Newcastle vs. Aston Villa, Player Ratings

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: Yohan Cabaye of Newcastle battles with Barry Bannan of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at Sports Direct Arena on September 2, 2012 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

It will never cease to amaze (or amuse) how much one game can legitimately change the way a team is perceived. If Aston Villa can play like that with any consistency, this season could be pretty fun.

Starting XI:

Brad Guzan: An excellent showing from Guzan, coming up with a Givenesque few highlight-reel saves as well as managing to command his box in a way that we haven't seen from Villa keeper since, well, the last time Brad Guzan was starting. In my mind, the starting keeper's spot is Guzan's to lose.

Rating: 8

Matthew Lowton: Probably the young right back's most difficult assignment to date, and encouragingly his best performance to date. Never looked especially uncomfortable, made some very good stops and in general put in a very solid performance. Encouraging from the youngster.

Rating: 6.5

Ron Vlaar: I love this man more and more each week. Tremendous performance, both defensively and in terms of his distribution from the back. Vlaar looks as though he is going to be a big part of this team for years to come.

Rating: 7

Ciaran Clark: After a nightmare performance against Everton, many were calling for Clark to be dropped. Let's all be glad he wasn't. Continues to show that he's a real threat in the attacking phase and defensively he may well have outshone Vlaar. The kind of bounce-back performance that should be incredibly encouraging from a young player.

Rating: 7.5

Eric Lichaj: Making his first start of the season at left back and being asked to shut down Hatem Ben Arfa, Lichaj put in an admirable shift. He's clearly not as comfortable on the left as he is on the right and there were times (especially going forward) that he looked a bit awkward, but he got the job done. Good shift in a situation that could charitably be described as less than ideal.

Rating: 6.5

Brett Holman: Easily the Australia international's best day in a Villa shirt. Active and tireless, Holman made it his business to harass whichever Newcastle player that stumbled into his line of vision in every part of the field. Perhaps could have done better on Ben Arfa's screamer, but Holman is an attacking midfielder and ideally shouldn't even be marking him in the first place. Positive showing.

Rating: 6.5

Karim El Ahmadi: In a somewhat unexpected twist, the player that has been Villa's best through the first two games put in what was by far his worst individual performance on the day his team but in their best. KEA didn't have a bad game by any stretch, but he was more giveaway prone than he has been in the past and looked a bit flustered at times defensively. Still, if this is KEA's worst, we're in pretty good shape.

Rating: 6

Stephen Ireland: Dear lord, what frustrating player. Showed flashes, but was Villa's worst player for most of the day. If we didn't all know he was capable of better, it wouldn't be nearly as bad.

Rating: 5

Barry Bannan: Bannan starts on the left, is one of Villa's best players, sets up goal from a cross. Now who's the dean?

Rating: 7.5

Andreas Weimann: I love this kid so much. He's going to be a really, really good player. Another game in which he didn't do anything spectacular or find himself on the scoresheet, but he does almost everything right. When he finds that cutting edge (and I think that he will) he's going to be trouble. There's no doubt in my mind that he's Bent's best strike partner right now.

Rating: 6.5

Darren Bent: Hey big fella! We missed you. Good to have you back.

Rating: 6.5

Substitutes

Gabby Agbonlahor: Make a massive impact the second he stepped on the pitch. It's increasingly clear that Gabby isn't going to be the player we might have once thought he'd become, but he's still a really nice guy to have around. So close to setting up Bent for the winner, and the way he absolutely torched Newcastle's defense on a few occasions is likely indicative of the way Lambert is going to use him much of the time this year. So good to have him back in the team.

Rating: 6.5

Charles N'Zogbia: Not sure what to say. Wasn't actively bad, had a few good moments, still incredibly frustrating. There's no way he went from the player he was at Wigan to barely passable overnight. I just have no idea what's going on.

Rating: N/A

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