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Aston Villa v Norwich City Player Ratings

Aston Villa ground out a hard fought victory on Boxing Day, but were the performances all three pointers?

Aston Villa v Norwich City - Premier League Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

After a sore beating by Southampton to the tune of 3-1, Aston Villa fans were in a bit of a spiral as the holiday season arrived. The fan base were divided among a variety of issues which included but weren’t limited to: Wesley being in the Starting XI, the team shape, and if Dean Smith was the right man for the job. The Villa fans were becoming a bit stir crazy, but as the Christmas festivities ended and Boxing Day began only one thought was on anyone’s mind: Beat Norwich. To the credit of the squad they did well to block out the criticism and the pressure and grinded out a win against a relegation rival. Assuredly the team performance wasn’t dominant but when you take a look at the individual performances there are some that stand out among the rest. Per usual, the ratings are done on a 1-10 scale with 6 being about average

Starting XI: GK: Tom Heaton, LB: Matt Targett, CB: Kortney Hause, CB: Ezri Konsa, RB: Ahmed Elmohamady, CM: Douglas Luiz, CM: Marvelous Nakamba, CAM: Jack Grealish, LW: Trezeguet, ST: Wesley, RW: Anwar El Ghazi

Tom Heaton

Tom Heaton may be one of the most important transfers that Aston Villa have made in the last three years. The 8-million-pound man saved Aston Villa from a 2-1 or even 3-1 defeat today and was immense leading the team from between the sticks. Heaton looked worth every single penny of his transfer fee as he made 5 saves, including two reflex saves from point blank shots and a well-timed dive to keep the Canaries out from a headed corner as well. The veteran was able to keep his clean sheet and more importantly ensure that all three points went to Villa. Rating: 8.5 (Man of the Match)

Matt Targett

Matt Targett is a player who I think is fairly representative of this team as a whole, defensively a bit shaky, but his offensive production is dazzling. The shift he put in on Boxing Day shows exactly this. While Targett was 50/50 on duels and missed a couple of big tackles, including one which lead to Max Aarons nearly bringing the game level. The fullback also had several accurate crosses, aided the linkup play, and had a key pass with a created chance to boot. If Targett can strengthen his defensive work then potentially he could be something special-just like Aston Villa. Rating: 6.5

Kortney Hause

Speaking of transfers, how the hell did we get this guy so cheap?! Hause was incredibly impactful and made sure that one of the better goal scorers in the Premier League stayed relatively quiet. Hause got the better of Teemu Pukki several times including a one on one which looked like the advantage would have been given to the Finn after a well placed through ball by Emiliano Buendia. Hause also was able to physically dominate his opponents and could be found at several times in the match redirecting the runs of Pukki, Cantwell, and Buendia. Statically, this performance was outstanding as well, Hause won 13 duels and lost only 1, those are incredible numbers show how impressive the young center half was. If Hause is able to keep this level of play up, he’s going to give Smith a tough decision to make once Mings is back. Rating: 8

Ezri Konsa

Initially when I saw the team sheet before the match, I was a bit concerned with the choice to go with two young center halves in such a pivotal game. However, I was wrong to place any concern with these two as they both played well. Konsa, while not quite as impactful as Hause, still had a solid outing on Boxing Day. Notably he stopped one of the best Norwich chances on the day with an outstanding tackle on Teemu Pukki in the box and denied the striker any opportunity for a rebound. Konsa also won 60% of his duels and didn’t make any of the similar mistakes he had during any of his previous outings. All in all, a good performance from the young center half and something to prove development on his part. Rating: 7

Ahmed Elmohamady

Another change to the Starting XI came in the form of Elmohamady replacing Guilbert. The Egyptian provided much needed experience to keep the game in hand down the stretch and did well in providing constant delivery into the box. However, defensively the veteran was a bit suspect and was chasing the game at times. Todd Cantwell seemed to have the vet on strings during times of the match as well. Further, although Elmo was able to constantly supply the forwards with balls into the box, he was incredibly inconsistent. The full back had a key pass with a chance created which is good, but also ended several possession with an inaccurate final ball. Elmohamady continues to provide things to the club in the form of experience but the inconsistencies really hurt his performance today. Rating: 6.5

