Yesterday began with the news that Aston Villa had strengthened their squad by signing Robert Snodgrass on a season-long loan. That welcomed announcement came late in the afternoon as Steve Bruce and his men were down in Bristol preparing for their match at Ashton Gate.
Coming in on the heels of two wins in which four goals were scored in each match, Villa looked to the to avenge their 3-1 defeat in the same fixture last season.
Unfortunately, the claret and blue could not turn the fixture entirely in their favour as the match ended with each team taking a point.
Bruce’s side looked better after he switched from the 3-5-2 formation that the team started the match out with.
After a few tactical adjustments near the half, Villa’s attack was more effective. With each side having a nearly equal number of shots on target, the match could have tilted in either direction.
In the end, a few strong individual performances and the overall collective effort were enough to leave many supporters optimistic about Villa improving their form on the road going forward.
With just 5 points from five matches heading into the international break, hopefully when Villa host Brentford on September 9th, Steve Bruce will have a squad buoyed by improved fitness and the arrival of Snodgrass.
Here are the full player ratings -- based on a scale of 1 to 10, with 5 being average -- for Friday night’s 1-1 draw at Bristol City:
GK: Sam Johnstone, Rating: 5.5
Villa’s keeper had a decent performance last evening on the road at Ashton Gate. Sure his distribution lacked on occasion, but he had to come out from the eighteen-yard box to clear danger a couple of times (e.g. Samba’s backpass). When it was all said and done, Bristol City put one past him. However, the ball that found the back of the net should have been cleared from the box long before it fortuitously fell to Jamie Paterson. In total, Johnstone had 4 total saves, 2 collected and 2 parried. Three of those saves came at crucial points late on, most notably between the 75th and 77th minutes when Villa were on the back foot.
LCB: Chris Samba, Rating: 5 (subbed off, halftime)
Samba took a ________ton of stick from supporters on social media throughout the first half. He unquestionably lacks pace. Yet until roughly the 30th minute, based on stats and analytics, Samba was Villa’s Man of the Match! Samba won 4 defensive aerials, blocked 2 crosses in the box and had 3 defensive interceptions. He was subbed off for James Bree at halftime. After the switch to four at the back, that was certainly a much needed tactical move. The 33-year old, who is past his prime, receives an average rating based on the combination of analytics and the fact that he appeared to have a knock. Samba should not start and his time on the pitch did leave some longing (see below).
RCB/RB/CB: James Chester, Rating: 6
James Chester looks to be Aston Villa’s best defensive option. When Steve Bruce changed the formation from a 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 in the 22nd minute, the Welsh international was slotted into right back. He certainly did not look fully comfortable (especially when throwing in the ball) in that position. However, when he played in his more natural central role last night, he acquitted himself rather well with another solid outing.
CB: John Terry, Rating: 4.5
‘Captain, Leader, Legend.’ John Terry is unquestionably all three of those things. But at the same time he is also 36-years old. Unfortunately at times this season, it has looked like father time is catching up with Villa’s captain. A few of those occasions were last night. His poor tackle on Bobby Reid in the 59th minute gave Bristol City a free kick at the edge of the eighteen-yard box. That free kick helped lead to the Robins getting an opening goal a minute later. Much like last weekend against Norwich, he did his job at times. His foul detracted from his average performance that left many wondering at the end of the night:
“Why did we sell Nathan Baker in favour of Terry and Samba?
LWB/LB: Neil Taylor, Rating: 5
In nearly every match Taylor features in for Steve Bruce, the statistical analysts have his performance falling into the range of average. Last night on the road against Lee Johnson’s side was no different. The guy is essentially Aston Villa’s ‘Steady Eddie,’ which is by no means a bad thing.
RWB/RW: Ahmed Elmohamady, Rating: 5
In the 41st minute, Elmo got through on goal after a ball from Conor Hourihane. His shot was saved by Bristol City’s Frank Fielding who did a great job to force him wide and cut off his angle. One thing that doesn’t always show up to the viewer is Elmohamady’s defensive tracking. Last night he won 8 total aerials. However, yesterday evening’s match was without question the Egyptian’s worst passing performance of the season. With the addition of Robert Snodgrass and the recent play of Albert Adomah, it has to be asked, will he continue to be in Steve Bruce’s starting XI?
RCM/CM: Glenn Whelan, Rating: 5
This statement from the Cardiff City match ratings was referenced last week after Norwich, and is once again relevant:
Really needs to cover the backline more especially when he realizes how poorly they are playing.
