Ian Holloway offers a fresh assessment of Aston Villa after their recent signings

Millwall Manager  Ian Holloway

The former Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers manager previously predicted that the Championship new boys would finish 16th earlier this month.

Millwall Manager  Ian Holloway

Ian Holloway came under heavy criticism from Aston Villa owner Tony Xia before the start of the Championship season after predicting that his side would finish 16th, but the former Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers manager’s latest assessment of the claret and blues will likely be much more warmly received.

Villa boss Roberto Di Matteo has strengthened his team’s spine over recent weeks with the signings of Ross McCormack, James Chester and Mile Jedinak, and having also seen the club put in some encouraging performances in the meantime, Holloway is feeling much more positive about their chances of contending for promotion this term.

Speaking on Sky Sports before Villa's 0-0 draw at Derby County on Saturday evening, the 53-year-old said: “I was hoping they’d do this earlier, but they’ve changed the spine of their team now. They’ve got Tommy Elphick, Chester, just signed Jedinak, and obviously McCormack is probably the best player outside the Premier League.

“All I can say is it’s about time. I’m glad for Robbie – he’s a lovely fella. He can’t work miracles, but with Jedinak coming as well it’s phenomenal. They’ve got a real solid spine in that team.

“I’m delighted for Robbie because he’s actually got some money behind him now. I tried to say at the start of the season that you need to change that atmosphere and he’s doing a great job at it.”

Aston Villa's Ross McCormack reacts

One Villa new boy who has faced some scrutiny since the start of the season, however, is 21-year-old Italian goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini.

The former Manchester United academy standout was signed from Hellas Verona in early July for a reported £4.25 million fee after earning rave reviews for his performances in Serie A last season, but a couple of goal-gifting errors in his first three Championship appearance have already led some to question his starting credentials.

Those mistakes aside, though, the highly-rated stopper has shown his promise by pulling off some superb saves in both the 1-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday and last Tuesday's 1-1 home draw with Huddersfield Town, and Holloway believes it is far too early for Di Matteo to even contemplate dropping him.

“You don’t realise the process and depth you go into to find yourself a young goalkeeper,” he told Sky Sports before Saturday’s game. “So, yeah, it takes everybody time. They’ll stick with him and, at the end of the day, hopefully his centre-halves will help him.”

Pierluigi Gollini of Aston Villa collides with Chris Martin of Derby County

Gollini subsequently needed to make just one save against Derby, but he did look perfectly composed whenever the hosts threatened in the final third and commanded his area with confidence throughout the 90 minutes.

Unlike his predecessor Brad Guzan, he also impressed with his distribution and had no problems dealing with crosses, while a second clean sheet in three matches will hopefully do his confidence the world of good going forward.

Pierluigi Gollini of Aston Villa applauds the fans after the gamePierluigi Gollini of Aston Villa applauds the fans after the game

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