Ahead of the visit of Aston Villa to Selhurst Park this weekend, TEB had a chat with the guys at 7500 To Holte on their season so far, thoughts ahead of the game and much more.
Q. What did you make of the game between the two sides at Villa Park earlier in the season?
From an Aston Villa perspective, it was a thoroughly enjoyable Boxing Day game; Villa dominated the ball and dictated the tempo of play throughout the duration. Unfortunately, Palace came up against a rejuvenated Anwar El Ghazi, who your defence struggled to get to grips with. If I am not mistaken, I think Villa ended the affair with an expected goals of somewhere in the 5.0 figures, so on reflection, the score line of just three flattered the away team slightly (mainly due to Ollie Watkins and his love affair of hitting the woodwork).
Q. How do you feel about the season so far for Villa and what has been the highlight?
On reflection, the unthinkable start Villa made to the campaign had fans dreaming of the very top and rightly so as we haven’t had much to get excited about the last few years. However, it seems to have fizzled out slightly in the absence of Jack Grealish to the point where we are left with nothing to play for. Don’t get me wrong, after the stressful season we endured last year, staying up by the skin of our teeth, every fan went into this season dreaming of a season of consolidation and safety as early as possible and the team have delivered that to a tee. It puts us in an exciting position moving forward to the future for sure.
Q. Where do you think Villa go from here after what seems a season of establishing themselves back in the Premier League after a close call last season?
Villa certainly seem to be making promising developments off the pitch as our foreign investors seem intent on growing the club internationally with the addition of our new state of the art training facility, which was opened last week by Villa fan, Prince William. It seems as though another large budget is to be made available to Dean Smith in the summer and if our recruitment is anywhere near as successful as last season, I have no doubt we can make further strides up the table and dare I say it rustle a few feathers in competing for Europe.
Q. Is Dean Smith underrated as a manager considering how he has done at Villa Park since joining from Brentford?
When you compare the media coverage received from the likes of Marcelo Bielsa, you could make a case Dean Smith has not received as many accolades. However, I think I speak for many Villa fans when I say Dean will be more than happy operating firmly under the radar and not trying to draw attention to himself and the club in a bid to continue progressing successfully and quietly.
Q. How do you think the club will approach the summer transfer window?
Whilst many clubs are still facing the fallout affect of the pandemic it seems the club couldn’t be in a better position financially as it was made public we are one of three Premier League clubs to escape the pandemic debt-free! This should allow us to approach the summer transfer window and flex our financial muscle to attract the players capable to improving the team on the pitch and get us closer to where we want to be. It will be a year since our new recruitment team have been in charge and its clear to see their first year has been nothing short of exceptional. If they can continue their philosophy to such a high degree then the sky is the limit for this Aston Villa side.
Q. Who has been the stand out player for Villa so far this season?
I am certainly not short of options writing this! A case could be made for many players – Emi Martinez transitioning from Arsenal’s number two keeper to revolutionising an Aston Villa back five that has lacked a commanding keeper for many years has to be up there. Another could be Ollie Watkins stepping out of the Championship and scoring double figures in his debut season whilst receiving an England international call up and scoring on his debut as well. Lastly, Ezri Konsa – Villa obtained the leakiest defence in the league last season and miraculously stayed up. Ezri maintained momentum from after lockdown to solidify himself a place alongside Tyrone Mings and together the pair have stabilised that back line completely.
Q. What do you make of Palace this season?
Palace is a weird one. You seem to go about your business in a very quiet fashion, never seeming to be in the headlines, and picking up the necessary points to keep you in the league year after year. You seem to occupy a fair share of past Villa players in Jordan Ayew, Christian Benteke, and Gary Cahill and with a nice blend of experience and youth, Roy Hodgson seems to have delivered another successful campaign at Selhurst Park.
Q. With the European Super League hitting the headlines in recent weeks, perhaps you could share your thoughts on the whole situation?
Without emotionally scaring myself too much let’s just say thank god that it is all over. I still believe the teams involved need to be heavily punished by the governing bodies. If you would like to read my thoughts in finer detail this article I wrote at the time sums up my feeling quite clearly.
Q. Name one player from each team that you believe will be a threat to the opposition in this match.
At time of writing, it seems Christian Benteke has hit a purple patch. I don’t think I could emotionally handle it if he was to score against us – the only time Palace play and I am not cheering the big Belgian on! I am a big fan of the talents that Eberechi Eze possesses and with Villa facing a few midfield dilemmas, he could draw them out of position with ease. As for Villa, it seems Jack Grealish will have returned from injury in time to play Palace, however, I’m not sure the extent of time he will manage, but regardless of if he is on the pitch, it is inevitable he will make an impact.
Q. …and finally, your all important prediction?
Tricky one as the reverse fixture was so one sided. I still don’t think I have recovered from that Henri Lansbury ghost goal last season! 1-0 Villa and it’ll be a tight game.