It’s been more than a bright start for Aston Villa this campaign, following their positive finish at the end of the extended season just gone. Four matches played, four wins and the Midlands club are only one of two teams in Europe’s top five leagues to hold a 100% record at this early stage – the other being AC Milan of the Serie A. The Villans destroyed the current Premier League champions, Liverpool earlier this month and have also recorded wins over top-half teams in Sheffield United and Leicester City. It doesn’t look like they’ll fall foul of second-season syndrome, with manager Dean Smith steadying the ship.
This Friday night, newly-promoted Leeds United travel to Villa Park and the hosts are the favourites when it comes to the Premier League betting odds. But after 16 years in the Championship, and forever dreaming of a return to the top flight, Leeds have had a decent start back in the Premier League. They’ve picked up seven points from their opening five matches. After losing 4-3 to Liverpool on the opening weekend of the season, Leeds beat Sheffield United and yo-yo club Fulham. They also managed to hold Manchester City to a 1-1 draw, having gone behind.
Their most recent match resulted in defeat, and it was at the hands of Villa’s neighbours, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Post-match, and ahead of the clash on Friday night, former Aston Villa star and fan favourite Gabriel Agbonlahor had a few choice words to say about Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa and his side.
Leeds are a myth maybe all the pundits will get out of bielsas a…e ??
— Gabriel Agbonlahor (@officialga11) October 19, 2020
The player-turned-pundit took to Twitter to share his views, before he was later asked during his segment on radio station TalkSPORT to elaborate. He said: “They are probably the fittest team in the league. They’re organised but going forward, they lack a bit on the wings and strikers.”
But quickly his comments returned to the Bielsa love-in, which is when Agbonlahor continued: “If we’re getting that excited for Bielsa then we must be putting the red carpet down for Dean Smith. Maybe because he’s English we don’t get too excited about him but what he’s doing tactics wise with Aston Villa, he deserves a lot of credit for.”
Many were left scratching their heads at his bizarre comments, or questioning why he didn’t wait until the outcome of Friday’s match to speak out. But it’s not the first time that Agbonlahor has made such scathing remarks or looked to cause controversy. After the 7-2 annihilation of Liverpool, he hit back at comments manager-turned-pundit Graeme Souness made. And at this early stage of the season, can a comparison between the two managers even be made?
After a difficult season back in the top-flight, Smith managed to mastermind Villa’s eventual survival, ending on a four-game unbeaten run which saw the club finish one point above the drop-zone. The manager has certainly taken advantage of having free-reign in the transfer window, with Villa signing the likes of Ollie Watkins (from Brentford), Ross Barkley (on loan from Chelsea) and Emiliano Martínez (from Arsenal) – and the trio have slotted in seamlessly to Villa’s starting XI. Of course, that work in the transfer window deserves some praise, but it’s still early days, and there are bound to be plenty of twists in the plot to come this season.