Vlaar Is A Monster, Holman A Freak & What We Learned From Villa v Swansea...
Boy, Brett Holman sure can run!
The whole team put in a shift on Saturday, and against a team like Swansea they had to. There was no room for laziness, but even then, Brett Holman stood out to the Aston Villa faithful. He arrived on a free transfer from Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar, and perhaps the only thing we will ever be grateful to Alex McLeish for. Ignore the official statistics as they will tell you that Holman wasn’t even in the top-four in terms of distance run, but Holman only played 70 minutes. As well as not playing the full game, Holman was on international duty just three days before for the Australian national team, now that’s pretty impressive. In pre-season, we were treated to a couple of spectacular goals from Brett, but his league form has been indifferent, often misplacing fairly simple passes. One thing is for sure, he never stops running. His stamina and desire are second to none, and his form has started to pick up lately too, as he no doubt gets accustomed to the new style of football and new team. If he can combine the two; intricate link-up play and a desire to get himself about the pitch, then we might have a bit of a gem.
Buying lower league players can work…
When the transfer window closed, I remember not really knowing much about any of our new signings. “Fair enough, Lambert knows a lot more than me” I was thinking, but others weren’t so open-minded on the subject. People had written us off before the new signings had even kicked a ball. We are far from the finished article, but progress is evident, and progress is good. Matt Lowton has started off well, scoring a spectacular goal against Swansea and generally adapting to the new challenges that he has faced. Ashley Westwood made his debut on Saturday after a deadline day transfer from Crewe Alexandra, and despite not shining, he did what we wanted of him. He recycled possession well, and made short, simple passes, as well as managing to get in two tackles (putting him in the top-five on the stats board from both teams) in the 20 minutes he was on the pitch. “Preparing for life in the Championship” was thrown out a lot, mainly by Midlands rivals, good one. Our first few games have been stop-start, and with young players we are bound to get a hiding every now and then while they learn about Premier League life, but we’ll accept that for giving it a go in every game.
Ron Vlaar is colossal
We all hoped it would be true as soon as the rumours of him potentially signing surfaced, but it turns out Ron Vlaar definitely is a colossal centre-back. We Villa fans are a simple bunch, we like our strikers to score, our midfielders to graft, and our centre-backs to be a little bit crazy. Take, for example; Paul McGrath, Olof Mellberg, and Martin Laursen. Passionate players who gave their everything, game in game out, making them legends amongst Villa fans. When the rumours of Vlaar’s imminent signing did the rounds, so did a YouTube video. This video is of Feyenoord, the Dutch side Vlaar previously captained, celebrating after beating Ajax in a home game. The game has finished and the crowd are dancing and singing along with the players, then comes Vlaar’s moment of magic. He grabs the microphone from a pitch-side official and proceeds to orchestrate the crowd, leading them in chants of “Feyenoord”, before finishing by screaming “come on!” over and over. Crikey, I love this guy already.
We Villa fans are a simple bunch, we like our strikers to score, our midfielders to graft, and our centre-backs to be a little bit crazy. Take, for example; Paul McGrath, Olof Mellberg, and Martin Laursen.
He can’t just be crazy though, he’s got to perform as well, and in the last two games we’ve seen he can definitely do that. On Saturday, Vlaar was made captain in only his fifth game for the club, and not one Villa fan was either surprised or disappointed. He helped lead us to an excellent display, and we managed to gain our first clean-sheet in the league this season, against one of the form teams to top it off. Despite being out-jumped by Ashley Williams early on from a corner, he didn’t put a foot wrong. He was solid defensively and even showed he has some skills too, going on a pretty spectacular four successful dribbles from four attempts, how many other centre-backs did that this weekend? Truth is, we already love Vlaar, but as my friend pointed out to me yesterday, that proves how much we are in need of a cult figure at Villa Park.
Paul Lambert sure can build a team
As I have said earlier, it’s early days. There is a long way to go yet, and this season will be a tough one for us. With so many new players, so many players never having played in this league before, there are going to be occasions where they have bad games, and when they do we will probably lose. I’m happy however; not least because of Lambert’s “give it a go” attitude, but also because of how wisely he has spent the money made available to him. We had a net spend of a little under £20m this summer, which is a lot by any means, but he built a squad out of it. Last season, we were threadbare and exposed when a few injuries crept in, Lambert has realised that and strengthened us. Compare the four signings for £18m that was made the season before by McLeish, to the seven for £19.5m by Lambert and you’ll see, well, they can’t actually be compared.
Benteke has got skills for a big lad
Christian Benteke is a 21-year-old Belgian striker who we signed from Belgian club Genk, for a fee of around £7m. It’s the highest fee Lambert has spent on one player in his career, and undoubtedly a bit of a gamble. Villa fans were immediately excited by his signing, (perhaps we are just easily pleased?) just one look at him and you could see he was what we now passionately refer to him as; “the beast”. He made his debut on Saturday, coming off the bench for the last 20 minutes. He linked up well with the rest of the team, especially Bent, but showed he has got some skills too. Back-heels, fancy flicks, and missing an open net. Yep, he’s a Villa striker alright. He wasn’t finished there though, and with two minutes to go, he gambled on Ashley William’s header aimed back at Michel Vorm, and capitalised. The header was short, and Benteke delicately dinked the ball over the onrushing Vorm, before controlling on the line and tapping into an open net. Now that capped off a brilliant afternoon at Villa Park…
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