Vital Aston Villa - Q & A
1. Firstly, tell us about your pre-season - what players have you signed and have you and the fans been happy with the new recruits?
Pre season was a bit of a mixed bag really. Some good results and performances whilst on our US tour, but we fell off result wise when back on home soil. A fair amount of changes in the line up as well which didn't help, but Lambert was obviously seeing what players could do and whilst performances weren't too bad, what we saw in pre season in terms of the defence not quite being there, and our predictability in attack, we took into the first few games, so really Newcastle is the first time we can say we saw a performance we can take forward. Obviously as well with some signings coming late, the team still has a fair way to go in gelling.
As for signings, Lambert brought in a few. Brad Guzan was re-signed after his contract expired, so in some ways he's a known quantity, but looks to have seriously improved going off his Newcastle performance. Then we have Joe Bennett, Ashley Westwood, Karim El Ahmadi, Ron Vlaar, Jordan Bowery and Christian Benteke. Also Brett Holman was drafted in as a free by Alex McLeish before he left.
Difficult really to offer an opinion on any of them because all we really know is what we've seen from them so far on the pitch, but overall I think, whilst fans are rightly worried about experience after the few seasons we've had recently, the majority are happy with the signings and the direction we are taking in the transfer market. The question is can they gel quick enough and will they step up to the Prem as quickly as Lambert hopes?
2. You must be relieved to see the back of Alex McLeish, what are your thoughts on your new manager, is he the man to take Aston Villa forward?
Delighted with the change and I think Lambert is the man to move us forward both on the pitch, but also off the pitch in setting up a club ethos wherein we play the same style at all levels. It's certainly not going to be overnight and I don't see us pulling up any trees this season, but after 3 years of transition, this feels like it will be a proper transition where we can really build on it next summer with a view to looking more at the top 6 again, as opposed to just avoiding the bottom 6.
3. It's not been a great start to the season so far, but are you still staying optimistic? What are the general expectations this season in terms of a final table position?
There are those who disagree with me, but I'm happy with the direction as taking unknown quantities from abroad, and then taking the cream from lower leagues is something I've wanted us to do for years. There is a bedding in period though, and I saw signs in both the West Ham and Everton games that left me pleased, but consistency and an understanding has to be built, and we saw better signs of that against Newcastle - but of course we now need to build on that and start picking up some points. We'll have a much better clue of our baseline come December when the team know the tactics and each other inside out.
As for expectations, I see 12-15th place really. Some fans aren't that optimistic and think we'll seriously struggle, whereas others think we'll bounce back quicker and could be looking top half.
4. Do your results reflect the quality of your performances so far? How has your team changed in terms of quality, tactics/style of play?
We were unlucky not to get a point in my eyes against West Ham, as it was a solid defensive display, but lacking upfront. And we deserved to lose against Everton. So in many ways yes results have mimicked our performances so far, but it came together better (both defensively and offensively) against Newcastle and by all rights we should have taken all three points in that game.
Tactically and the way we play, are worlds apart to the last few years. We are more possession based now, and when are at our best when we keep it on the ground, but it's a learning curve for everybody given our previous styles of play. Once we are more comfortable in this style, we'll no doubt make better decisions in attack and know when to step up the pace and look for the through ball, instead of trying to force it and losing possession.
5. What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths at the moment seem to be defensively we are coming together better than we are offensively. But again the signs are there that we are improving, but we have a long way to go and I doubt anyone would deny that. Our weaknesses are we need a better understanding of our new style, and our new players still need time to bed in.
6. What do you think of Michael Laudrup's arrival at Swansea City? Have you been surprised with our unbeaten start to the season?
Very surprised. I thought with Rogers leaving it would hit you hard, and that you'd need a few games to get back on your feet, especially with a new manager making changes. But it seems Laudrup has stuck to the same style and hasn't disrupted anything in the way your team holds itself together and you've clearly had the rewards from that. Especially with some shrewd signings helping you along the way. Looks like you've got the right man to continue to build on your strengths.
7. What are your expectations for the game? Can Villa end our unbeaten start?
We need the three points now to lift spirits further and show some real growth from the Newcastle game and I do expect us to make life difficult for you. Like you I'm seeing goals in this one, but I'd like to think we'll put in another solid performance and maybe take it 3-2, but it's going to be tight. Our pre match poll shows the majority are expecting three points, but I certainly don't think it's going to be an easy three points.
8. Where do you think Swansea City will finish in the league table this season?
I'd imagine consolidation has to be the aim for you, and as it doesn't look like you've dipped in your performance levels from last year, I can see you doing that. So I can certainly see you in and around 10-15th place depending on how long you can keep your current run going, and how you deal with the inevitable dip.
9. How do you expect Villa to line-up on Saturday?
It's open for debate on how many of the late newbies will be thrown in, but I'd expect at the moment.
Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Bennett
El Ahmadi, Holman, Ireland, Westwood
Thanks to Mike Field from Vital Villa for answering our questions/
You can read our answers to their questions on Vital Villa here