Leandro Bacuna scored his first Villa goal with a superb free kick before Andreas Weimann raced clear to poke the ball into the City net after a defensive mix up. Villa held on to claim a fantastic victory.

October

Hull City 0-0 Aston Villa

The boys in claret and blue followed up their courageous victory over Manchester City with a subdued performance at the KC Stadium versus Hull. I’m not entirely sure that anything happened in this match whatsoever! It really was dreadful.

Aston Villa 0-2 Spurs

The men of the moment – Andros Townsend and Roberto Soldado – did the damage for Spurs in this match. Villa rarely threatened until the introduction of Christian Benteke, who was returning from injury. Sadly, it wasn’t enough and Villa slumped to a third home defeat of the season.

Aston Villa 0-2 Everton

The outcome of this game really hinged on the opening fifteen minutes. Had Christian Benteke managed to convert a sixth minute penalty, which was brilliantly saved by Everton keeper Tim Howard, things may have been very different. Benteke then missed another brilliant opportunity minutes later, something which Andreas Weimann was also guilty of a little later in the half. On another day, we could have been 3-0 up at half time. However, we were not and Everton took full advantage of the only two opportunities they had in the game, with Lukaku and substitute Osman converting in the second half.

November

West Ham United 0-0 Aston Villa

Another clean sheet away from home was the main positive from another fairy dire game, with both teams offering lifeless performances. This was Villa’s fourth match without a goal, although only the crossbar and a Jussi Jaaskelainen save denied Christian Benteke late on.

Aston Villa 2-0 Cardiff City

Without ever really sparkling, Villa put in a good shift and deservedly gained three points against Cardiff on Saturday. A superb free kick from Leandro Bacuna and a Libor Kozak header eight minutes later were enough to send Cardiff home empty handed.

 

All this leaves us eleventh in the table, having won four matches, drawn two and lost five, on fourteen points and with a minus one goal difference.

I’m happy with the start we’ve made. When you consider that the five teams we’ve lost to are in the top half of the table and that we haven’t been embarrassed in any of those matches, it’s not so bad. Also, winning games against current league leaders Arsenal, who have only lost to Dortmund and Manchester United this season other than ourselves, and Manchester City proves we can beat anybody on our day. Wins against Norwich away and Cardiff at home were vital as it’s likely these teams will be close to Villa in the latter stages of the season. While not being outstanding results, the draws and clean sheets at Hull and West Ham will prove to be points gained later in the season. I’m sure many Villa fans fancying us much more when checking the betting odds prior to a match at bookies such as Bwin.

The only really disappointing thing so far this season is that the level of performance has been fairly low, with the quality and style of football being questioned regularly. Thankfully, we have still managed to pick up results and our goal difference is still intact.

Comparing this season to last, we were seventeenth in the table after eleven games played last season. We had won two, drawn three and lost six matches, with a minus seven goal difference. Interestingly, by this stage last season the only truly top teams we had faced were Everton, Spurs and Manchester United. We had a much easier run than the one we have faced this year – on paper at least.

The performances and football may not have been the best so far this season but the results have been satisfactory and, at the end of the day, it’s a results business. Imagine what will happen when we add performances to our good results!

Thank you for reading.

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