The 5-0 win over Hibernian offered up five good reasons to be cheerful this week for Villa supporters, but let’s be honest, Villa didn’t even need to break out of second gear in their Europa Conference League play-off first leg at Easter Road. So, what else is there to be cheerful about?
Given Everton’s recent record against Villa, the idea should have been floated around Goodison to just skip the match and take the automatic 3-0 hit. Had Everton done that they’d have been better off, as Emery’s resilient Villa devoured the Toffees yet again.
The win yielded solid performances from the entire team, led by another all-action display by Mcginn and a highly productive performance from Leon Bailey. The 4-0 win means that Villa’s goal difference has also been restored after the heavy opening day defeat to Newcastle.
Even a heavily depleted Villa managed to tear apart another Premier League side, so with Ramsey, Moreno, Dendoncker and Zaniolo still to join the squad, the future is looking rosier again.
Return of the Mack(ginn)
While Villa’s first European outing for over a decade might not be in an exotic location; it provided a decent evening for the Villa travelling faithful.
Hibs’ record signing to this day remains Ulises de la Cruz from the 01/02 season for £700,000, which should tell fans all they need to know about the chasm that exists between the two sides. The result was half expected.
Still, the occasion marked the first time that a couple of generations of Villans witnessed their side compete against a Scottish side in Europe. For that reason alone, it’s good to have fresh experiences with Villa and be back where they should be, enjoying European nights (it’s better than simply being ‘under the lights’).
Nicolò Zaniolo arrived at Bodymoor Heath this week after a seemingly prolonged period of negotiation. A player that was once touted as Totti’s replacement, still only 24, arrives at a club that desperately needs reinforcement following on from a barrage of injuries.
The potential upside of this loan signing outweighs the potential downside. Zaniolo will be hungry for success and keen to earn a contract in the Premier League, after battling back from two serious ACL injuries. With most fans seemingly finally over the sale of biscuit-shins to Manchester City, hopefully it’s time for a new star to take over … enter biscotti-shins.
For Monchi, it is a big test too, as he is seemingly opting for players that he has signed before. The Zaniolo signing could end up being a masterstroke or alternative further evidence of why Monchi’s reputation in Europe has dwindled.
Carney Chukwuemeka for £20m (who is currently out for six-weeks), Aaron Ramsay for £14m and a potential £18m incoming for Cameron Archer. This is an encouraging trend for Villa’s academy to earn serious transfer fees for players that currently had little chance of getting into Villa’s first team or be an active member of the match day squad.
All three players’ exploits in the recent England Under-21’s Euros win has no doubt pumped up their values. With very little Premier League experience (if any), there are still question marks over what their potential impact in the league can be, so cashing out now for such transfer fees is a no-brainer for Villa.
You only have to look at the likes of Jack Grealish or Gareth Barry to recognise young talent that’s worth keeping, because they were already part of the first team at the age of 19 to 21.
Yes…a Villa Hawaiian range
The TNT Sports love-in this weekend during the Oil-Classico derby was a sight to behold. Still no mention of the allegations of cheating against Manchester City, nor particular attention to the fact that both sides are owned by nation states, one of which has acquired a fondness for beheading teenagers.
Despite their riches, trophies and players, I’d like to believe that the majority of fans are not green with envy and would prefer not to be owned by sovereign states. With Manchester United also potentially falling into the hands of Qatar, the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better. The match certainly makes you grateful for Villa’s current owners, who are striving to make Villa competitive despite the odds and unlevel playing field.
Follow Armen on Twitter here – @VillanArmen