Five months on from that glorious Championship winning victory at Villa Park, City face Aston Villa in the big league. Andrew Lawn spoke to The Villa View's Dan Bardell to set the scene

Andy - How do you think the season has started for you? Are you more or less optimistic than before it all kicked off?

Dan - I still think it’s early days. Performance wise, in the main we’ve had some really positive halves of football. We just don’t seem to be able to turn that into 90 minute displays and in turn we aren’t getting wins.

If you’d have asked me at the start of the season if I’d have taken 17th, I’d have said no. I’d probably say yes now.

Would you take 17th?

I think having invested more in our academy sides than first team in the summer, yes I'd certainly take 17th. That said, it's not very exciting is it?

So, what's been the problem? Is it a side still in the process of gelling, lapses in concentration or simply individual errors?

I think after seven games you'd say that the players have been together a few months now and I feel like we are getting better, but results haven’t reflected that.

Individual errors kill you, and we’ve made a few. Also, we seem to play well for 60-70 mins then chuck it away and that needs to stop. It’ll come.

Let's quickly touch on VAR. Of all the club's, Villa have been involved, in a fair few decisions. What have you made of its introduction to the Premier League?

Farcical. It seems to stand for 'Villa Aren’t Reviewed'.

We’ve been on the wrong end of too many calls. Offsides it seems to work well for, but blatant handballs aren’t overturned and the chumps sitting in Stockley Park seem reluctant to drop their mates in it.

You’ll know all about the Palace debacle and Arsenal a few weeks ago Sokratis gets away with a clear and obvious handball for Arsenal. “Clear and obvious” seems to be a get out of jail free card to me, leeway to side with the ref every time. Saying all that, we need to be better because we can’t rely on the officials for anything.

As you can tell I’m a massive fan....

Like you I dislike it, but for the opposite reason it seems. I think it has been awful for offsides, other than for Aresnal's equaliser on Monday night.

So on to Saturday, how do you see the game shaping up? Your first team vs our back ups back up.

If you’re offside, you’re offside, even if it’s by a short drawstring, we got a tight call against us last week. I’ve no problem with that, but I expect blatant handballs to be picked up too.

You had nine injuries against Man City and won, so I’m not reading too much into that to be honest. You are strong at home and we’ve lost every away game thus far. I make you favourites.

I’d like to see us grind a 0-1 out, you have to have that kind of result in you to be a success.

Pukki worries me, he’s a joke. I didn’t think his form would last in the EFL, but here we are and he’s smashing the Premier League as well.

From what I’ve seen of you, I’m hoping to see Grant Hanley on the team sheet, will my dreams come true?

Unfortunately, given the speed of movement of both player, ball and the frame-rates of cameras, it is not a case of if you're offside, you're offside. I can't take the credit for this, but people did the maths. Taking the Aurier 'goal' for Spurs at Leicester, it has been worked out that Son was 67% onside, 33% offside.

We did have a lot of injuries against Man City that's true, but we also had three goalkeepers in the squad and two of them are now injured, so we really are scraping the barrel.

Hanley could well start yes. We have been forced by those injuries to have been making do with Ibrahim Amadou, a defensive midfielder by trade at centre-half. It was his lunge which cost us last week, so while he's done admirably, he isn't a natural central defender. Now Hanley is fully fit and having sustained additional midfield injuries, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Amadou moved forward and Hanley slotting in behind him.

How about your new boys, who has impressed and who should we target?

We are in the position at the moment where when the defence gets it right the attack doesn’t and vice versa. Not ideal.

Engels has been good at centre half alongside Mings, although not at his best the last couple of games.

Matt Targett made his league debut last week and offered us something very different. He added an extra dimension to the attack and I am looking forward to seeing more of him.

McGinn is the man on form, an unbelievable player. Can’t believe he only cost around £2.5 million. He’s been better in the Premier League than he was in the EFL, and he was Player of the Year in the league below.

I really like John McGinn, I think he'd suit us. We'll give him a nice welcome Saturday and then he'll want to come back in January for a longer visit.

How do you see the game panning out and where do you think it will be won or lost?

I love a dreamer.

I feel we are strongest in midfield, if we are on it and can quieten yours we stand a chance.

Both teams will want to play on front foot, the managers demand it, so I can see goals in the game, someone will win if by the odd goal. Hopefully your injuries can derail you.

Is it too soon to call it a six-pointer?

It’s too soon!

OK, we'll take our regular three points and be grateful for them in that case. How do you see the season shaping up for both clubs?

To be fair we’ve lost our last four at Carrow Road I believe, it's time for that to change.

I think both sides couldn’t finish anywhere from 11th-20th. For what it’s worth I stand by my prediction that all three promoted teams will stay up.

So, who is going down? Newcastle look pleasingly awful, but everyone else seems much-of-a-muchness to me.

I said Palace, Newcastle and Brighton at start of the season. I’m going to stand by that, although Palace have started well.

As long as it’s not us I don’t care.

Let's finish with a specific prediction. Like you I think there'll be goals, so I'll go for a 4-3 City win, with us coming back from 2-0 and 3-1 down. You?

I’ll go 2-2 and that we will get the rub of the green with VAR at last.


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Another away day, another 2-0 defeat. Here's Matthew McGregor reviewing his day at Palarse.

Well that was rubbish. Here's Nick Hayhoe on review duties. He's not angry, he's just disappointed. Actually, he might be a bit angry.....