The Premier League season is 12 games in and the table is now starting to take shape.
However, what will it look like come the end of the season?
Perhaps more importantly, how will a first season back in the Premier League pan out for Aston Villa?
In this edition, Max Wilkin’s takes a look at the 2019/2020 season so far:
There are some early surprises already this season, such as Sheffield United, who have been playing great football under Chris Wilder. They find themselves in 5th place behind Manchester City, and ahead of Arsenal and Manchester United.
Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham have collectively endured very poor starts to the season.
Tottenham have been arguably the most surprising for the wrong reasons after after signing high quality players including Tanguy NDombele and Giovani Lo Celso.
Spurs are lying low in 14th place.
Despite this poor start, their Chairman Daniel Levy, with much riding on the club progressing in a brand new stadium, isn’t leaving anything to chance.
Tottenham’s board acted swiftly, opting to sack coach Mauricio Pochettino after five years in charge. Less than 24 hours later Jose Mourinho was at the helm.
The Premier League top scorer is currently Jamie Vardy having notched 11 goals, including a hat trick against Southampton during a 9-0 thrashing at St Mary’s.
Kevin De Bruyne is already running away with the divisions most assists with 9.
This is 5 higher than David Silva, who is second on the list of creativity.
Despite Man City chasing Liverpool, De Bruyne has been getting assists for fun, having perfected an early cross which has already been profitable for The Citizens on a number of occasions already this term.
Villa find themselves just above the relegation zone in 17th place.
Although this doesn’t make the table look good, so far this campaign Villa have played some decent football and have been unlucky on a number of occasions. VAR anyone?
Villa currently have the best goal difference in the bottom 6 sides in of the division, which is encouraging as we are capable of scoring goals but are (generally) keeping them out as well.
The highlight of the season so far was the victory over Championship winners Norwich away, a 5-1 demolition against Daniel Farke’s then injury riddled side.
The game at Carrow Road saw the new Brazilian international Wesley score twice…and also miss a penalty.
Add to this a Hourihane, Grealish and a Douglas Luiz screamer, it saw Villa become the first promoted team to score five in a game away from home since 2001.
The downfall of the season so far has been losing or drawing games from winning positions on a frequent basis.
This has happened against Tottenham, Arsenal, Burnley and Liverpool.
This collapse in the closing minutes has resulted in Villa picking up just 1 point in these 4 games, rather than the 12 if we had held on until fulltime.
An increase of 11 points on our current tally would take us onto double their current total and into 5th place. This would be a mere 3 points behind title chasing Manchester City.
Despite this, there have been plenty of positives to come out of these games, particularly those versus the top teams.
Against Liverpool, Villa were missing Jack Grealish, which from the outset made this game look more difficult to win.
Despite this, Villa played very well, starting off the game with multiple chances including Anwar El Ghazi sidestepping Virgil Van Dijk and firing a shot into the gloves of Alisson.
Then came the goal from Trezeguet in the 21st minute, latching onto a John McGinn cross and slotting it past Alisson.
Villa saw out the remainder of the first half but then came the onslaught from Klopp’s side in the second.
Liverpool amassed 74% possession across the game and with it, a relentless 25 shots on goal.
To go alongside this, Villa were sitting further and further back as the game went on which eventually led to Villa losing the game to late goals from Robertson and Mane.
Although Villa didn’t win the game, they showed that they could go toe-to-toe with the biggest sides in the league even without their key man.
It has been a very up and down start to the season, so let’s see what the fans have thought of it so far.
It is clear to see that people are seeing Villa’s season so far as:
‘a work in progress’
‘where patience was always going to be important.’
It shows that Villa fans are willing to be patient to see where this project can go.
We have many young and inexperienced players who need time to adapt to the league and country.
Andrew Wilkins said;
“We signed 10+ senior pros, 3 high achieving loan players, same spine of the promoted team, signed young promising players however some with unknown ability.”
This clearly outlines that Villa fans understand that it will take time for players to gel together.
