With just over a third of the season finished, we thought we'd ask "Who is Aston Villa's biggest surprise thus far?"
Well, Aston Villa have now played 14 matches, so this is our first Friday Feedback after the 1/3 mark of the season. 1/3 done! Time flies by so quickly.
But, with that in mind, we thought we'd take this week to look back at what we've seen so far. There's been a paucity of wins, but some really encouraging performances nevertheless. Rather than focusing on the dour, we thought we'd look at a bright side.
So with that in mind, here's this week's question: Who has been Aston Villa's biggest surprise this season?
You'll find our answers below, and you can put yours in the comments!
Kirsten: I think my biggest surprise thus far has been Ashley Westwood -- perhaps because I just didn't expect much from a player from League One. He wasn't fantastic against Reading, but I'd argue no one was at their best for that match. But it was the trio of Westwood, Barry Bannan and Karim El Ahmadi that kept Arsenal from truly threatening the fragile Villa defense. Had Westwood slipped up, we could have easily lost that match.
Robert: I think I've been most surprised to see the resurgence-to-usefulness of Stephen Ireland. Remember when he came over for James Milner, and we all thought he could be good? And then, it turned out he wasn't good. He wasn't even acceptable? And then last year, when he stunk too? Yeah, I'd pretty much written Ireland off as a lost cause. But here he is, making me hope that he gets in matches. No he hasn't been a world-beater, and no he's probably not perfect, but the simple fact that he is bringing something of value to the club comes as a huge surprise to me.
Gareth: Like Kirsten, I'm going to pick one of Paul Lambert's summer signings from the lower leagues. However, I'm taking Matthew Lowton, who has slotted in to Aston Villa's defence so naturally that I often forget that he's only been with the club for a few months. He's an assured presence on the right side of the field and a marked improvement from Alan Hutton despite being four years younger and a Premier League debutant. Since Ron Vlaar's unfortunate injury, Lowton has also shown his versatility by moving into the centre alongside Ciaran Clark. He's easily overlooked because of all the focus elsewhere in the squad, but he might be the single greatest improvement Paul Lambert has made at any position in the team.
Matt: I'll go with Christian Benteke for the simple reason that the question said "this season". When we signed him that word was that he could be good, but he was very raw. Early on he did show some signs of that being the case, but he's had far more good performances. Even when we signed him and the word was that it would take time, I thought Benteke could be a good signing, but I wasn't expecting this much this early.
Andrew: Well you did say good surprises and not bad ones. Since I was high on Westwood when he came aboard I won't say him. Lowton is a good one but that's taken. This is what I get for jumping in late. Just to keep it interesting I'm going to say Brad Guzan. I think we all saw this summer at the Euros that Shay Given was clearly on the decline and a brisk one at that. Guzan was re-signed, somewhat surprisingly as it was pretty well known he wanted to play. Not only has he played but he's been largely excellent. The lesson is that Villa should only have keepers named Brad from America. It's a nice tradition.