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The Week That Was: Masters of The Universe (well, Peace Cup)


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By Pilchard

Pilchard looks back at the events of the past week where the pre-season warm ups went up a couple of gears and Villa were set to make their second summer signing.

Peace Cup

After that rather abject first performance against Malaga, where Knight had been sold without a replacement and the team had played a rather lifeless game the best thing to tell ourselves was that it was only a friendly, in a competition that in reality meant nothing other than earning a bit of cash to put into the bank balance

Looking at the Malaga Reaction and Ratings thread seems to confirm that I wasn’t the only one with these thoughts – a theme of not being able to read much into the game because it was only a friendly, and that the result doesn’t actually mean anything seems to be present throughout.

So with that in mind, I hope you’ll forgive me for not showing complete change of attitude shown towards the competition once we’d one it in the Juventus match thread.

It was, after all, only a friendly competition and wasn’t seen as important enough by any television broadcaster in the UK to actually show the games – which considering some of the other pre-season games that are shown this time of year probably indicates it’s status.

However.

Some of those players that went out there last week need to take an enormous amount of credit from their performances. One or two of those players may have even managed to kick start their career in a Villa shirt, and for that reason alone, our participation in the tournament could be priceless.

Obviously, Marc Albrighton impressed massively. He’s got tricks, he works hard and he can cross. Ashley Young without the needless diving, perhaps. With the addition of Downing to the squad, Marc may find it even harder to get into the team, but if he continues playing for the reserves as he has done for Villa (let’s not forget he was possibly the best player when the kids were taken to Moscow to lose), then he could be the next academy recruit to the first team.

There were others, of course. Bannan looked useful and scored a decent penalty against Buffon (though it wasn’t half as cool as Lowry’s – what a penalty that was!), Lichaj I thought seemed to settle into the team well, Clarke dealt with Porto with ease and even Weiman, who from what I had read of the reserves wasn’t being expected to push his way into the first team seems to have done well enough to at least consider a rethink.

It may not have been done on purpose, but by having to throw these guys into the team it’s proved that they are very dependable – even against some of the world’s best.

I found that really exciting. Here is a bunch of young players, who on the whole have grown up together and moved through the youth ranks, winning games left right and center, been promoted to the reserve team where they won the league last year and now in their first competition together in the first team win the competition that they entered into. Not only are they progressing, but they are winning. And despite the competition not being all that important in the scheme of things, I can’t help keep looking at how Manchester United built a team using the likes of Scholes, Beckham and Nevilles who were all local lads, played together throughout their development, made the first team at the same time and never looked back.

If we can emulate that at Villa with these players, then that will be a truly exciting journey to be on.

Other than the ‘youth teamers’ there were probably two others who have come out of the tournament with reputation enhanced. Carlos Cuellar gave some very good performances at the heart of defence and hopefully he’ll be kept there for the league this season. He’s had a year to settle and now he can show us the form that made him a favourite of the Rangers fans.

The other is Brad Guzan. Brad Jnr probably put in the best goalkeeping performance Villa saw last year when in goal against Prague. He was simply unbeatable that night. Friedel did play very well in a number of games last season, however for me he didn’t live up to the expectations placed upon him when you compare him to his performances elsewhere. Sure, he was 100% better than Carson, he was a safe pair of hands but the number of misjudgements seemed to slowly increase. An example of this could even be seen in the goal conceded against Malaga. Something else that seemed to be apparent is Friedel didn’t seem to get anywhere near any of the penalties conceded last year that he had to face up to. Clearly, Guzan seems to be rather confident in one on one situations. Obviously the flaky defence didn’t help Friedel...

I’m not saying replace Brad snr with Brad jnr – but the younger Brad will now be much more confident, as will the defence in front of him.

Delph

The signing of Delph is really a bit of an odd one for me. I know nothing of the player other than he’s meant to be rather good. He certainly seems to be able to hit a ball if you watch the YouTube clips of him. It’s a big step up, for a lot of money, but if the manager wants him, then that’s all that matters for me. If he is a success then great well done, and if he isn’t, then its money poorly spent. But the thing that it proves to me is that there is money available, and that there isn’t a ‘squeeze’ on cash that the lack of spending so far may have lead you to believe.

If there was a shortage of cash, you’d have to be a fool to spend what you did have on a player like Downing – who plays in the same position as your best creative influence – and who is injured until November.

Likewise, if you had little money, you’d identify and sign players with an international pedigree, someone who has proven themselves at the top level. Delph, could be a great prospect, but I can’t seeing him starting games to begin with. With other positions needing players and a replacement for Barry and Laursen (and Knight!) still needed before the troublesome fullback positions are mentioned I can’t believe for one second that there is a lack of money to spend when looking at the ‘risk’ of both players signed this summer so far.

It was also fantastic to read Leeds United’s statement thanking Villa for the way they had conducted themselves throughout the process. Perhaps it was just a dig at the arrogance Manchester City have suddenly found, or ‘Appy ‘Arry’s constant chattering to the newspapers – but it’s little things like that which are enhancing Villa’s reputation as an honourable, likeable club. And that’s always pleasing.

Bobby Robson

I guess it wouldn’t be right to comment on the past week without mentioning Bobby Robson. He may not have had a connection to Aston Villa, but as he reached his later years in management Robson was one of those rare figures in football that had respect from everybody. Nobody had a bad word to say about him. And he loved football.

This was the guy who only a few years ago managed Newcastle to fifth place but it was seen as not good enough. Bet they’d have taken fifth last season.

It was fitting that the last we got to see of him was a stadium giving him a standing ovation only days before his death.

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