These performances show that to the extent it will take time to play well and consistently for the remainder of the season.
People have said multiple times across different reviews that Grealish and McGinn have been key players this season.
Steve Smyth and Martin Chrispin have said that they are “the spine” of the team and “Stand outs so far”.
These opinions are backed up by the stats (from WhoScored) who rate Mcginn and Grealish at the highest average rated Villa players so far this season.
John Mcginn has averaged a 7.5 rating across his 12 premier league games, including 3 goals and 2 assists.
Jack Grealish has similarly earned lots of plaudits for his performances this season.
The England hopeful has averaged a 7.3 rating [in 2 less games than McGinn] and has 2 goals with 3 assists.
Grealish and Mcginn’s seasons have also included a nomination each for PL player of the month.
The downside of this good form is that we then depent on them too much and they are heavily missed when absent,
Jake Aldridge said that Villa
“rely on Grealish a bit too much to create”.
This was an evident factor in the game defeat at Wolves.
We never really got a hold of the game and were made to pay for this by a wonder strike by Ruben Neves and a good finish low to Orjan Nyland’s left by Raul Jiminez.
Although Trezeguet did get his second goal in as many games, we never created many quality chances, with 8 out of our 13 shots coming from outside of the box.
Wolves too had more shots and made more passes than Villa.
When this is compared to similar previous opposition, Jack Grealish got a 9.3 rating [on WhoScored], a game which saw Villa having more shots and corners.
Grealish, of course, did not feature due to a problematic calf injury.
Finally, Wolves also had 16 of their 24 shots from inside the box, which is a huge difference between the 2 games in which he did appear.
From this evidence, you can see that Villa appear to be a much better team when Jack Grealish plays.
Is there the need for some more creativity throughout the squad when he’s unavailable?
The main downfall of Villa this season has been, as aforementioned, has been inconsistentcy.
This isn’t just across a group of games, but also within games.
“Inconsistency has been consistent within the group”.
“The Premier League is an unforgiving league”
This quote, from another Villa fan, Jamie Yapp, underlines that certain fans have witnessed a variety of different performances. The worry of course, that if left unchecked, then it could result in bigger issues further down the line.
Sheffield United have been very consistent and at this interlude [for the international break] are the benchmark for newly promoted sides.
Personally, I think that this inconsistency in form and during games has been caused by a general lack of experience in the top flight.
Considering we spent over £100 million in the summer, we do lack Premier League experience, with the most experienced recruit being Tom Heaton.
Might we have been better off signing some more players like Heaton, with greater amounts of experience who will improve us in terms of consistency and seeing out games in the future? Were these players available to us? Or would this just have been a repeat of former mistakes?
Villa supporters Martin Chrispin and Andrew Wilkins believe that good recruitment in January will be necessary.
Hopefully this will help us to improve.
To end on a positive note, there is lots of positivity among the fans.
There is broad appreciation for the way that we play under Dean Smith, compared to the dross that we endured under Steve Bruce.
My favourite quote from fans that I spoke to:
“I still have a sense of excitement and belief that this season will be our foundation for building our future.”
I think that this outlook captures the hope and ambition surrounding the club at the moment and although there has been some negative opinions of some players so far this season, there remains an overall feeling of positivity.
There aren’t many better things than a sold out Villa Park in full voice. If we can repeat the atmosphere like that against Everton for the visit of Newcastle, then we as fans can do our part to push the players through and help them towards a vital win.
Finally, the season so far has been as I expected.
We have gone deep into games against big teams and nearly come out with results. We have won the majority of games that you would expect us to win such as against Norwich and Brighton.
However, to survice, we will need to make sure that we are capable of holding on to win games, rather than losing them. To achieve this we may need a striker and a winger in the January window to make sure.
If 17th was given to us at the end of the season? I would be happy to use this as a foundation to build our future.
Special thanks to Andrew Wilkins, Jake Aldridge, Steve Smyth, Martin Chrispin and Jamie Yapp for their views contained in this article. Written by Max Wilkins – Editor: Dan Rogers
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