The first two games of the season were nothing short of a disaster for new manager Paul Lambert, losing to newly promoted West Ham United before a resounding defeat by Everton at home, but the point earned away to Newcastle United and the arrival of several new players has given the Villa faithful something to smile about this week.
Newcastle had only been defeated once at St James’ Park last season, now named the Sports Direct Arena. That defeat came at the hands of Manchester City, who would later be crowned champions of the Premier League. Aston Villa almost became the second team in 2012 year to beat Alan Pardew’s resurgent Magpies, as they dominated the play for large periods and created several more chances than their opponents. The Villa team looked full of confidence, a far cry from the team that struggled during the last few months of the 2011/12 season, and the first two fixtures of the current campaign.
The increased confidence and attacking threat is a hallmark of new manager Lambert, and a sign that his ideas and expressive style is now being transferred on to the pitch. New signings Karim El Ahmadi and Brett Holman were terrific in midfield, but all across the park their was not a bad performance to be seen. The defence, which looked clueless against Everton just a week prior, now looked organised and resolute. None more so than Ciaran Clark, who not only grabbed himself a goal, but looked assured and composed throughout.
Villa also brushed aside Tranmere Rovers in the Capital One cup just a few days previous to their draw at Newcastle, earning a very credible 3-0 victory. The confidence gained from that result was clear, and it was also a positive week off the field for Aston Villa as well. The summer transfer window came to a close on Friday, and Villa fans have grown accustomed to this being a disappointing period, with many big-name players leaving during this time. This time round this was not the case, as Villa signed four bright young prospects for around £12m combined.
Jordan Bowery was brought in from Chesterfield for around £500,000 – a tall but pacey young striker who, although far from being a finished article, has plenty of potential to become a terrific talent. Crewe captain Ashley Westwood was brought in for around £2m – a central midfielder who can keep possession and was key to winning Crewe promotion back to League one last time out. He is another player for the future, perhaps, but who will certainly not look out of his depth in the Premier League if given a chance. Left-back Joe Bennett is a player who has attracted interest from around the Premier League for several years, with Liverpool once reported to be interested in signing him for a little under £5m. At half that price, Villa have signed an attacking left-back from Middlesbrough who is full of pace, and a much needed addition to a relatively slow current back line.
Christian Benteke will be the man every fan looks forward to see when Villa next play against Swansea on September 15th, with the young Belgian forward scoring 25 goals in just 42 appearances for previous club Genk. Standing at 6’3″, his strength and height will be a key asset to a team lacking on both, and could prove to be an excellent piece of business from Lambert.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Moldova