Now that the hysteria, negative in the most part, of hiring an ex-Blues manager has subsided, Villa are set to embark on the new Premier League season 2011/12 with a lack of games and indeed a lack of players under their belt. The new boss hasn’t been handed the entirity of the transfer funds made from the sales of key players such as Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, and despite replenishing the squad with excellent signings in Charles N’Zogbia and Shay Given, the Scot’s squad is thin on the ground.
It is for this reason that McLeish will be thankful for a somewhat favourable start to the campaign after the fixture list revealed that the club would not play one of last term’s top 6 until 8 games into the new season, when the club travel to Manchester City. Villa open their account with an away trip to Fulham, also under new leadership in Martin Jol, though a home tie with Midlands rivals Wolves is a standout fixture just 3 games in, and is the first of the Villans matches to be shown live on Sky on Saturday 27th.
With 5 of the club’s first 7 matches being against opponents who finished in the bottom half of the table, or promoted sides in QPR (live on Sky a month later on September 25th), McLeish is certainly under pressure to get results immediately, and may need to do so when looking at the club’s schedule for December.
After a so-called easy start there is inevitably going to be a tricky period in any fixture list, and Villa’s campaign during the Christmas period couldn’t be trickier! Starting with a home tie with champions Manchester United Villa then travel to Bolton, where victories are notoriously hard to come by, before hosting Liverpool and Arsenal back-to-back. The month end with two of the toughest away games in the league, first against Stoke before facing Chelsea on New Year’s Eve! Happy New Year? Perhaps not!
So the end of 2011 could be an unfruitful one for McLeish, highlighting the importance of getting the high number of fans still opposed to his appointment on board early on. Villa enter the campaign having played just 5 pre-season friendlies, the most recent of which saw Charles N’Zogbia make a goalscoring debut in a 1-1 draw away to Europa League finalists Braga. A bright display from the Frenchman was encouraging, along with Jean Makoun’s ability to see a pass before he receives the ball and I am tipping the January signing, and am sure McLeish is hoping in the same vein, to be like a new recruit this time around, with the likes of Stephen Warnock and Ireland also looking to rejuvenate their Villa careers.
In terms of friendly highlights, Barry Bannan has perhaps been the most promising of the younger crop, as Albrighton was the year before him, whilst Shay Given has proven what a coup he could be for the club as well. Darren Bent’s 3 goals indicate that his finishing will be crucial next year, and even though some maintain that he is not involved in the games enough, his prowess in front of goal will undoubtedly be key to a decent finish for McLeish’s debut season at the helm.
So plenty to look forward to, plenty of action to get your teeth in to, and plenty for the new man in charge to prove to the fans as we approach the new campaign. Anyone excited? I know I am!
This season Sky Sports will show 115 live Premier League fixtures with every match available in HD and selected matches in 3D. The confirmed TV listings are till end of November, with a guaranteed 39 live games. All this action over the 5 Sky Sports channels plus Sky Go on your iPad, iPhone or laptop, as well as top TV channels, broadband and calls is now available for under £40 a month.
- Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs Aston Villa – Prediction, Team News, Line-ups
- Huge Test for Emery – Aston Villa Predicted Lineup and Preview vs Tottenham Hotspur
- Aston Villa eye Europa Conference League success after impressive 2022-23 season
- Aston Villa forward Cameron Archer set to join Sheffield United in £18.5m deal
- Aston Villa in July: Four preseason fixtures as Emery aims for another excellent season
- Aston Villa make formal offer to sign Villarreal star Pau Torres
- Preview: Aston Villa vs Brighton & Hove Albion – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Preview: Aston Villa vs Newcastle United – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Aston Villa in April: Next seven Premier League fixtures
- Manchester City vs Aston Villa Preview – Prediction & Potential line-ups