Aston Villa v Sunderland
3pm Saturday 29th August
League standings: Sunderland 19th, Aston Villa 14th
Previous meeting: Sunderland 0 – 4 Aston Villa Saturday 14th March 2015 [Match Report]
An improved performance against Swansea last time out has given Sunderland fans a faint glimmer of hope that this team is not without courage or commitment. We certainly rode our luck against a smart Swansea side, who dominated possession and had a number of chances to seal the win before Jermain Defoe equalised midway through the second half.
The return of John O’Shea visibly settled the defence although we are some way from having a reliable centre back partnership, which is a worry with only five days remaining of the transfer window. Patrick van Aanholt was again shaky at the back, repeatedly caught out of position and it was no surprise that Swansea scored their goal from a move down Sunderland’s left. Elsewhere, new signing Yann M’Vila added some stability in midfield and helped Sunderland move the ball around when they did eventually manage to win it back from Swansea. Jermain Defoe continues to look sharp up front, although it remains to be seen whether or not we can rely on him to be our only real threat in front of goal.
Today’s arrival of attacking midfielder Ola Toivonen should help Sunderland add goals from midfield. Dick Advocaat has bemoaned Sunderland’s transfer activity so far, but this is believed to be the first of three players the Dutchman believes he needs to keep Sunderland competitive in the Premier League. I believe we look short in a number of positions but you would imagine a new left back and a striker will be top of Dick’s shopping list.
So, onto Saturday’s game. Aston Villa have three points after the same number of games. An opening day win at promoted Bournemouth was followed up by defeats against Manchester United and Crystal Palace. Not an awful start, but Sunderland could go above the Midlands club with a win on Saturday and we all know how poor we have been so far.
Tim Sherwood is in the process of making this Villa team his own, bringing in no less than ten new players this Summer. The new arrivals have been funded mainly by the departures of Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph to Liverpool and Manchester City respectively. The £40million that the club recouped from the sale of those two players has been invested into numerous positions within the squad, with the purchase of left-back Jordan Amavi looking a particularly great bit of business so far. Aston Villa have spent the majority of their money overseas this Summer, with the club clearly believing that there is more value to be found outside of the UK.
Lets see what the Villa fans make of tomorrow’s game:
You’ve had a mixed start to the season so far, with two losses and a win. What are your thoughts after three games of the season?
- After 3 games I’m pretty fine with things so far. We’ve effectively got a whole new side settling in and so far things have been relatively solid if unspectacular. Our games have consisted of Man U at home (which is effectively a right-off for us historically) and then two winnable away games against Bournemouth and Palace.. we’ve won one of those. If we can continue winning 50% of our away games this season I won’t be complaining.
- Pretty pleased with our start. Never expected anything against United, and to only just lose to a deflected goal shows that we do have a talented squad. Especially considering the large amount of new players will need a bit of time to settle into the prem.
- Pretty decent but no cutting edge in final third. Defence improved but still suffer from that 5 second costly lapse.
Since taking over in February, Tim Sherwood has changed the playing style of the team dramatically. Are you happy with his impact so far?
- I’m generally happy with Sherwood, primarily because after the continual attempts by Lambert to play risk-free football it’s nice to see the team actually trying to attack. Oh and he did keep us up and get us to an FA Cup final too which was nice. That said he has already shown the potential to make some really odd decisions on occasion… so it’s not uniformly positive.
- Could’ve done better against Palace, but I liked that we were taking more risks in attack, a drastic contrast to last season’s “timid” football we played under Lambert. So am really happy with the style changes Tim is trying to make. It’s obviously still a work in progress, but as the season progresses the players will get used to what Tim is asking of them.
- Happy with the more have a go attitude but Tim seams to lack a Plan B
You managed to squeeze £32.5m from Liverpool for Christian Benteke. You’ve brought in eight or nine first team players with that money. What do you think of your business so far?
- I’m happy bordering delighted with our transfer business. Whether or not the players bought actually work out (and I think a fair few of them at least will, Amavi in particular looks incredible) what I’m most excited by is that we seem to be adopting a coherent sensible transfer strategy overall. We’ve bought up a bunch of young players with a lot of potential (as far as anyone can tell anyway) from outside the premier league and are relying primarily on academy graduates to maintain a homegrown core. I think this is a totally sound way of growing the quality of the squad long term while still keeping it representative of the fans and hopefully the club will stick with it. On a more day to day level, the reason I’m not head-over-heels delighted is that I think we might still lack for goals a bit as we’re currently looking reliant on Gestede and Ayew (or, shudders, Gabby) and there’s no guarantee either of them will pay off.
