Aston Villa and Leeds are sleeping powerhouses who have come to life this season… if anyone can overcome the Big Six dominance, why not them?
- Aston Villa got the better of Leeds in their first top-flight meeting since 2004
- They’re two historic clubs who have suffered grim hardship in recent times
- While others struggled this summer, both spent big on improving their teams
- Hugely impressive starts to the season have seen a welcome return to the top
- Leeds and Villa could lead the charge in breaking the Big Six’s stranglehold
Aston Villa have won more top-flight titles than both Tottenham and Manchester City and their single European Cup puts them above Spurs, City and Arsenal in the continental pecking order.
Leeds’ three league titles is one more than Spurs have won and though they fell short in the 1975 European Cup Final, they claimed the Inter-city Fairs Cup twice.
Never mind Project Big Picture and the self-appointed ‘Big Six’. Here were two of English football’s most evocative names going at it hammer and tongs in their first Premier League meeting since February 2004.
Aston Villa and Leeds did battle for the first time in 16-years in the Premier League on Friday
Leeds were superior but it was a showcase of the two club’s comebacks from recent struggles
What a shame there were only a handful of people inside Villa Park to see it. What an atmosphere it would have been with more than 40,000 inside the ground roaring the players on.
The game here needs a strong Villa and a strong Leeds. Both have seen dreadful times on and off the pitch this century.
Leeds fell all the way to League One after relegation from the Premier League in 2004 and suffered FA Cup defeats to Histon and Hereford in consecutive seasons.
Villa nearly went out of business after losing the Championship play-off final in 2018.
Marcelo Bielsa is far from replicating past glories but their form has been a welcome surprise
Villa were able to strengthen this summer with signings like Ollie Watkins despite Covid-19
Leeds were also able to land Rodrigo from Valencia, breaking their club transfer record
There is some way to go before Dean Smith’s Villa can emulate the teams of Ron Saunders and Graham Taylor, just as Marcelo Bielsa – for all he is revered by Leeds supporters – cannot yet be placed alongside Don Revie or Howard Wilkinson.
Yet if anyone is to break the control that the Big Six intend to exert over English football, why should it not be Villa and Leeds?
With most clubs across the world tightening their belts during the coronavirus pandemic, Villa’s billionaire owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens flexed their muscles, spending nearly £100million this summer on new players.
At Elland Road, owner Andrea Radrizzani has been similarly assertive.
The clubs are institutions of the English games and something the Premier League needs
While their fellow promoted clubs West Brom and Fulham have had limited room for manoeuvre in the market, Leeds have gone for it, bringing in Rodrigo Moreno – a regular for Spain – as well as Diego Llorente, Raphinha and Robin Koch, who were all coveted by other players.
If both have good seasons, their owners will surely be willing to spend again.
In such a multi-national league, both Villa and Leeds have a British core that is a nod to their great sides.
Kalvin Phillips, Jack Harrison, Luke Ayling and Patrick Bamford are key cogs in Bielsa’s machine, just as Jack Grealish, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings and John McGinn are in Smith’s. There looks to be plenty more to come from them this season.
Though these clubs’ present does not yet reflect their impressive past, they are daring to dream of an even brighter future.