Team strengths: Prior to their 3-0 defeat at home to Arsenal, Aston Villa had only conceded one goal for the season. At the beginning of the term nobody would have thought that the centre-back partnership of Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos would be as successful as it has been. Senderos’ career failed to really take off in the way he would have liked and the way many had expected, always struggling to nail down a place in the Arsenal team for a prolonged period of time, some loan spells and transfers later he still hadn’t lived up to his potential. However, Paul Lambert has taken a chance on the 29-year-old and he’s reaping the rewards.
Another one of the Villians’ strengths is the squad depth they’ve got. Paul Lambert has got some incredible talent on his bench; players like Joe Cole, Jack Grealish, Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker, Darren Bent, Charles N’Zogbia and even Shay Given are all ready and waiting to be called upon when needed.
Team weaknesses: Goals! Villa’s strikers aren’t what you would call prolific, especially in the absence of superstar Christian Benteke. Andreas Weimann scored just five goals in 37 league appearances last year and Gabriel Agbonlahor racked up a disappointing four goals in 30 games. Despite Benteke returning to training this week, he won’t be back in action for quite some time still.
Star player so far this season: My star player of this season so far is unsung hero, Brad Guzan, the USNMNT shot stopper has never looked out of place since replacing Shay Given as the clubs no1. Now that he’s behind an experienced and able back four he should keep even more clean sheets than last term.
How did your team do in the transfer window? A lot better than expected. The players Randy Lerner splashed out on all seemed to be trying to reignite their careers. Kieran Richardson had never reached the potential many predicted during his Manchester United days but has looked good so far in the Claret and Blue. The same also applies for Senderos, Joe Cole, Tom Cleverley and even Aly Cissokho for that matter. These players have so far proved their critics wrong this season as Villa cruised to third place in the league table.
Best starting XI:
Injury concerns: Ron Vlaar did not start at the weekend but is expected to be fully fit for next week’s encounter away to Chelsea. Benteke was ruled out for five months when he picked up an injury last April and has returned to training this week. The return of the Belgian striker will be a huge boost for Lambert. However, a virus that’s been sweeping the dressing room is a major concern according to the club’s boss.
How’s the manager doing thus far this season: The managers are doing superbly this season. The appointment of former United captain, Roy Keane, as assistant to Lambert was a very wise decision. He brings a different aspect to the club and adds a something special to a side that looked like they were going nowhere at the beginning of the season. As a team, Keane and Lambert have bought well and have moulded a team who look comfortable to finish in the top half of the table, a lot higher than many, including myself, would have predicted a few weeks back.
Biggest worry for the remainder of the season: A worry for teams like Villa, who overachieve, is keeping hold of their stars. Everyone saw what happened at Southampton in the summer and plenty of big clubs will already be eyeing up the likes of Ron Vlaar, Guzan and Delph. As a Villa fan I would worry about whether the club will have the ability to keep these players but a part from that this looks like it could be a season to relish for the Villa.
Overall team rating (out of 5 stars): 4.5
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