Cast your mind back a mere 12 weeks or so and Nyland is calling on the Gods of Norse Legend to sabotage the goal line technology as he tries to wrestle the ball around the goal post and into the net! Fortunately the gods of fortune smiled on us that day but not for Nyland. Rather than the draw at West Ham, it was probably that moment which saved our Premier League status.
Fast forward to today and its somewhat fitting that our opening fixture for the new season should be against Sheffield United.
Villa come into the game on the back of two successive wins at VP – a bit of a rarity in latter years – whilst United are on a run of four successive defeats although they haven’t lost to Villa in four games.
Chris Wilder is a good manager and, as always, his side will be well organised and difficult to break down. They attack and defend in numbers but, like last season, may well be short of goals.
With new signing Ollie Watkins leading the line, Smith will be hoping to see a sharper attack than in that game 12 weeks ago. There were signs against Burton that Grealish and Watkins are already starting to form a good understanding.
I expect to see Cash handed his full debut along with Martinez even though, by all accounts, Steer played well in the game against Manure and Smith is on record as saying that players have to earn the shirt.
The acquisition of Cash does raise a question mark over Guibert’s immediate future given that Elmo is also on the books.
The rest of the back four really pick themselves – Konsa and Mings in the centre with Targett at left back
I would also start with Hourihane – I know he’s a bit of a ‘marmite’ character and can go ‘missing’ in games but he creates chances, scores goals and, arguably, has the best dead ball delivery of anyone at the club.
McGinn who our head coach described last week as being ‘like a ‘new signing’ given his improved form and fitness over the summer and the brilliant Luis who, this week, earned another international call up will complete the midfield .
Up front looks nailed on to be Trezuguet on the right, Grealish on the left and Watkins through the middle.
Last season we lacked a clinical finisher to convert the chances created. I can see lots of chances being created by us and with Watkins speed and movement in the box and natural goal scoring ability we should score plenty this term.
And that brings me to Traore.
A right winger with Champions League experience with Ajax and Lyon but with a reported tendency for his form to fade after a good first season with a new club. It’s also said that he can play any position across the front three which, if so, gives Smith some real options. If Smith can get the best out of him on a consistent basis then at £17m it’s a good piece of business. Tonight is likely to be too early for him; maybe against Bristol City?
Big hopes for the season ahead; now we need to kick off with a win.