- Very happy with the business so far, some top quality signings. I just hope we’ve done enough to convert the cash spent into goals and wins. I know a lot of fans are still looking for us to sign a right, back and striker who is a proven goalscorer, but if the window ended now I’m sure most fans wouldn’t be too disappointed.
- Excellent business so far Richards, Amavi and Gana look excellent with Vertout improving rapidly. Ayew & Gestede need to get used to prem but still feel we need a Striker and a Centre Back.
Are you simply aiming to avoid relegation this year, or should you be aiming for higher than that?
- Given the massive squad churn I’d be happy with anything other than a last day relegation struggle. As long as we stay in the league I think our team will be significantly improved by having a year to grow together so hopefully we can aim for top half next year.
- Personally I see this season as a transition season for Villa. Ideally we would comfortably avoid relegation, strengthen the squad, and look to break into the top 10 next season.
- I have no real expection but feel we need to finish Lower Mid-Table and avoid Relegation Confordably If we are gonna convince players that Villa is the place for them.
The last time both teams met, you hammered us 4 – 0 at the Stadium of Light. What’s your prediction for the game?
- I would give us the edge primarily because we’re at home. I think we’ll win by the odd goal in a nervy close match which I imagine I’m going to find gut wrenching to watch. I also wonder if going into the international break this fixture could have a big effect on our season, if we win then the squad can get another week or so of training together in high spirits and we hopefully move on confidently from there to see out the season quite comfortably. If we lose though.. a lot of people, not least on this subreddit will be panicking already and I’m not sure how well the squad will be able to gel under that pressure.
- This weekend I think we will win, but it won’t be the pushover Sunderland we’ve seen so far this season. They had a great cup performance yesterday and I can see them coming to the game with a lot of confidence. I predict a 3-2 Villa win.
- A very tough 2-2 Sunderland will be looking to prove something following a media hammering.
Sunderland are one of the favourites for relegation. What are your thoughts on Sunderland’s chances this year, and what do you make of their squad?
- I watched the Norwich/Sunderland game a few weeks ago and I thought Sunderland were an absolute joke. Couldn’t believe what I was watching, did not look like a Premier League team. Wes Hoolahan ran the game despite his age and lack of speed. The main problem looked to be the defence and the midfield. Kaboul looked shocking, never have a seen someone who is supposed to have a bit of pace look so damn slow. It seemed like Sunderland only scored because Norwich took their foot off the gas in the second half. I think there is a huge problem at Sunderland, might be due to the mentality of players like Cattermole/Seb. Cattermole always gets a lot of credit, but it seems like they’ve pretty much changed every player bar him and Seb (who I think was a really decent player, but he is getting older and it seems to have hindered his game a lot). They’ve changed the rest of the players pretty much and yet they are still in the same situation every single season. I can’t for the life of me understand how managers seem to be invincible at the end of a season, and then when the season starts they are an absolute mess. That can’t be the managers fault if they exact same thing is happening with every single manager you hire. If this comes across as mean i hope you know that that wasn’t my intention, I’ve watched 18 full games this season and that performance against Norwich is by far the worst, the only one that would even be close to it was Arsenals performance against West Ham. I’m not saying we will beat yous or we will finish ahead of yous, just basing what I saw in only one game and i don’t think it would be fair to make judgments on the other two games based on MOTD highlights.
- I’m sorry to say this year I can only see Sunderland going down. I don’t think Defoe has the legs to bang in goals all season, and I can’t see Pantilimon’s heroics being enough to keep them up again. If they do go down I would love to see him at Villa next season, class keeper.
At this point, I would usually take a look at how Villa could line up. However, Tim Sherwood has revealed that the squad has been hit by a sickness bug and the extent of this is currently unknown. Lets hope that we can face Villa tomorrow without some of their key players and sneak a much needed away win.
14.03.15 (Prem) Sunderland 0 – 4 Villa
28.12.14 (Prem) Villa 0 – 0 Sunderland
01.01.14 (Prem) Sunderland 0 – 1 Villa
30.11.13 (Prem) Villa 0 – 0 Sunderland
29.04.13 (Prem) Villa 6 – 1 Sunderland