Steve, just when the Villa faithful thought it was going to get worse and you’d be sacked, you go and do something like this...and totally redeem yourself.
Actually to be fair, the Villa boss is probably not out of the sack race just yet. But thanks to the inclusion of Keinan Davis in the starting eleven and a memorable performance from Conor Hourihane, Steve Bruce can breathe a little easier after yesterday’s match against Norwich City.
After a strong first half from the claret and blue, it looked like yesterday’s match was going to be another seemingly vintage Aston Villa performance when Norwich City scored the first goal of the second half.
However, much to the relief of all Villa supporters, the team got the next one and went on to secure a massive first victory in the Championship.
FOUR GOALS! Yes, that’s right, Villa scored four goals for the first time in over two years. Yesterday’s goal tally provided some hope that the past two poor performances were just that, in the past.
Here are the full player ratings -- based on a scale of 1 to 10, with 5 being average -- for Saturday’s huge 4-2 victory over Norwich City:
GK: Sam Johnstone, Rating: 4.5
Villa’s no. 1 keeper, at least until the end of the season, conceded two goals against the Canaries. His defence did not do him any favours on either Josh Murphy’s or Nelson Oliviera’s finishes. Johnstone tallied two saves and one defensive aerial clearance. Given the final score line, a very average performance from the man Villa’s manager can’t seem to sign permanently.
RB: Alan Hutton, Rating: 4.0 (subbed off, 64th minute)
The ‘Scottish Cafu?’ After his performance yesterday that moniker is a Trump-like hyperbole. FAKE NEWS! The side from East Anglia had the most success attacking down the left for a reason. Josh Murphy exploited Hutton numerous times. Hutton cost Villa a goal and made those at Villa Park rather nervy. Steve Bruce made a great tactical decision bringing on the younger and pacier James Bree in the 64th minute.
CB: James Chester, Rating: 5
Chester and John Terry should be a formidable duo at the Championship level. However, the two when paired have yet to be a part of a defensive unit that has kept a clean sheet. In yesterday’s match, the Welshman did his job well enough at times and should have scored a point blank effort.
CB: John Terry, Rating: 5
As per the captain’s performance, see above.
LB: Neil Taylor, Rating: 5.5
Taylor is unquestionably going to be Steve Bruce’s first choice at left back. He’s not at all a bad option, but he is also not prone to blowing you away with his performance. He showed decent industry in making some overlapping down the left against Norwich. The Welsh international also completed 90% of his 31 total passes. Solid and steady is what Villa supporters should hope Neil Taylor continues to be.
RW: Ahmed Elmohamady, Rating: 7
There appears to be a reason why Bruce continually reunites with the Egyptian when he takes the helm of a club. Elmo assisted Hourihane on his third goal in the 85th minute. Four minutes later a good bit of skill and a low cross to Hourihane nearly led to what would have been a surreal fourth goal for Villa’s standout. In stoppage time, the winger nearly scored himself when he hit the crossbar. A signing that was not necessarily met with a ton of fanfare looks a decent one at the Championship level.
CM: Glenn Whelan, Rating: 6.5
After the Cardiff match, our Phil Vogel said Whelan:
Really needs to cover the backline more especially when he realizes how poorly they are playing.
In yesterday’s match, the Irishman did just that. In the 20th minute he had a vital defensive clearance. Against Norwich, Whelan had a 100% tackle success rate, completing seven in total. He also connected on 34 of 42 passes and had a few shots that were blocked. It was a pretty good performance from him yesterday afternoon.
CM: Conor Hourihane, Rating: 10 (MotM)
One of our writers has been adamant, “Play Hourihane For _________ Sake.” His hat trick was the first for a player wearing a Villa shirt since Christian Benteke’s in April of 2015 against Queens Park Rangers. With his passing and vision, the Irishman just bossed the game from midfield. It was a fantastic performance from the Championship’s now joint top-scorer. Steve Bruce and his defensive unit, including Sam Johnstone, hopefully bought Hourihane the finest steak in Birmingham last night.
LW: Andre Green, Rating: 8.5
The young winger scored an outstanding goal in the 42nd minute. That finish got the Holte End chanting “He’s one of our own.” Indeed he is as the youth academy product, who once again showed that he’s not afraid to go at defenders, is under contract until June 30, 2019. If he works on his headers (have to take a bite of that low hanging fruit), Green might score in droves and potentially get Dr. Tony to consider re-working that contract to ward off suitors.
CM/CAM: Josh Onomah, Rating: 6 (subbed off, 31st minute)
The Spurs prospect once again demonstrated his ability to read the game in the midfield as well as his willingness to press the opposition. His interception and subsequent pass to Keinan Davis started the play that led to Hourihane’s first goal. Unfortunately his day against the Canaries was cut short when he went off injured. Hopefully it is nothing too serious because the young Onomah adds depth and skill to Villa’s midfield.
ST: Keinan Davis, Rating: 8.5 (subbed off, 87th minute)
After yesterday, the 19-year old is now certainly considered one of the club’s own after joining from Biggleswade Town as a youth product. Davis was an absolute beast on the pitch against Norwich. He had 3 total shots on target and was unlucky to not have netted a goal himself. However, his undoing of a Norwich defender with step-overs led to him playing a beautiful ball that allowed Hourihane to get his scoring off the mark. With the hold-up play he exhibited, it certainly made many wonder what he and say, Jimmy Danger, might be able to do if paired on the pitch?
CM/CAM: Henri Lansbury, Rating: 7 (substitute, 31st minute)
Yesterday afternoon’s performance was one of the better performances from Lansbury in the claret and blue. He read the play well at times and assisted on two of Villa’s goals. Even with the return of Mile Jedinak, performances such as that should continue to earn him opportunities on the pitch.
RB: James Bree, Rating: 6 (substitute, 64th minute)
After a tough week, Bruce could really do himself a favour in the eyes of supporters by starting the young English talent at right back. He has more pace than Alan Hutton and wasn’t continually undone by Josh Murphy. That alone was enough to get a better than average rating from us.
CB: Chris Samba, Rating: 5 (substitute, 87th minute)
We’ll rate the big lad as he had a headed clearance on Norwich’s last kick of the match. Samba was brought on late in the game to bolster the defence and help preserve the lead. That was a proper tactical substitution by the embattled Villa boss.