A lesson learned

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s lack of goals at either end.

What I said last week about the first couple of results being of less significance than the performance looks like it might come true, which doesn’t bode well for lovers of free-flowing football.

Villa didn’t score against Newcastle, they didn’t concede either, and neither of those facts looked like being disproved at any time. Paul Lambert’s idealistic plan of unpolished gems improving together has been replaced by a more pragmatic approach which sees youthful naivety replaced by guile and experience. It might not win many games but it will also make Villa harder to beat, which is a start. It’s a pity that it’s taken Lambert two years to realise this but better late than never.

The best thing about Saturday was, unsurprisingly, Villa’s relatively untroubled defence. While the continued absence of Jores Okore from the matchday squad is a bit of a worry, at the moment he probably wouldn’t get into the team ahead of Philipe Senderos anyway – and that wouldn’t have been predicted a month ago. Senderos and Ron Vlaar seem to have struck up an unlikely understanding and if he can steer clear of inexplicable rushes of blood, the Swiss defender might get prove one of the bargains of the summer.

It is, of course, further up the pitch where Villa’s problems lie. Carlos Sanchez made an impressive start to his Villa career as a second half substitute and his presence in the side should mean more opportunities for his midfield colleagues to move forward. Whether they’ll be able to make much difference in support of a forward line that possessed no threat at all on Saturday is another matter entirely.

A crowd of just over thirty thousand for the opening game of the season was undeniably disappointing, even allowing for the Bank Holiday and the presence of TV cameras. The answer to the question of how to get the missing thousands back is so easy I’m surprised nobody hasn’t thought of it before. Spend money, buy players who know how to create and score goals, then Villa Park will buzz again.

Coming up in midweek is a League Cup game with Orient that will be reliant on a decent away following to improve the attendance from abysmal to disappointing. Villa should be able to get through it easily enough. We should be able to see Okore and the first start for Sanchez, as well as an extended run out from Jack Grealish. How many of these things happen is open to debate.

That’s followed by Sunday’s league game with Hull. We should be able to win this one as well, giving us seven points from three games as a cushion going into the nightmare run of fixtures in September. That would be as good a start as anyone could have dared hope for, and would be further proof that Villa should, at least, be free of any serious relegation worries this season. With a bit of luck we might even finish comfortably mid-table.

And here’s where it gets interesting, because Paul Lambert is still talking about bringing a couple more players in before the transfer deadline and the type of player the team needs goes without saying. If Randy Lerner does have ambition beyond staying in the Premier League he’s got just under a week to prove it.