For the second season running Aston Villa scored three goals in their first home game against a team who looked like relegation material. The bad news for Blackburn Rovers is that the initial suspicions about West Ham United 12 months ago proved to be correct.
Steve Kean is either in denial or deluded. Whichever one it is, the Blackburn manager did well to keep a straight face when he said: "I thought today we played well." Blackburn were dreadful. In fact they were so poor that it was difficult to know how much to read into Alex McLeish's first victory as Villa manager and laughable to think that Kean has recently talked about the possibility of Blackburn being in the Champions League in "three or four" years' time.
Although Venky's, Blackburn's owner, made similar comments on taking over last year, it was reassuring to learn that not everyone at the club is living in cloud cuckoo land. "The main thing in football is to be realistic," Míchel Salgado said, after Blackburn followed up a 2-1 defeat at home against Wolverhampton Wanderers on the opening day with a dismal performance in which only David Hoilett, the architect of Morten Gamst Pedersen's second-half goal, emerged with credit.
Salgado's biggest concern is that the Blackburn players do not know what the squad will look like at the end of the month. "We need to know now the players that are committed to the team and committed to the club," the full-back said. "We're 10 days away [from the transfer window closing] and we don't know if new signings are coming or if any other players are leaving. We need to know that as soon as possible. It's very difficult for the manager to work like that."
Christopher Samba, who travelled to Villa Park but played no part, is one of those at the centre of transfer speculation and whose departure would be a major blow. "We've had many setbacks in defence when you analyse it," Salgado said. "We've lost a very important player in Phil Jones – not only on the pitch but off it too because he was a role model in Blackburn for the youngsters and the fans. I can understand that because it was a big chance for him at Manchester United. But we don't know what'll happen with Chris. He's our captain and we need him back."
Villa's forwards were quick to expose Blackburn's defensive frailties in Samba's absence. Gabriel Agbonlahor curled in a sublime opening goal, Emile Heskey skidded in the second and Darren Bent thrashed home the third on an afternoon when McLeish arrived and departed to warm applause. The only disappointment was that just 32,319 fans turned up – the lowest league gate at Villa since April 2007.
Kean has more worrying facts and figures to contemplate. He has taken only 22 points from 23 games in charge and is favourite to be the first Premier League manager sacked this season. "I think you have to talk positive as there are so many negative things around the club," Salgado said. "We are a team with good expectations, good history and good team spirit. We can turn things around easily, if we are focused and if we know who's going to be playing with us."