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Q&A inför Aston Villa borta

Matcherna fortsätter att dugga tätt, på lördag fortsätter Premier League och för vår del väntar bortamatch mot Aston Villa. Nykomlingarna från Birmingham är tillbaka i den högsta serien och har värvat friskt under sommaren för att inte riskera att ramla ner igen. Guy Poxon(@GuyPoxon) skriver om laget på Under a gaslit lamp(@Villalamp), här berättar han om hur det är att vara tillbaka i Premier League:

  1. Its been a few years since we last saw Aston Villa in the Premier League, can you tell us a bit about the time in the Championship and the way back to Premier League?
    Seeing Villa relegated in 2016 was one of the low points of the club’s history, and certainly the worst season I’ve ever witnessed as a fan. Villa fans don’t expect to be winning European Cups and League titles like we were back in the 80s, but it’s fair to say Villa have been a mainstay in the top league of English football – and we’ll never take that for granted again. Fun fact; 2015/6 we were relegated to the second tier for the first time in 29 years or so. The first season in the championship was consolidation as we finished midtable and eventually settled on Steve Bruce as a manager, who would take us to a Play Off final in Villa’s second season in the Championship – where we lost to Fulham 26th May 2018. After a change of ownership seeing new owners come in a save Aston Villa from financial turmoil in 2018 last summer, Dean Smith was appointed to replace Steve Bruce in October and since then, we’ve not looked back. We play attacking, but balanced, football, and we’ve always had one or two top players in our sides.

2. You are currently 15th in the Premier League, are you satisfied with the start of the season?
In honesty, I have mixed feelings about our start to the season. I’m pleased with our performances on the whole, but one our two poorer performances (Spurs, Man City, Crystal Palace), mixed with some poor esults despite playing well (West Ham, Burnley, Bournemouth, Arsenal), all overlayed with bad VAR calls in some of the games that I believe we should have won, and it’s difficult to see where Aston Villa really are amongst the crowd.

I would suggest that we might be higher in the league if small margins had gone the other way. In fact, a table showing “points without VAR” shows Villa could have been 5 points better off (highest difference in the league) – but hey, that’s football! Either way, this side is completely new this season and their getting better and better. For the 5-1 away against Norwich, everything clicked and we showed what we can do when we get our tactics right.

3. How would you describe the way Aston Villa plays?
We are quite varied. Villa aren’t the most out-and-out attacking team, but we’re 5th in the league for expected goals. Dean Smith tries to defend first and then build out from the back where possible – in Tyrone Mings and Bjorn Engels we have two competent ball-playing centrebacks, but against Man City last week we didn’t get our defending right and we were suceptable to the high press. A worry against Liverpools livewires. When we have defended well, we have restricted balls into the box to crosses from the opposition out wide, with Marvellous Nakamba shining in his defensive midfield role prtecting the centre of the park. Going forward, we tend to use hold up play with our big striker, the Brazilian Wesley, to bring the midfield into play. Against the stronger teams, we’ve tried to press high up the pitch to create chances – we were unlucky not to score at least 1 against Man City last week.

4. Jack Grealish had an impressive season last year, how do you think he has adapted to life in Premier League?
Most Villa fans have known for a long time that Jack Grealish has always been a star in the making. Liverpool fans might remember a young then-starlet academy player starting in the FA cup semi-final against the Reds on 19th April 2015 – as he caused all sorts of problems for Liverpool to help Villa win 2-1! That season he broke through and gained a lot of media praise as one of England’s future creative men. Since then, Grealish has stuck with us in the Championship. In 2019 that loyalty (despite better offers from Premier League sides) is rare. He’s unique because he was easily the best player in the championship based on his match ratings last season, but used the three seasons out of the limelight to grow, mature, become a leader, and stay away from distractions. It’s no surprise that this mature 24 year old is fulfilling his potential in the top tier. I don’t want to sound sensationalist, but you have to watch the way he glides around the pitch, carrying the ball past players and creating chances – I can’t help but think he might be an asset to the English national side.

5. You signed many players during the summer, which of them has impressed you the most? Any of them who you are disappointed in?
Bjorn Engels, a centreback from Olympiakos, has impressed me. He cost £8m and has been calm, competent and provided defensively assured performances pretty much every game. He was close to winning young player of the year in the Belgium league at Club de Brugge, the same year Tielemans broke through, but in seasons afterwards lost his way due to injuries. He’s another one who went under the radar and is now fulfilling his potential. Wesley hasn’t disappointed me this season, but it’s fair to say he’s been inconsistent. Sometimes he looks like a serious talent, other games (against Man City, for example) he was off the boil. He’s only 22 and he is putting away the chances he does get, but I’d like to see him add consistency to his season. He’s a great character, though, and Dean Smith is working hard with him in training.

6. How do you rate your chances of staying up this season?
I think we have the players and the manager, and the methodical backroom staff, to finish well in the Premier League. But, you never know with football and there are some strong teams in the bottom half of the league. Ultimately, if you gave me 17th now I’d probably take it (obviously!), but I do think we’re capable of more. We want to become a Premier League mainstay for at least 30 years again – come to Villa Park and see, this club is brilliant and wants to be mixing it with the best!

7. This saturday you play Liverpool at home, what kind of game do you expect and how do you think you will lineup?
Firstly, I think most Villa fans would applaud the long-term, methodical, strategic and well-considered club that Liverpool have become. In Klopp, you have one of the world’s greatest managers – and someone should give Liverpool the credit for appointing and then sticking with him during the first couple of seasons of “Not winning anything”. Now, you have one of the best squads in the world, with the best attacking fullbacks in the world and probabaly the best attacking trio up front. Mirroring that, I think Dean Smith will line up with: Heaton (GK), Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Targett, Nakamba, Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish, Trezeguet, Wesley. Aston Villa will try to creat a block in midfield, I’d imagine we’ll sacrifice a bit of width. Against Man City, John McGinn had a quite game by his standards, but pressed well and I think he will be fired up to press and cause havock. However, if we concede I think the game will open up a bit more. All the best to the Reds, I hope we have a good game on Saturday.

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