Aston Villa: Best Cleveland-related sports team in the universe
Posted by disappointmentzone on 28 August 2006
Aston Villa is the second-best team in the English Premier League, trailing only Manchester United in the standings. Of course, the EPL season is very young. It’s best to think of Villa’s undefeated record as the soccer equivalent of the Indians’ 6-1 start to the 2006 season. But for the moment let’s not focus on such things. Villa earned win #2 yesterday, beating Newcastle 2-0. Soccer Spot provides the coverage.
Aston Villa 2 – 0 Newcastle
With a shutout victory at home on Sunday, Aston Villa moved into second place behind Manchester United with seven points from three games. They are technically tied with Everton at seven points with a +3 goal differential (5 goals for, 2 against). The game was the first since Randy Lerner became majority shareholder of the team and a nice way to welcome the new American owner. Luke Moore and Juan Pablo Angel scored in the 3rd and 38th minutes, respectively. Surprisingly, Villa made no substitutions throughout the match, which may signify that manager Martin O’Neil’s confidence in his side or a general lack of confidence in his substitutes.
The good and the bad:
The good signs are that Newcastle is generally regarded as a solid side and Aston Villa basically took them apart. Newcastle’s roster is full of solid upper-mid range talented players as well as Damien Duff, who is absolutely excellent. Villa’s roster, on the other hand, reads off like a who’s who of years past. Despite this, putting in a couple of good shows to start the season (and not yet having lost) is a solid way to go. At this rate, few teams should scare Villa, but it will be some time before Villa is truly tested: games away to West Ham, Watford, and one at home against Charlton before a September 30 visit to Chelsea (for a complete schedule, go HERE). It would be foolish to say Villa will enter Stamford Bridge with 16 points, but things are looking good so far. Team captain Gareth Barry has signed a contract extension through 2010, which is a nice security measure for the team. Barry is a solid player, if not the greatest. The exclusion of Milan Baros from the Czech Euro2008 qualifiers this weekend is a blessing for Villa, which should see its best player back to full fitness for the West Ham game.
The bad signs are, again, that Villa doesn’t look deep enough to truly contend for anything beyond the UEFA Cup. If O’Neill has his way, Lerner’s first real act as owner will be to drop a ton of cash on a few new players. If they can’t get a couple of solid role players (specifically in the midfield), it could be rough seas ahead against big sides like Liverpool who can dominate the center of the field and even against clubs like Tottenham who effectively control passing lanes. Also, despite the fact that Newcastle went down to ten men in the 60th minute due to Obafemi Martin’s knee injury (two days after transferring in a 10million GBP move from Inter Milan – sounds like the Browns), Villa was unable to capitalize on their numerical advantage, despite attacking. In my humble opinion it is never a good idea to sit back and absorb pressure for thirty minutes and it’s nice to see that O’Neill opted to at least attempt to score with Moore coming close to a second. The ability to kill off opponents is critical when playing against another mid-level club (as both Newcastle and Villa certainly must be categorized) and the lack of a goal is hard to overlook.
All in all: a good outing against Newcastle and the coming weeks should be good for the club. By late-October, Villa should be assured of surviving relegation, which is always nice to get wrapped up a few months before the midway point of the season (that’s more because Watford, Wigan, Reading, and Sheffield United should make sure there’s a massive points gulf between themselves and everyone else – though Wigan surprised me by surviving last year at the expense of Norwich).