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Aston Villa v Liverpool Player Ratings

A disappointing 2-1 loss to the league leaders at home reveals a lot about our newly promoted squad

Aston Villa v Liverpool FC - Premier League Photo by Ian Cook - CameraSport via Getty Images

The stretch of Manchester City away and Liverpool at home looked to be the toughest back to back games since the fixture list was released in the summer. These were the top two sides in the league and two of the best in Europe back to back for the Villans. Coming into this stretch I had just hoped we wouldn’t be embarrassed and that we would learn some of the lessons that only playing the best teams can teach. After having watched the two games I feel that these expectations have been met, after the Liverpool game I feel much better for the rest of the season ahead though. Aston Villa fought admirably against Liverpool and looked to be the better team through some stretches. Although it is disappointing to come away from a game in which you lead with zero points, the performance itself spoke volumes to me. Also, it bears in mind that this performance was also coming on a day in which Villa was missing its best player and captain. With all that having been said, lets get into the ratings.

Starting XI: GK: Tom Heaton, LB: Matt Targett, CB: Tyrone Mings, CB: Bjorn Engles, RB: Frederic Guilbert, CDM: Marvelous Nakamba, CM: John McGinn, CM: Douglas Luiz, LW: Anwar El Ghazi, ST: Wesley, RW: Trezeguet

Tom Heaton

The Veteran Goalkeeper was immense at times against Liverpool and the two times he was beaten should not characterize the day he had between the sticks. Heaton had four saves, each from a half decent chance. One particular moment which stuck out from the Keeper’s performance was a save he made on a back-post header from Mane. Heaton looked caught out on the ground after lunging toward a man advancing into the box, the ball was crossed to the back post and somehow Heaton not only managed to save the goal but, in his effort, cleared his lines all the same. Games like these are the reason Heaton was brought to B6. Rating: 7

Matt Targett

The Villa fullbacks drew possibly their toughest task of the season this past gameweek in the form of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. To his credit, Matt Targett kept his wing relatively quiet. Between Salah and Trent Alexander Arnold, there was always someone to occupy the attention of the fullback. However, Targett was able to defend adequately for most of the game and hadn’t been caught out of position. Offensively, Targett wasn’t able or given the freedom to move forward, but he made 4 interceptions and 5 clearances, so he did well to change possession and give ball off. Rating: 7

Tyrone Mings

Tyrone Mings was handed the Armband in place of the injured Jack Grealish and in turn delivered a Captain’s performance. The English International was a big reason for the clean sheet which was held for 84 minutes. Mings lost only one duel, organized his back line, and was able to clear his lines 10 times! Even the one time he was able to go forward from open play Mings made a run which sucked in the Liverpool defense and was fouled. The Villa fan may be disappointed with the result, but the effort from Tyrone Mings should be commended. Rating: 7.5

Bjorn Engels

Big Bjorn Engels was literally massive against Liverpool on Saturday. The Belgian Center Half was essentially an anti-aircraft unit in human form against the league leaders. Engels had 4 won aerials along with 8 clearances, some of which happening through the air. Although numerous crosses had come into the box, none had found any success until they started being directed towards the back post, away from the head of Engels. The Belgian wasn’t bad on the ground either, Engles won 5 duels and had a decent passing percentage of 78%. Engels is a crucial pickup from the summer as he compliments Mings so well, this game showed specifically how the partnership makes each of the player’s better. Rating: 7.5

Frederic Guilbert (Subbed 69’)

Guilbert was good on his own within a vacuum but when looking on the larger gameplan on the day, the French fullback did not fit the rest of the backline. Usually when looking at stats like the ones Guilbert put up against Liverpool, people would be relatively happy with the performance on paper. However, Guilbert was not active enough in the defensive or offensive half for his constant positioning throughout the game. The fullback looked to break too often and unlike his counterpart on the other side of the wing, did not hold his defensive duties first. Although this is the trait which Guilbert gets so much praise for, his tendency to bomb forward took his mind off of defense too often. In a normal game, I would probably say that Guilbert was okay aside from the lapses, but in a game like Liverpool defensive duties should come first and that did not look like the priority for me. Rating: 6

Marvelous Nakamba

Ironically enough, the most dangerous area on the pitch when playing Liverpool is the area between the Center Halves and the Midfield. This is where Roberto Firmino lies, and he is the only person who can link the playmaking powers of Salah and Mane into a coherent offensive power. Firmino was extremely quiet on the day due to Nakamba frustrating the Striker when he attempted to drift into the midfield. I largely place the defensive solidity which we had on the day unto Nakamba’s shoulders. Further, the Counterattacking nature of the squad has Nakamba to thank as the midfielder was especially adept on the day of converting defense to offense. The Zimbabwean Holding Midfielder was able to clean up the mess in front of the Center Halves, Block the False 9 from contributing in a major way, and acted as the pivot for the Counterattack to start often. Rating: 8 (Man of the Match)

