At a sunny Bescot Stadium in Walsall, Idrissa Gueye played well in his Villa debut, but was unable to provide a winner as the side drew against a hardworking Walsall side.
Villa certainly started the game the stronger side, indeed, they practically dominated the first half. All of the focus was on Idrissa Gueye, who came close a couple of times, seeing one shot blocked, and another saved by Walsall keeper Neil Etheridge. Callum Robinson impressed, first firing a shot straight at the keeper after being played in by Leandro Bacuna before giving Villa the lead on 22 minutes, controlling a cross by Libor Kozak and firing home past Etheridge.
Villa had further half chances in a first half in which they controlled and probably should've gone into half time two or three goals up. Instead, they went in level after Anthony Forde's 45th minute free kick deflected off of the wall and wrong-footed Jed Steer completely. The goal definitely wasn't Steer's fault, but it was a clumsy foul which gave Walsall the free kick in the first place.
Walsall grew into the game in the second half, forcing Jed Steer into a couple of saves, though he was never truly challenged. Walsall's Welsh attacker Tom Bradshaw was particularly impressive. But it was a Villa striker that was at the centre of controversy during the second half. Libor Kozak got free in the box but was seemingly hauled down by a defender. Despite the protests, referee Anthony Taylor didn't give the penalty and the game ended all square.
Some thoughts on the game-
Idrissa Gueye is a perfectly acceptable replacement for Delph:It's early days, but Idrissa Gueye played well. Never afraid to shoot, his passing was a little erratic at times, but his box to box style looks to be a good fit at Villa.
Libor Kozak can't lead the line alone: Libor Kozak played okay, but as was evident when he was (allegedly) fouled in the box, he doesn't have the strength of Benteke or balance of Grealish to be able to hold up play. This doesn't mean he doesn't have a future in the first team, but having Robinson and Sinclair playing off of him didn't seem to work.
Hutton and Bacuna down the right doesn't work: The right hand side was where Aston Villa's creativity went to die. Hutton and Bacuna are both good players, but neither should be the starting option for Villa down the right.
Amavi impresses: Jordan Amavi is the future at left back. Quick to get forward, quick to get back, assured; basically, Jordan Amavi is everything that Kieran Richardson is not. And that is a good thing.