How are Aston Villa doing one year on?
Seven new faces have been added to Villa’s squad since the last campaign and many have departed. The team has had a whole season to gel as a team and to work out each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Manager Paul Lambert has had more than a year to stamp his own ideology on the team, bringing in players his own team of scouts have scouted and moving on players who simply did not fit into his system.
Lambert arrived at Villa on a crest of a wave last season but fast-forward 19 Premier League games and Villa just survived relegation.
The start looked very promising this season before trailing off rapidly, but recent performances have given fans another glimmer of hope. Beating Manchester City and drawing with Hull City has seen Villa reach 10th after seven games and now some of the squad has the chance to recuperate while the international games take place.
But just how well are Villa doing compared to this time last year?
Perhaps surprisingly this year’s team is doing considerably better and it’s even more surprising to remember just how badly Villa started last year.
After seven games in the 2011/12 season Villa were already languishing near the foot of the table on just five points, two points ahead of second-from-bottom Norwich and one point below notoriously slow starters, Wigan.
Despite going on a bit of a bad run after beating Arsenal – losing to Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle – Villa have already got double that amount points.
It might not be much to boast about but 10 points after seven games isn’t that bad and 10th is where we’d realistically like to be at the end of the season.
The home form is still a worry despite beating Man City because, although that was a fantastic win, it could easily have ended in defeat. The other two games have seen us lose fairly comprehensively at home so there is still a lot of work to do.
The positive, however, is the fact Lambert was able to change the formation when the squad was hit with a few injuries, reverting to a 3-5-2 or 5-3-2, depending which way you look at it, against Man City and the side looked fairly balanced.
That couldn’t have happened last year because we didn’t have a strong enough squad.
The away form has been very positive and is huge step up from early last season. We had picked up just one point on our travels out of four games during 2012/13, but this year we have only lost narrowly to Chelsea while winning two and drawing one of the others.
Villa’s counter-attacking style is so suited to playing teams away and if we could just tweak a few things at home we’d have the potential to march up the table.
Style-wise there’s not been a huge amount of difference. The defence looks a little stronger and the midfield a little wiser, but we still concede far too many goals from crosses and set pieces, and midfield still looks clueless at times.
El Ahmadi and Fabian Delph in midfield have stepped up again and are looking more and more assured in the middle of the park.
Ashley Westwood has been disappointing and lack of creativity in midfield is a little worrying but the season is still young.
The defence also still looks weak at times but the addition of Antonio Luna and Bacuna down the flanks looks very promising, especially when playing three at the back. Plus Bacuna looks excellent from set-pieces.
Jores Okore looked very good before an injury ruled him out for the season but even playing Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker and Ron Vlaar looks a pretty handy back three.
Baker looks to be taking more of a central role and it seems to be benefiting the team. Let’s just hope he can stay fit.
Up front the three-pronged attack of Benteke, Weimann and Gabby – when they’re all fit – seems to be Lambert’s favoured option, which was the same as last year.
Benteke was just coming on to the scene this time last year and what an impact he went on to have. Our biggest worry last season was what we would do if he got injured, even with Darren Bent on the bench at the time, and the same could still be said for this season. However, the addition of Libor Kosak has lowered that burden because he’s settled in very quickly.
With the other new additions to the team it means there is far greater flexibility within the whole squad this season and Lambert has already shown he can adapt to certain situations.
He still tends to throw four forwards on when we’re losing, which sees the team lose all of its shape and style, which is very frustrating. But the comeback against Man City showed the team has a renewed faith and with the squad we’ve got now the team looks better, which has shown in the results and performances a year on.
Villa have already faced Arsenal, Man City and Liverpool, but it doesn’t get any easy with a visit from Spurs at Villa Park next, who have put eight past us in their last two games.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season pans out, but it’s starting to look rosier for Villa fans.
Article by James Fisher
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