John McGinn

With Jack Grealish out, the super Scot was expected to be the main creative outlet in the squad and to create chances. McGinn was able to meet these expectations and add a bit more as well. McGinn was able to create a couple of chances on offense and put in the ball for Trezeguet’s goal. On defense McGinn was constantly harassing the Liverpool defense and won possession back for the Villa on many occasions. When the Press was able to set up and become effective, it was largely due to the effort of McGinn. However, I had hoped McGinn would hold possession more effectively during the game in an effort to keep pressure off the defense. Although not a perfect game from McGinn, he put in a solid performance on the day. Rating: 7

Douglas Luiz (Subbed 73’)

After a brilliant performance against Wolves during the Carabao Cup game midweek, the Brazilian had earned another start against a top 6 opponent. However, rather than acting as another Defensive Mid alongside Nakamba he was either instructed or simply opted to play more like Hourihane in a forward Central Mid role. To this end he was largely ineffective in this game, both of his midfield partners were more involved defensively throughout the game and offensively Douglas Luiz didn’t register a shot or key pass. Douglas Luiz tried to get into this game on multiple occasions but was washed away by the Liverpool midfield. Rating: 6

Anwar El Ghazi

The Dutch winger was having a good game on Saturday, he had gotten forward well, looked to have a tricky dribble or two, and was tracking back… until he didn’t. El Ghazi bears the blame for the Robertson header in the 87th minute which broke the clean sheet. The Dutch winger didn’t track his man on the reset after the substitution of Kodjia and the rest is history. This moment aside the Winger did play well, El Ghazi put in good crosses and looked lively on his wing. Also, within the press, El Ghazi was able to win the ball in good positions and created two chances this way. El Ghazi had 80% of a good game on Saturday, the other 20% consisted of his booking and the Robertson goal, ultimately that was enough. Rating: 6.5

Wesley (Subbed 86’)

Throughout the game Wesley looked pretty rough and uninvolved. Early on he seemed to bully Lovern and won possession for the Villa in good areas, but this wore quickly. Wesley lost more and more duels as the day progressed as he still hasn’t gotten used to the Refereeing in the Prem. Wesley expects to earn more fouls by flopping or diving, but had he just used his enormous frame it would be much more effective. There was a moment in the second half which saw Wesley create a one man press to the top of the Liverpool defensive line. Although it didn’t seem like much this was important as it showed a self-sacrifice for the team which allowed the defense to rest during the Liverpool possession. It didn’t change the way I feel about his performance as a whole but going forward I hope we see more of this from the Striker. Rating: 5

Trezeguet

The Egyptian winger had his best game in a Villa shirt by far. The goal aside, Trezeguet looked likely to break out every time he touched the ball. Trezeguet could have been more clinical in front of goal and would have sealed the game with better finishing. The pace from the Egyptian was game changing and was used well on the Free Kick in particular during the run coming off of Tyrone Mings’ shoulder. Trezeguet’s tracking back was also suspect for a good portion of the game, but this is understandable as it looked like this was by design to use Trezeguet as the main outlet for pressure. Rating: 7

Substitutions

RB: Ahmed El Mohamady(69’), CM: Conor Hourihane(73’), ST: Jonathan Kodjia (86’)

Ahmed El Mohamady (Subbed on 69’)

Elmo was subbed on in place of Guilbert for defensive solidity and the veteran delivered. During 27 minutes on the pitch the fullback had 100% duel and Aerial winning percentages along with a couple of clearances and an interception. At one point he even got forward and put a cross in, all in all a solid performance in a good time. Rating: 7

Conor Hourihane (Subbed on 73’)

Hourihane came on for Douglas Luiz and looked like the natural fit for the positioning of the box to box midfielder. The Irish international got forward and had more intention on the ball than the man he’d replaced. However, Hourihane had to deal with a surging Liverpool attack and gotten eaten up on defense. Rating: 6

Jonathan Kodjia (Subbed on 86’)

Subbed on for Wesley in what I thought to be a bad move from the Manager, A more defensive substitution could have been more useful for protecting the lead, but I digress. Also, Kodjia marked Mane during his header on the corner which was the final meaningful touch of the game. Rating: N/A