I am proud to be midtable. Aston Villa is a midtable side. I am an Aston Villa fan and I am proud of our club, our team and our management. For many years, I have felt frustration and annoyance at how the club I love was managed. Every aspect of the club was second best (if not third best, fourth-best or worse) compared to the clubs which I believe we compete with. Yes, we are better than The Blues or The Baggies or Accrington Stanley but that doesn’t mean much. I want us to be better than Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.
On July 20th 2018 something happened at Aston Villa to help every Villa fan be proud again. NSWE acquired Aston Villa and set in motion our new trajectory to the top. This is not just to the top of Midland’s football nor just the top of English football. But, NSWE set in motion the rise of Aston Villa right to the top of European and World Club football. Every Villa supporter must be proud of what is happening and where we are going.
Bumps In The Road
Just like executing any plan there will be bumps in the road. The key to success is how you manage these bumps and how you learn from them. Since acquisition we have had many bumps in the road. Grealish got injured in the first season missing a few months. Super John McGinn broke his foot last season. Wes and Heaton both got serious injuries and lost a year of football. We have bought some players that haven’t worked out (Kalinic and Jota). Last season we struggled at times, particularly from January to March.
We have had some bad results this season too. The worst for me was our recent game against Burnley. It is difficult to believe that we could play so well and come away with nothing. The games against Brighton and West Ham were very disappointing too and the Saints game was very annoying. The two Manc games were up there too. We could have easily got something from both of those games and I do not blame the ref nor VAR.
But the trajectory to the top which is making every Villa fan proud is still firmly on course. At times this season we have been outstanding to watch. Liverpool and Arsenal games spring to mind. Going down to 10 against The Baggies. And the first half against Burnley. It is difficult to remember 45 minutes of football that were so good. It is fun being a Villa supporter and it is even more fun being a proud Villa supporter.
Off the field is making me proud too. We are developing the infrastructure, the management teams and the playing staff. The last transfer window saw 5 quality first team players join Villa. Each is proving their worth and each looks a good investment. This window we have added 150k youth goalkeeper Sam Proctor (age 13) and 15m Morgan Sanson. We have also moved Nyland, Lansbury, Kalinic, Indiana and Fred out. Kalinic, Indiana and Fred on loan while Nyland and Lansbury have permanently left Villa. These are all positives.
Proud To Be Midtable
Over the last few months, many fans have speculated about our ability to finish top 6 or top 4. We have had some fans suggest that this is our opportunity to invest in players in Jan and push for top 4. This is backed up with ‘We can beat any team on our day’. Yes, we can beat any team on our day and equally we can lose to any team on our day. Also, and something many fans are blinkered to is that every other team in the PL can beat any team on their day. Burnley just became the first team in about 3 years to beat Liverpool at home. The Blades just beat Man Utd at O/T. Villa is a midtable side this season and we need to be realistic about that.
Villa does not have the depth of squad to compete with the likes of Liverpool, City, United and Chelsea etc over the course of a full season. As a wise man (with no hubcaps) once said, ‘The table never lies’. This is very true. It is true because it is a measure over 38 games and not over 1 game. The results and performances over 1 game show us where are frailties are. Sometimes our frailties are not as evident and sometimes they don’t cost us. But they are the areas we need to improve. How many times have we said we need to make subs earlier yet we still got the result we wanted? Against Burnley. we needed to make subs earlier and it ended up costing us. Deano and the team MUST learn form this.
Deano’s Ability to Learn
Since Deano became our Head Coach he has continually demonstrated his ability to learn from previous errors. In season 1 he changed our approach to games after the gung-ho start and he won us promotion. In season 2 he changed our style and how we defended during the lockdown and we survived in the PL. Deano has proven he can learn and to continue in our upward trajectory he needs to keep proving this. He needs to change how he uses subs and how to manage the last 10 mins of a game. There are lots of different pressures on Deano this season and he is handling them really well. He is making Villa fans proud again. Let’s hope Deano is the man to continue this and take us to the next level.
This season will be considered a success for Deano. I, like many Villa fans, had aspirations to avoid a relegation dog fight this time around and Deano has delivered. We are a midtable team and that is great! We only avoided relegation on the last day of last season and this improvement is what I had hoped for. Next season will be an interesting year as expectations will be through the roof. We will spend in the summer and we will be building on a great 2nd year back in the PL. I think a push for Europe will be very much on the cards.
This evening we have a very difficult game against the Saints, another midtable side. We are level on points and we have a game in hand which shows that we are at a similar level. We should not get a thrashing and nor should we give one. I expect this game will end 2-1 but to which team is the big question. The result will depend more on the respective manager’s decision making rather than the players. I really do hope that Deano gets it right and I will be both a happy and proud Villa fan as I enjoy a few cold beers with the game.
What The Bookies Say
The bookies are on Deano’s side and believe that he will emerge the victor over Ralph Hasenhuttl. Villa is 5/4 to win, Saints 19/10 and the draw is 11/4. None of those odds appeals to me as I genuinely think this will be a very close game and could go either way. Win, lose or draw, after the game I will still be a proud Villa fan.