It’s August, which can only mean one thing. The season is nearly upon us and do Villa look ready? Well not really no. I say this not because of a defeat to Chelsea in torrid conditions which is understandable, but because the club seem insistent on starting pre-season 1 if not 2 weeks late.
In analysing the Chelsea game it is hard to get a good grasp as to the levels that the team are at other than they are not as fit as Chelsea, never will be. However, it should be taken into consideration by those who say that both teams dealt with the same conditions, that the London club had 6 friendly matches under their belts, and significantly more time acclimatizing to the extreme conditions in Asia.
The game couldn’t have started worse than conceding after 35 seconds despite a heroic double save from Shay Given, whose performance on the day should be taken as a real positive, and as soon as Chelsea controlled possession, which was somewhat inevitable, chasing after the former champions proved an impossible task. Even in this country, playing the way we did would have seen us get beat, but the more frustrating thing from my perspective is that we jetted off to Hong Kong having played just 1 pre-season match against Walsall and risk entering the season out of match practice.
Other than a highly commendable display from Shay Given there were a few other positives to draw from the final in particular. The late cameos from both Barry Bannan and senior team debutant Gary Gardner both caught the eye and both should be in prime position for a start against Derby in my opinion. In fact, Bent, Makoun and the aforementioned duos introduction came far too late considering the players looked like they were running in treacle but I don’t wish to get on the manager’s back before the season has begun.
Crucially, Villa completed the signing of Charles N’Zogbia whilst the team were away on tour, meaning he should feature in the remaining friendlies versus Derby on Wednesday and Braga the following Saturday. The Frenchman needs time to settle in but perhaps more importantly, McLeish must decide on a system to accommodate the new man, be it the same as last season with Ireland slotting in behind Bent to replace Young and N’Zogbia replacing Downing out wide, or the £9.5m in a more central position, with to new boss deploying both Delfouneso and Heskey wide left up to now.
Either way, having two games to decide this before the new season doesn’t seem ideal preparation and one hopes it won’t be a case of too little, too late when it came to pre-season. Would like to see Petrov rested next time out in order to allow the likes of Makoun and Gardner some more playing time, whilst Bannan has been more impressive than Albrighton this year round after the latter lit up last seasons warm-up period.
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