Aston Villa and Swansea City supporters are eagerly anticipating the meeting between the two teams in the Championship this weekend, as domestic action returns after a two-week break for internationals.
The Villans appointed Dean Smith as their new manager during the fortnight interruption and hopes are high among Villa fans that he can be the man to take them up the Championship table – although he will have to improve a side that have won just three times in the league so far this season, two of which coming in their first two matches.
And Graham Potter’s Swans are another team that haven’t been pulling up any trees either in recent weeks in winning just one of their last six league matches, and they head into Saturday’s trip to Villa Park off the back of going down 3-2 at home to previously-winless Ipswich Town at the Liberty Stadium.
Yet both sides will be hoping to drastically improve as the season wears on having been reasonably active during the summer transfer window, with Villa bringing in the likes of Tammy Abraham and Yannick Bolasie, while Potter lured the likes of Bersant Celina and Barrie McKay to the South Wales outfit.
And it’s messrs Bolasie and McKay which are of particular interest, so let’s see how the two compare…
Villa were seen to have pulled off quite the coup in luring winger Bolasie to Villa Park at the rear end of the summer transfer window, what with the 29-year-old falling down the pecking order at Premier League side Everton.
The DR Congo international had made his name in the top-flight for his pace and trickery in getting at defenders and producing the goods, and were he able to produce a level close to that for the Villans, he would be a huge asset in the Championship.
And there have been some early signs that Bolasie is benefiting from his spell at Villa Park in netting twice in six league appearances for the Midlands giants, although he has yet to start for the club to suggest that work still needs to be done to get him up to speed.
But in having scored twice already, Villa have got themselves a seriously talented player who is surely only going to get better under new manager Smith, which is something fellow Championship teams really aren’t going to want to see take place.
TT Verdict: A
23-year-old McKay began his senior career at Rangers before making the move to English football with Nottingham Forest in the summer of 2017, albeit things didn’t exactly go according to plan in the East Midlands.
The winger only mustered 28 appearances for the Reds last season but in that time managed five goals and seven assists for Aitor Karanka’s side, yet all of which came prior to the New Year and thus before the ex-Middlesbrough boss took over at the City Ground.
As such, his future always looked likely to be away from the club, and Potter’s Swansea made the shrewd move to bring him to the Liberty Stadium during the summer as they sought to improve their ranks following relegation from the Premier League.
And McKay has started solidly if unspectacularly in South Wales with two assists in nine appearances for the Swans, but it’s clear that he has the ability and confidence to produce the goods in the second tier having excelled for Forest last term.
But whether Potter is able to get the best out of the one-time Scotland international remains to be seen.
TT Verdict: B
Clearly, both of these wingers have the capabilities and talent to be huge assets to their respective sides this season, which is particularly pertinent given both Villa and Swansea will be hoping to be in and around the top six come the end of the season.
Scotsman McKay tailed off greatly at Forest last term to leave some questions regarding his ability unanswered, and he hasn’t exactly pulled up any trees since joining Potter’s Swans to bat those doubts away.
And while Bolasie hasn’t started yet for Villa, the fact he has already got two goals without really hitting his best form is extremely ominous for the rest of the division, as the winger has enough in his armoury to cause any Championship defence huge problems.
Thus, the coup Villa pulled off in luring him to the Midlands smashes the shrewd signing Swansea made in landing McKay.
Villa and Swansea fans… what do you think? Let us know!