The return of the Premier League is always one of the most anticipated sporting events to happen each year and this year was no different. However, the first week of September always brings with it an international break and the Premier League action is put on hold once more.
The start that our beloved Aston Villa team has made is one that is both encouraging and somewhat surprising (unless you are a Villa fan of course). Many media outlets predicted that we would suffer three damaging defeats to Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool and that the pressure that was placed on the team last season would be making a swift return.
However, things did not go as many media sources predicted.
A tremendous victory at The Emirates helped kick off the campaign and proved to many that Villa could quite possibly get back to a league position which would enable the players to travel around the continent on a regular basis. This victory was followed by a trip to Stamford Bridge and Lambert’s lions produced another wonderful display. Had it been another referee officiating, they might have walked away with all three points, let alone just the one that they deserved but did not get.
Two wonderful away performances in the space of four days eventually caught up with the players when Liverpool arrived in town: another sluggish start to the match saw Villa fall behind and this time they were unable to repeat their Emirates heroics and salvage anything from the match although it wasn’t without trying. Simon Mignolet proved just why Brendan Rodgers brought him to the club in the first place.
So, we have three points from the first three games and plenty for the Villa faithful to be cheerful and optimistic about. Also, if we compare the first three games of this campaign to those of the previous one, the signs of progress are plain for all to see: after the first trio of matches last season Villa had only one point and already had a -3 goal difference. A draw away at Newcastle helped to ease some of the pain following on from defeats against newly-promoted West Ham and a home defeat to a resurgent Everton.
Surprisingly, if we look further back, the 2011/2012 season, which started with Alex McLeish in charge, saw Villa record a total of five points from the first three games. Although we were doing well in the league, a nasty atmosphere was beginning to descend on Villa Park and, eventually, it turned even sourer for Big ‘Eck and he was on a one way course towards disaster.
So, just what do the opening three games of the season mean as players head off for their various internationals? In the scheme of things, probably nothing as there are still 35 games to go and we could win them all or, alternatively, lose them all and the victory at Arsenal would pale into insignificance.
All the same, this year seems different: this year B6 has a atmosphere that suggests people feel we could do well. There is an optimism building at our great club, a relationship has developed between the team and the fans, Villa Park is becoming fuller and fuller each week and fans look forward to going to games now due to the fact that we will have a “right good go” instead of sitting back and playing for a 0-0 draw, which happened under previous managers.
Paul Lambert has stuck with his youth policy and it is crystal clear that he is building something special at our club. Pundits of various agencies are acknowledging what is happening at Villa Park and even Mr Savage is singing our praises.
All things Villa haven’t been this good in a while and it is exciting to be a Villa fan once more. Here’s to even better times ahead.
Actually, I think the picture’s a little better even than that. The points tally from the equivalent 2012-13 fixtures was 0 points with a goal difference of -10. Even if all other things remain equal (and I don’t think they will – I think we’ll do better in other games as well) this would lift us 4 places up the league. Like you, I’m feeling optimistic. Pub time, I think!