Five Reasons to be Cheerful as Villans
“It’s fascinating how quickly sentiments can change in football. Just a week ago, everything felt rosy at Villa Park, with the imminent announcement of the UEFA Europa Conference League draw and a new Premier League campaign on the horizon.
Fast forward to Saturday evening, and things took a much bleaker turn. Following a 5-1 defeat to PIF (Newcastle) United on the opening day of the season, one can be forgiven for feeling melancholic, but the result was merely the cherry on top of the cake.
Earlier in the week, it emerged that Emiliano Buendía would miss the rest of the season before even kicking a ball. While the midfield could adapt and cope, it felt like a harsh blow to morale, both within and outside the club, at a time when optimism was soaring.
During the defeat at St. James’ Park, former captain Tyrone Mings suffered a serious ACL injury too, that now jeopardizes his season as well.
Yet, despite the forgettable past few days, here are five reasons to be cheerful:
Here it is, rock bottom. Both literally and figuratively, having lost two important first team players for the majority of the season after just one Premier League game, which ended in a thumping defeat. Key sparks to the team in Jacob Ramsey and Alex Moreno are also still sidelined. So where’s the positive part you might ask? Well, Villa is likely to finish Gameweek 1 in 20th position and it is unlikely that they will finish there come May, so the only way is up.
Last season, there were a few low points under Emery, such as the defeat against Stevenage or the run of three and then two defeats but in all cases the team rallied and came back stronger. Without doubt, Sean Dyche’s Everton will not make it a comfortable game, however, a win at Villa Park will lift the gloom around the club as would some timely signings and departures (naming no names).
Even with the horrendous thirty minute conclusion to the match at St James’ Park, that witnessed an otherwise even battle end in a bloodbath, the start to this season will not be as bad as the one experienced under Gerrard last season. The campaign will be a long one, so strap yourselves in for some major ups and occasional downs.
The Full Monchi
Losing two key players this early into a campaign is a disaster for the club and for the two players, who were about to experience European football for the first time. But had the injuries occurred in September then the damage would have been more severe. Luckily, Villa have a few weeks to fortify the ranks and repair some of the damage. Monchi now has the opportunity to silence his many critics in Italy and Spain and show the Villa faithful that he still has some aces up his sleeve.
Nicolò Zaniolo imminent arrival suggests that Villa are looking to cover Buendia with the loan element, while also exploring a ‘try before you buy’ scenario with the once-bright hope of Italian football. Zaniolo seems to come from the school of Italian temperamental geniuses – Ala Benito Carbone – so it’ll be intriguing to see how he equips himself to the Premier League. You wouldn’t expect Villa to stop there in the what remains of the transfer window either. As Villa will want to ensure they aren’t caught short between now and January, in what will prove to be a very busy few months.
The sale of Aaron Ramsey to Burnley was initially surprising as Villa have recently opted to loan out their promising young players. This window, however, it seems as though a more FFP-friendly approach has been applied. Villa are beginning to mimic what the elite-level clubs have done for years and instead moving to sell their homegrown talent with buy-back clauses. This model ensures a clean profit figure to appease the accountants, but also maintains control over the players as Villa have the option of buying them back, resulting in what is essentially a longer term loan with a lump sum paid up front.
These are the mechanisms that the club must adopt to try to cut the gap between themselves and the elite clubs, who already boast a far superior revenue thus easing their FFP concerns.
In this scenario, everyone is a winner: Burnley gains a talented player at a reasonable price, while Ramsey gets to play and learn his trade in the Premier League, safe in the knowledge that if he develops as hoped, he will have a larger transfer in place in a couple of years, back to Villa Park and on a higher salary. With the possibility of Cameron Archer and Tim Iroegbunam also leaving the club this summer, it will be interesting to see if similar deals are negotiated.
At present the focus will undoubtedly remain on the two long-term absentees, however, there is some good news around the corner on the injury front. Villa’s left flank was lethal at times in the run-in last season and that was in no small part due to the combination of Alex Moreno and Jacob Ramsey. Both have missed the start of this campaign, but the pair will hopefully be returning in September to provide more ammunition to the Villa attack.
The substitutes bench looked weak against Newcastle, as it did for the majority of last season but adding the pair along with Jhon Duran will provide Unai Emery with more flexibility and firepower. On top of that, if Villa do add more numbers during this window, which seems likely, then the squad will rebalance despite the shocking depletion experienced this week.
Back to School
Spare a thought for the Villa players, who will likely spend a couple of days reviewing the numerous blunders from the opening day defeat in microscopic detail.
With eight days of recovery until the home tie against Everton, it is certain that Emery will make it abundantly clear where things went wrong. The players have time to recover physically and mentally after a draining week, and the opportunity to put things right against a club that still finds itself in a precarious position, despite narrowly avoiding relegation yet again.
Now, of course, the players have brought this video-review hell on themselves with the abysmal thirty-minute spell that resulted in a 5-1 defeat, so they won’t receive too much sympathy from fans. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that Emery has previously explained that his teams develop by learning on the job. This means that he judges his sides during competitive games rather than on the training pitch. As such, the recent defeat will provide him with comprehensive information about the team and individuals at a time when he can still make additions to the side.
Come Sunday against Everton, the performance levels will surely increase, and hopefully, the result will follow to kickstart this exciting new season