Looking back on the past few games, with a new arrival.
Watching Jack Grealish make his move to Manchester City was traumatic, to say the least, for most Aston Villa fans. Irrespective of your overall thoughts about whether the time truly had come for Grealish to move on with the blessing of Villa Park, there are few things more unsettling in football than seeing your best player leave.
This was especially the case when Grealish departed as fans considered how Villa’s form had historically dropped dramatically whenever the talismanic attacking midfielder had been unavailable for selection in the past.
And then, yes, there’s the emotional side of the scenario that hurts too. However, when the first game of the season had come and gone, any feeling of sentimentality went out the window after Watford surprised Villa with a 3-2 reverse at Vicarage Road.
It did feel very much like a case of all hands on deck. Dean Smith had to use what he had at his disposal instead of pining for the past and the time had come for Villa to begin to find a way to succeed without Grealish.
There was a marginal upturn in the form of a 2-0 win over faltering Newcastle, however, a draw with newly-promoted Brentford and then a battering by Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea left us feeling as though we’re back at square one. That was until just past the hour mark against Everton when Leon Bailey properly introduced himself to the Villa Park faithful.
Leon Bailey joining in on the chorus of 'Sweet Caroline' at full-time 🎶 pic.twitter.com/jMXsaOe9Xt
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) September 18, 2021
Indeed, a devilish inswinging corner that led to an own goal and a thumping finish in the space of a few minutes not only put the game to bed but showed the Villa fans that Bailey has what it takes to replace Grealish’s star quality.
You’ll know exactly what is meant by that if you watched the game, given that the 24-year-old has the unmistakable traits of an extremely talented player. Indeed, his compact athletic frame allows him to practically glide past the opposition and his speed allows him to win a footrace with virtually all of the defenders in the Premier League.
Of course, all of that counts for absolutely nothing if a player is lacking composure on the ball, but Bailey’s finish against Everton was clinical to the extreme. In fact, the Jamaican was quoted after the game by saying that he actually injured himself as he kicked his scorching shot past a hapless Asmir Begovic into the goal, such was the ferocity behind the strike.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) September 18, 2021
The good news is that his substitution after his match-winning contribution was a precautionary move instead of a long-term injury. So, with a fit and firing Bailey under their wing, can Villa finally gatecrash the upper echelon of the table? The official football betting markets for a top-six finish suggest for the time being, that European expectations are a bit premature with Villa at odds of 9/1.
All things considered, they weren’t going to be any lower than that and only a sustained run of results will begin to turn heads. Nonetheless, with the majority of the season awaiting Aston Villa and Bailey, there’s still plenty of time to make this campaign an unforgettable one for the 24-year-old winger.