Our annual defeat to Manchester United at Villa Park is now out of the way and next up is Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. The Eagles boast a fairly handy side nowadays and the club seems to be more secure in the Premier League with Alan Pardew at the helm. Pardew has added mercurial French midfielder Yohan Cabaye to the ranks this summer. Cabaye is an excellent central midfielder and is a player the Villans should not allow to dictate the play. This will be a tough game.

Jack’s back

Aston Villa has an evolving side at the moment: with so many new players joining at once, it was never going to be a free-flowing Villa side that began the Premier League season. Three points from two tough opening games is satisfactory given that this is a new side that needs time to gel. A familiar face is fit again and Sherwood, when speaking to AVTV, alluded to the fact that Jack Grealish will be in contention for Saturday.

Should Sherwood utilise him from the start? I’m almost certain “Super Jack” will at least be the bench but, in my opinion, if he’s fit he should be chucked straight in. For all the positives I can garner from the opening two games, we haven’t looked very creative and we have certainly lacked a spark. Grealish is the player who, on his day, can knit it all together so we need him in the team. Our play has been very neat and tidy for the most part in the first two games but in the final third our play seems to have come to a standstill. Grealish will change this.

Who drops out?

I would suggest, after his early withdrawal last Friday, that Scott Sinclair would make way for Grealish but in away games in particular I believe he is useful, especially on the counter. Sinclair is good for a goal as well. A change of shape is possible: 4-2-3-1 would involve a central player dropping out, most probably Veretout, who I think will turn out to be classy. This would allow Grealish to play in the “number ten” role. Much depends on whether Rudy Gestede is fit to start.

Start or finish?

My impression is that Rudy Gestede is not yet fit enough to play ninety minutes. Throwing him on at the Vitality Stadium worked a treat but on Friday against United it did not have the desired effect. Gestede came on just after we had our best spell of the game, which was a shame. Could Gestede give us an hour this weekend? I think if I were in charge I’d start him, as he offers a focal point and I think putting Agbonlahor or Kozak on from the bench for him could give us a strong finish. The only way Gestede is going to get fitter is by playing games so giving him an hour will serve him better than using him as a second half substitute.

Traore time?

When speaking to AVTV, Tim Sherwood stated that our new wonderkid, Adama Traore, doesn’t look fit enough yet so I would think that the League Cup match against Notts County will be the first time we will see the former Barcelona winger in action.

Any more in?

In my opinion, we still need two more players in – a striker and a centre back. The Adebayor loan deal no longer looks as if it is on the cards, although a late deadline loan move, like Tom Cleverley’s last year, would not surprise me. We definitely need another striker. Like many, I would like to see Charlie Austin in claret and blue but it doesn’t look like he has ever been on our radar. The aforementioned Adebayor would sit well with me for a season. Despite his problems, I believe he would hit the ground running, which is what we need while players who have not played in the Premier League before settle in.

We are still been linked with Joleon Lescott from our noisy neighbours. This is another signing I’d welcome, although I’d be disappointed to see Ciaran Clark benched. I don’t see that Richards will be used at right back but I Sherwood needs a squad. Signing Lescott would make sense, as this would allow Nathan Baker to spend the season on loan, which I think Sherwood wants him to do.

Hopefully, there will be a repeat of our victory at Selhurst Park last season but a draw would not be disastrous at this stage. The Palace home fans are among the best in the League and they create a loud, positive and supportive atmosphere during home games. This game will be a test, especially for our new boys. Let’s hope we can rise to the challenge.

Up the Villa!



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