For the first time in a long time Villa fans witnessed something quite extraordinary – a clean sheet. Even more surprisingly, it came away from home.
However, it should not have come as a surprise. Over the summer of 2014, Paul Lambert has strengthened a major weakness in the Aston Villa side – the defence. He has moved efficiently to sign experienced players like Senderos, Cissokho and Sanchez as a defensive midfielder. He has also brought Alan Hutton back from the dead, when his chances of playing at Villa Park this time last season were non-existent.
In the opening game of last season, the Villa defence looked shaky despite a 3-1 victory. Against Stoke, the defence stood strong. The Potters are known to be one of the most physical sides in the league but the Villa defence matched them, man for man, pound for pound.
Fans have constantly slated Paul Lambert over the past two years but this summer he has got things right, from bringing in hard man Roy Keane to offloading players he signed but who never lived up to expectations.
It was important to get off on the right foot this season and the Villans definitely achieved this, with the defence totally in synchronisation. Each player was committed for every ball whether it was a goal-saving chance like Vlaar’s late heroic block or Cissokho chasing down the ball. It all mattered and it all showed the massive improvements and steps taken to truly avoid another relegation dog fight.
Togetherness is also a massive part of any team and defensive partnerships. The defence and side as a whole d showed this with the goal celebrated as a team and Senderos and Vlaar embracing each other at the end, showing pride in such a stellar defensive showing. The togetherness is something the fans never really saw at times last season. A defence needs to be fairly experienced in the Premier League or else it will be destroyed by the likes of Aguero, Rooney and Costa. Last season the defence looked totally different. Premier League experience was missing. A leader was established but he had nobody to lead as certain players ceased to exist. The back four against Stoke boasted two hundred and eighty-two combined Premier League appearances, which is a huge change from the naive, young defence seen last season. Defensive solidarity is key to a strong season and so are clean sheets. To go to Stoke and win 1-0 on the opening day of the season is not a bad result at all. Here’s to more success in 2014-15!