And just like that, we're underway (sort of.) Villa's pre-season began on Sunday with a 2-1 loss away at Basingstoke Town. While it's never especially encouraging to lose to a Conference club, especially when your starting XI features names such as Carlos Cuellar, Curtis Davies, Luke Young and Nickey Shorey, let's keep things in perspective; training started two weeks ago and this was Villa's first live action. There were first team players in the starting XI, but the rest of the squad was made up of reserve players, many of whom are on the outer fringes of the organization. It's a little embarrassing, for those involved I suppose but certainly not cause for concern. Not that anyone was actually concerned. OH GOD EVERYBODY PANIC!
Today Villa clashed with League One side Peterborough United. The performances in this match were a bit more important, as the starting XI was made up primarily of first teamers and looked like what we might expect in a cup match; Friedel, Beye, Collins, Dunne, Lichaj, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Albrighton, Downing, Ashley Young and John Carew. As something of a fanboy, I was delighted to see Eric Lichaj getting the start and by all accounts he played wonderfully. While I followed the game through the official site's live text and Twitter updates from journalists and others in attendance, the praise for Lichaj both defensively and going forward was universal. He scored his first Aston Villa goal on a cross from Stewart Downing to put an exclamation mark on the performance.
Perhaps my bias is showing, but Eric Lichaj emerging as a legitimate first-team player would be a huge boost for the club. He plays a position of need and has impressed on loan stints at Lincoln City and Leyton Orient, and the fact that MON seems to have a favorable opinion of his abilities can be taken as nothing but a good sign. If Lichaj is a legitimate candidate to take his place in the starting XI come 2011/12 and make a solid contribution as a substitute this coming season the idea of Carlos Cuellar, Habib Beye or Luke Young starting at RB in 2010/11 is significantly more palatable.
Ashley Young and John Carew were the other goalscorers on the day and though Petersborough were able to keep the scoreline close where it mattered it appears as though Villa were fairly dominant throughout. I'm hoping to track down some highlights this evening, so if I see anything worth mentioning I'll be sure to update.
It's almost here!