On Saturday the first meeting of any of the promoted sides took place in the fixture between Aston Villa and Norwich City. Before the game much was made about the different summers each side had with the Villans going on a spending spree and the Canaries having brought in cheap options to supplement what they had thought to be a complete team.
Also, before the game there was lots of talk about the fact that Norwich pulled the double over us last year and the fact that they had brought down Manchester City. Clearly, going into the game Norwich was the favourite but by the time the final whistle had blown this was nothing but a distant memory. 5-1, that was the final score when all was said and done with the Villa boys coming out on top. With a margin of four goals its safe to assume that the side played well so let’s get into a week of fairly good rankings, rankings are from 1-10 with 6 being about average.
Starting XI: GK: Tom Heaton, LB: Matt Targett, CB: Tyrone Mings, CB: Bjorn Engels, RB: Fredric Guilbert, CDM: Marvelous Nakamba, CM: Conor Hourihane, CM: John McGinn, LW: Jack Grealish, ST: Wesley, RW: Anwar El Ghazi.
Villa’s elder statesman had a great game aside from one miscommunication error with the leader of his backline. Heaton made 4 saves and looked calm and assured within his own area even when the enemy looked to have him made. On one save early I enjoyed the effort shown after he had made a diving save to collect a ball before it had the chance to go out for a corner. Was good to see the effort and quick thinking not to give another opportunity to the Canaries. These are the moments his game should be remembered for, not that horrid mistake.
Last week Targett went down injured with a bum hamstring which really worried me because I think Villa hit another energy level when he is on the pitch. Thankfully this wasn’t the case as he started and played the full 90’ this week. Targett was interval in the link up play and the transition from defense to offense today. For his effort on the press and the link up he was pretty much gifted an assist after receiving the ball in the middle of the pitch and handing it off to Conor Hourihane for his goal. All in all, a good game for Targett and encouraging for the season going forward.
At one point in the game, the TV announcer was going on about the state of the defense of both side and noted, “Tyrone Mings is the only defender who seems to want to defend.” Although I don’t agree with the fact that Mings was the only defender working hard, it is clear to see he works harder than anyone on the pitch at times. In my match notes, I counted 6 times he singlehandedly thwarted the lauded Norwich attack. The big man even sat on the ball at one point in an effort to stop the opposition and it worked! Although the England international had a mistake late which led to a goal, I attribute this to miscommunication more than anything else and it should not distract from the colossal game he had.
Rating: 8.5 (Man of the Match)
Bjorn Engels (Subbed 75’)
During the game I hadn’t thought much about the Belgian. However, when watching the highlights and looking at the box score, it is clear Engels had himself a solid game. The center-half had a passing accuracy of 91% which is huge for a team who plays out the back like Aston Villa. Also, Engels didn’t lose a duel on the day and was able to clear the ball 7 times. The one time in the game he didn’t fly under the radar is when he went down in the 75th and was replaced. With the international break coming up, hopefully the Belgian can recover and be as sound as he was today.
I am a huge fan of Guilbert but I thought he was the weakest part of the Villa backline on Saturday. I don’t think that the Frenchman had a poor day, but his going positioning seemed to have been a focal point in Daniel Farke’s tactics. Norwich had bombed down his flank for a solid part of the day and Guilbert was on the recovery run more often than not. I love the offensive prowess of Guilbert, but the Frenchman needs to be able to cover his flank a bit more effectively.
Energy should be Marvelous’ middle name because just as he is loaded with quality, he has bundles of energy for the whole 90’. The Zimbabwean was adept in covering for both wings and acting as the pivot for Hourihane and McGinn to be set off for the attack. He did the things you expect out of the defensive mid in this system and gave me flashbacks to peal Glenn Whelan from last season.
Conor Hourihane (Subbed 78’)
Aston Villa play better, with more fluidity, and with more quality when Hourihane is on the pitch. Hourihane made intelligent runs to create space for other players and opportunities for himself to get involved all game. His assist came off a crafty run into the box in which he was able to slide between defenders in the box, get to the touchline, and supply the ball to Wesley. On a similar run he had made but a few minutes later, the defender attempted to challenge him and then Hourihane won a penalty for the Villa. The Irish midfielder was also able to score his first Premier League goal from some solid press work and an incredible ball towards the net for Aston Villa’s 4th of the day. This makes him a player who has scored in all 4 levels of the League System pyramid, take a bow Conor Hourihane.
Man, McGinn really fancied himself to score didn’t he. The Scot took a couple of chances to extend a goalscoring streak to three games and to his credit barely missed. In the middle of the park, McGinn was able to hold possession and find the out man well, with some style as well. Unfortunately, McGinn got popped with a yellow card for a late tackle, but all things considered, a tidy performance from the midfielder.
You know you’ve put in a good shift in an away day when every time you pick up the ball you get boo’d mercilessly. After running the show with his quick feet and feel of space this was the reception that Grealish earned by end of the game at Carrow Road. The goal Grealish scored was emblematic of his play on the day, the Captain dribbled into space, froze defenders with his movement on the ball, gave it off to El Ghazi and got it back to score. Super Jack led from the front this game and got his boyhood club out of the relegation zone to fight another day.
Wesley must be reading these ratings, the week after I demand more from the record signing while noting he has competition behind him in Keinan Davis he has his best game in a Villa shirt. The Brazilian was immense in the first half, the offense went through him in almost every possession due to fantastic hold up play. The goals Wesley scored were also fantastic, the first coming off of a chested ball down slotted into the left corner and the second due to some good movement across the defender then putting away a good ball in. Also, while adding to his goal scoring tally, Wesley notched his first assist of the year to his fellow Brazilian, Douglas Luiz. Although Wesley couldn’t finish the Hat-trick with the Penalty, he’s made me feel much better about the striking situation – so long as we see this version of the big man.
El Ghazi (Subbed 64’)
Over the past two games I have seen my favorite version of El Ghazi, a tricky winger loaded with quality who is a delight to watch. The positioning and combinations with the front three really seem to suit the Dutch winger. From the off, El Ghazi looked dangerous and was a handful with a couple of shots early. El Ghazi had two assists as well, the first coming off of a cross put into the box for Wesley’s first goal and the second coming of a simple give and go with Grealish. Over these past two games El Ghazi has really impressed me, lets hope his form continues through the break.
RW: Trezeguet (64’), CB: Ezri Konsa(75’), CM: Douglas Luiz(79’)
Came on for El Ghazi for the last 30’ of the game. Did not produce much other than a few good runs here and there. A downgrade from El Ghazi but played in a different manner, almost as a pressure release valve for long balls.
Made his Premier League debut in relief of Engles, put in a few good tackles and didn’t make any glaring errors.
Within 5 minutes of coming on had a wonderful goal from around 20 yards out beautifully curl into the back of the net. He may be better as a McGinn-style player rather than a true defensive mid.