Five games in and Manchester City are second in the table, behind Arsenal who have won all their opening matches. The blues, with Erling Haaland in particular, are on fire, with the Norwegian meat shield hitting nine goals in August and achieving back-to-back hat-tricks and is the current Premier League top-scorer by a mile.
Next up for City is a trip to Aston Villa, the team who threatened to derail City’s title bid last season before succumbing to City’s late onslaught. As with Forest, there’s sure to be many chants about champions of Europe, another example of a set of supporters living in the past. They should really be more concerned about their future.
Villa are in a spot of bother at the moment. They sit second from bottom, just two points ahead of Leicester City. Villa have won just one and lost four of their opening five matches and a visit from City, with Haaland and Alvarez in outstanding form, is not what Steven Gerrard would have wanted.
The Midlands side lost 2-0 to new boys Bournemouth on the opening day of the season, before beating Everton 2-1 at Villa Park. They then lost three successive Premier League games, starting at Crystal Palace (1-3), home to West Ham (0-1) and at Arsenal (2-1). Only a 4-1 win at Bolton in the League Cup prevented that run becoming four matches. Even then, they went a goal down before recovering to win comfortably.
Villa have had a myriad of issues, from Gerrard issuing huge fines to the players for even minor offences and not only deposing Tyrone Mings as captain, but seemingly at odds with his former skipper. Villa also have a huge problem scoring goals. From five games, they have scored four, but they seem to concede almost immediately after scoring.
Against Everton, Villa went 2-0 up in the 86th minute, but the Toffees pulled a goal back just 60 seconds later. A fifth-minute opener at Palace was cancelled out after just two minutes and a 74th-minute equaliser at Arsenal could have secured a point. However, just three minutes later, Arsenal scored again. By that record, if City concede to Villa on Saturday, they only have to wait four minutes to grab a goal themselves!
New faces and departing stars
Villa have been busy in the summer transfer window, but there have been more departures than arrivals at Villa Park. The club confirmed the permanent signing of Philippe Coutinho for £18m from Barcelona, Sevilla defender Diego Carlos for £26m and a deadline day signing of Leander Dendoncker from Wolves for £13m.
Swapping the midlands for other destinations are Matt Targett, who joined Newcastle, Anwar El Ghazi, who went to PSV and Trezeguet has gone on loan to Norwich.
Who to watch
Coutinho showed against City in May how dangerous he was, scoring their second goal, but as yet, he is to get off the mark. Danny Ings has two goals from six league and cup matches played and is averaging a goal every 168 minutes. His goal conversion rate is just 20%, having scored to from 10 shots. Former blue Douglas Luiz is fairing much better, scoring with both of his shots so far, giving him a goal average of one every 96 minutes. Special mention to Lucas Digne, who has scored two goals this season, but one was an own goal for his former club Everton.
Ollie Watkins is leading the assist chart, with two chances converted from the three he has created. He has completed 101 passes and completed 84, a pass accuracy level of 83%. Emiliano Buendía has attempted the most passes with 150, completing 121, giving him a pass accuracy of 81%.
Who’s the boss?
Steven Gerrard took over the reigns at Villa in November 2021, with Villa 16th in the table, having won just three of their opening 11 matches. Under Gerrard, Villa won 10 further matches and ended the season in 14th, just 10 points above the relegation zone.
From 34 matches, Gerrard has won 12 and lost 17, giving him a win ratio of just 35%.