Douglas Luiz

Douglas Luiz is a player that I love sometimes and vanishes at others. There were moments against Norwich where Luiz looked classy and inventive, a pass that he attempted to play to El Ghazi from the halfway line comes to mind. Other times I felt like the Brazilian was just making up the numbers and not really contributing to the team effort, like when he took a shot from 35 yards away and there were simpler passes that he could have made. But when the moment required him to step up, he did and saved Villa from going down in the game and made a goal line clearance. The inconsistencies in his game will clear up with time, he’s still just 21, the feel for the game the Brazilian has shown is important to the squad and was vital against Norwich. Rating: 6.5

Marvelous Nakamba (Subbed 56’)

During many of his previous performances, Nakamba has been the stalwart of the midfield and helped link together play between the defense and midfield. Against Norwich I felt like the Zimbabwean was flimsy and was easily washed away by the visitors. One run of play which I feel symbolizes the day for him was one in the first half in which the midfielder in an attempt to collect the ball from his Center Halves and start the attack, misfired his pass which led to a counter that let Pukki have a one on one with Konsa. Although the stats say otherwise, I thought Nakamba was off his game against Norwich. Rating: 5

Jack Grealish

With John McGinn picking up an injury during the Southampton game Grealish was pushed inside to be the creative outlet to the wingers. Initially this worried me because when Jack is pushed inside, he often likes to drop deep and try to play through an entire defense. However, Grealish played in a more forward position and even during some possessions looked to be a false 9 sitting alongside Wesley in the press. Per usual, the Villa captain was class on the day and was the main threat for Norwich. The ball just stuck to his foot and Grealish definitely broke the ankles of a few Norwich defenders. The assist he created was a perfect example of such, by using a small turning dribble Grealish shook his man and glided into the box and gave the ball back to Hourihane who slotted home. Another solid day of work for the king on Boxing Day. Rating: 8

Trezeguet (Subbed 84’)

I honestly had high hopes for Trezeguet coming into this game as I thought he would be able to play off the shoulder of Wesley and make simple runs in behind the defense. The winger was instructed to play wide though and in my opinion didn’t have a major impact on the game as a whole. While tracking back the Egyptian was ineffective and lost 10 duels and offensively his most impactful move of the day was a knock down in the box to El Ghazi who couldn’t find his feet. Trezeguet did have a couple of good moments in the linkup with Wesley after Hourihane’s introduction but it still did not satisfy the expectations I had of him. Rating: 5.5

Wesley

I thought Wesley played a good game, after Conor Hourihane was introduced. Before the Irish midfielder came on Wesley wasn’t getting much help in terms of link up and while he made a good run here or there couldn’t make anything notable happen. On the goal though I felt as though he occupied some of the Norwich defense alongside Grealish to open up the space for Hourihane. Wesley has goals in him and is an excellent team player, the sooner the wingers and him get the linkup sorted the better though. Rating: 6.5

Anwar El Ghazi (Subbed 90+2’)

The skillful Dutch winger had a few huge opportunities to change the outlook of the match against Norwich but just couldn’t come up with the quality. During the 14th minute he had a knockdown opportunity that fell to him in the 6-yard box but just couldn’t get a touch to it. Later in the half the winger had a chance given to him while he made an impressive run in front of a dropping Norwich backline, but he missed the kick once again. While both chances show some good work getting there from the winger, they also show that El Ghazi needs to do a bit better to be the impact performer he has the potential to be. Rating: 6.5

Substitutions

CM: Conor Hourihane (56’), RW: Jota (84’), CM: Henri Lansbury (90+2’)

Conor Hourihane

Hourihane came on and completely changed the complexion of the game, his introduction sparked Wesley and Grealish and ultimately ended in a goal. He was so good that you wonder why Smith didn’t start him in the first place. Rating: 7.5

Jota

Replaced Trezeguet and forced El Ghazi to switch sides, got three touches but otherwise was a change for fresh legs. Rating: N/A

Henri Lansbury

Came on and narrowed the side and made it more compact. Helped waste time as well. Rating: N/A