Last night supporters questioned why the Irishman was playing so deep at times against Bristol City. Unfortunately it seems too often that it is out of necessity. Whelan did a good enough job of aiding the defence and completed 35 out of 39 total passes (i.e. 90% success rate).
He had an average performance. But much like with Elmohamady, will Whelan be in the starting XI going forward? With the outstanding play of Conor Hourihane and Josh Onomah as well as the seemingly imminent return of Mile Jedinak, it will be interesting to see what Villa’s manager does.
CM/CAM: Josh Onomah, Rating: 8 (MotM)
After Onomah’s 64th minute strike deflected in from distance for the tying goal, we posted the following:
GOAL: 1-1...Josh Onomah with a great strike that takes a deflection. Can we keep the young lad @cartilagefree?— 7500 To Holte (@7500toHolte) August 25, 2017
The answer from the team at Cartilage Free Captain as well as many other Spurs supporters was a resounding “NO!” At one point late in the match, Onomah appeared to be down with cramp. That should not have surprised anyone. His work rate both offensively and defensively was outstanding. The young lad has surely demonstrated that he is going to continually contribute in a meaningful way this campaign. Spurs (if only he were Villa) have got a really talented young box-to-box midfielder.
LCM/CM/CAM: Conor Hourihane, Rating: 6
In case you missed it, Saturday’s match against Norwich City was always going to be a tough act to follow. However, the Irishman did not do anything to dispel the notion that he needs to be a constant presence in Villa’s starting lineup this season. Hourihane completed nearly 80% of his passes against Bristol Last night clearly demonstrated that Villa are at their best when he and Josh Onomah have the freedom to attack as well as press from the midfield. Overall, another solid performance from the top scorer for the claret and blue.
LW/LM: Andre Green, Rating: 6 (subbed off, 80th minute)
The talented winger just received his first call up to the England U20 squad for the upcoming international break. He has played rather well this season as a regular in the first team. Unsurprisingly, Green’s performances have apparently attracted the attention of many Premier League clubs. As far as were concerned they can look elsewhere. Green’s play last night in Bristol wasn’t his best performance, but he yet again, exhibited pace and a willingness to take on any defender. He had a great attempt on goal early on in the 5th minute. That said, expect Green to potentially get more goals from the left side of midfield. Even with the depth Steve Bruce now has at his disposal in midfield, Green should continue to feature.
ST: Keinan Davis, Rating: 7 (subbed off, 80th minute)
When the England U20 striker came off for Scott Hogan, it was clear that he was spent. The young talent put in one hell of a shift last night in Bristol. He once again showed his capacity to use his strength to hold up the play. That skill helped to create two of Villa’s shots on Frank Fielding’s goal. Davis also covered every blade of grass chasing down long balls. On multiple occasions that effort led to throw-ins deep within Bristol City’s half. Villa’s youth scouts look to have found a potential gem in the former ‘Wader.’
RB: James Bree, Rating: 5.5 (substitute, halftime)
Twitter was demanding a Bree for Samba change when the first half whistle blew. It seems unlikely that Steve Bruce checks social media in order to appease supporters. However, it was a move that was made and Bree played pretty well in the second half. The highly rated English prospect showed his pace while also displaying a willingness to pick out a long forward ball. On top of that, his work rate helped create the run of play in Bristol’s half that led to Josh Onomah’s tying goal. A lot of Villa faithful are clamouring for Bree to be favoured over Alan Hutton in the first eleven. Ritchie De Laet should not be forgotten, but suffice to say, right back is a position that remains in flux (i.e. at least amongst supporters).
LM: Birkir Bjanrnason, Rating: 5 (substitute, 80th minute)
James Rushton has aptly described the Icelander as a “warrior” on the pitch. Both last night as well as Tuesday against Wigan, the left midfielder demonstrated that he is going to be lively and give it his all in each appearance. When Steve Bruce finally brought in fresh legs in the 80th minute, Bjarnason provided a spark in attack. His shot from distance two minutes later was just left of the goal. Unfortunately on a couple of later attacking moves in Bristol City’s half, his decisions were not the best. Even with that said, it’s not a bad to have ‘Thor’ as an option on your bench.
ST: Scott Hogan, Rating: 5 (substitute, 80th minute)
Along with Birkir, Hogan was a part of the duo off the bench that helped give supporters hope of a winning goal. As soon as he came on the striker, who has three goals in the Carabao Cup, won Villa a corner…oh wait, the match referee got it horribly wrong. Hogan clearly has goals in him, especially when gets the ball at his feet within the eighteen-yard box. With the play of Keinan Davis and Jonathan Kodjia likely returning from injury in September, it will be interesting to see how Villa utilize their three primary strikers.