Here’s the talking points from the match as Villa ran out 2-1 victors.
1. Nothing really happened
It is hard for me to picture many of the events in the game. Aston Villa progressed with the ball, Henri Lansbury picked out a quick pass. Hourihane drove forward. Trezeguet burst into the box. The move stops and Wolves move forward. Kortney Hause heads a clearance to Douglas Luiz who passes to Lansbury.
Aston Villa’s two goalscoring moves were slight variations upon the above theme. Wolves scored because one of the above moves broke down through Douglas Luiz.
They say that the sitcom Seinfeld was a show ‘about nothing’ because the comedy and narrative of the show stemmed from its depiction of everyday life - which is often mundane. Aston Villa vs Wolves may have followed that same pattern, a football game about nothing. Just life, happening for 90 minutes.
Ahmed Elmohamady got the winner though, so that’s nice - and it is something rather than nothing.
2. The Davis situation
Keinan Davis offered energy up front for Aston Villa after rotating into the side for Wesley, and Villa’s attack did have some hustle and bustle up-front despite being ineffective. Davis was good enough and offered a focal point for the attack.
However, his momentum was destroyed in the second half after he collapsed with what seemed to be a painful injury. Davis was in close conversation with Anwar El Ghazi, and honestly - from the stands - he looked distraught.
Davis doesn’t deserve the pain he is feeling, at all. Thankfully, he was able to walk off of the pitch and we can only hope that his injury is a minor one.
3. Douglas Luiz’ performance
The quality of Douglas Luiz cannot really be ignored, and he’s probably going to be a Brazilian international in the very near future after being called-up. However, Luiz had an odd game. In some instances, it looked like he was playing a training match, and in others it looked like he was fighting for a trophy in a cup final.
On the whole, the tempo was easy to handle for Aston Villa and that may have played a part in a general lack of intensity across the pitch. Luiz definitely got caught out on one occasion, and Wolves scored because of it, but he will leave the pitch feeling fairly positive after growing into the game and reminding fans what he is all about - style, with a pinch of no-nonsense defensive sensibilities.
4. John McGinn’s introduction
Aston Villa brought on a star player for the final ten minutes in John McGinn, and he had one hell of an impact. After McGinn came on for Henri Lansbury, he was able to raise Villa’s game by a margin. Villa felt like a complete team with him, and they seemed to have a lot of bite in midfield and up-front with McGinn leading the charge. He’s a quality player, and the final ten minutes of this game are testament to that.
Bringing McGinn into the match against a heavily rotated Wolves side was like using a Desert Eagle handgun to blow away spiders. It was heavy-handed, destructive - and fun.
5. Patrick Cutrone
As some of you may know, I spent a number of years covering AC Milan for The AC Milan Offside and developed quite an affinity with the rossonero. They were awful, but had enough power, quality and cash to make you believe that they were capable of great things.
Spoiler - they aren’t. At their worst, Milan under Vincenzo Montella would probably struggle to beat Remi Garde’s Villa. At their best, possibly under a raging Gennaro Gattuso, they were capable of comical implosion.
But like Villa, you hang onto the little things. I hung onto Patrick Cutrone - a young Italian striker and the next big thing. Il bomber. They call their strikers that in Italy.
Cutrone was explosive and dynamic, not totally unlike John McGinn. He popped up with goals that made it seem like he’d forced the scoreline to change through sheer will. It’s easy to like him.
When I saw his name on today’s teamsheet, I felt a little bit sick. Cutrone was a player I adored for Milan, and now he’s lining up against Villa. This happens, I guess - but it feels so odd, and it felt eerie when he scored for Wolves, because of course - it had to be him.
Thankfully, due to the result falling to the favour of the Villa, I can look back and smile. I saw Patrick Cutrone score a goal while wearing the wrong shirt.
6. A local rivalry
Over 5,000 Wolves fans in Old Gold packed out the North Stand and made noise throughout the game. Aston Villa lined up opposite in the Holte End and barked back. The game had moments of needle, but nothing nasty or disruptive.
Wanderers sang at Villans, and Villans roared back in response. It felt natural, and almost... nice? Is this what a proper and earnest rivalry feels like?
7. The back two
Ezri Konsa and Kortney Hause had a fairly testing game at times. Wolves chucked the high ball at them, and the pair managed to deal with it admirably. Konsa especially had a tough moment as he was raggedly pressed, but managed to keep cool and earn a free-kick in the face of danger.
Due to the quality of Villa’s defensive signings, it’s almost easy to forget that Villa boast two talented centre-halves in Konsa and Hause that offer an equal-footed balance to the back-line. That’s incredibly promising for the future of the club and if Villa do lose a first-choice defender, I have full faith in their deputy.
On another note, it was incredibly warming to see James Chester back in the matchday squad. Hopefully we will see him on the pitch soon.
8. Jonathan Kodjia returns
Decked out in a mask, Aston Villa were treated to the surprise first-team return of Jonathan Kodjia after Keinan Davis was taken off due to injury.
The Ivorian didn’t miss a beat and looked lively up top. Decked out in a mask, he was something of a Zorro, dancing forward and cutting into space with his feet. Fairly productive in the press and showcasing an ability to involve team-mates, Kodjia picked up well were Davis had left off and looks to be in with a chance of appearing against Liverpool on the weekend.
9. The Atmosphere
Games under the lights can be one of two things, in my experience. They can either be dynamic, explosive nights that laster forever in the mind, or they can be confusing and jarring experiences - where quiet can reign in patches of moodiness.
This was closer to the latter. Although it wasn’t totally silent, Villa Park seemed slightly jarred when presented with a second-string team, and not an awful lot of inspiration seemed to emerge from the pitch. Dynamic attacking football is intoxicating and gets people up and singing - but Villa looked ponderous as they broke forward with speed, and seemed to have too many options on their plate, which doesn’t make for the best home environment.
10. It was a unique experience
For me, injury time wasn’t signalled by a whistle, but from the sound of wet vomit slapping onto the back of my seat. I was puked upon and it was rather funny. Of course, not at the time, but now I can laugh and thank the almighty that I wasn’t drenched in discarded acid and alcohol.
Never change, Holte End.
11. Next up
Aston Villa will have to wait until the morning to find out who they face next - but it looks like the League Cup is now a serious aim for the club, who now find themselves in the Quarter-Finals.