Fiver Reasons to be Cheerful as Villans
With Villa sitting in fifth place and approaching a run of winnable games; there are many things to look forward to in the next month. Here are Five Reasons to Be Cheerful as Villa head into the away game against AZ Alkmaar having wiped the floor with another European hopeful in the league.
Signed, Sealed and Delivered
Recency bias prevailed this month as Ollie Watkins finally penned a new deal to keep him at Villa Park until 2028. With other Premier League teams sniffing around, it was crucial that Villa kept their top goalscorer from the previous three seasons for the good of the team as well as eliminating any chance that one of the club’s biggest assets leaves in a cut price deal.
With another of Villa’s big stars tied down, it is clear that the players are buying into Emery’s methods and a belief is growing that Villa can play amongst the big boys. Watkins’ record in the Premier League ranks him as one of the best goal scorers in the top flight; a fact that can be overshadowed by his streaky goal scoring form and low conversion rate of big chances (1 in 8 currently). But certainly, Villa will not progress without securing their prized stars and behaving like a diligent and professional club.
Pau! Right in the Kisser
Any hopes of easing a key summer signing into Premier League action went out of the window when Tyrone Mings’ season ended cruelly on the opening day at Newcastle. Defensively and physically, Torres has shown frailties in the early stages of this season, however, between his experience and Unai Emery’s there is no need for panic just yet. A player of Torres’ pedigree can adapt his game and Emery will undoubtedly rebalance the team to ensure more protection on the left side. The return of Moreno could also play a huge part on securing Villa’s left.
What Torres offers in offense is clearly a large part of Emery’s plans to propel Villa further in the league and in Europe. After being at fault for the Wolves opener, Torres rallied forwards to expertly finish at the far post. In previous games he has shown his vision and technique with threaded passes through and over opposition defences. Once Torres settles along with Diego Carlos and Villa have more of their first team back together, fans will hopefully see Emery’s reasoning for prioritising the acquisition of the Spaniard.
John McGinn dragged Villa by the hair to ensure the club picked up its first points of the Europa Conference League campaign by scoring an injury-time winner. It was a deserved victory and hopefully will go a long way to dispel some of the nerves and lethargy experienced so far in Europe. With all four teams in the group having won one game and lost the other, Villa have been fortunate in that we are back to square one with four games to go.
The double-header against AZ Alkmaar will be a genuine challenge and will likely decide Villa’s fate in the group. Finishing top is paramount as it would help the club avoid an irritating extra round facing-off with Europa League teams that finish third in their respective groups. So the hope is that Villa approach both AZ games as they would against two good Premier League sides, fielding strong teams and ensuring Villa win the group.
It’s been another international week and more caps for Maguire and Phillips… how predictable. But with the boredom of yet another international week behind us, Villa fans have started to enjoy a run of six games in 18 days (including Villa’s latest win against the Hammers) before… yep, another international week.
Villa sit fifth in the table, and the next three weeks present a huge opportunity for the club to mount a serious challenge at the top of the table. Having already impressively beaten West Ham, it leaves Luton, Forest and Fulham, with the two matches against AZ Alkmaar sandwiched in between. The squad will have to be rotated, which is a worry given the performances in the cups so far this season. Nonetheless, Emery will be drilling home the importance of the next three weeks and the affect if can have on the remainder of the season.
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Fans are well aware of the downside of Villa’s new commercial exploits as most of them are hitting their pockets. The recent news that Villa have struck an affiliate partnership with Japanese side Vissel Kobe offers some positivity. The commercial battle between the elite Premier League clubs doesn’t take place on our shores but instead abroad in lucrative markets such as China, the US, India, South America and Japan.
The strategy for the partnership is to ‘share ideas’ and work on developing youth talent in Japan and offering them a pathway to England. Moves such as this one also help boost the club’s profile abroad leading to more commercial opportunities. While it isn’t one that is immediately thrilling for domestic fans, it is a game that Villa must start to play if they are to try to tackle the clubs at that top, who have far superior annual revenues.
Follow Armen on Twitter here – @VillanArmen