In Aston Villa’s first pre-season match of the 2019-2020 season, they took on Minnesota United in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. After a fairly boring first half which resulted in a lone Jack Grealish goal, the 2nd half inspired a couple more courtesy of Henri Lansbury and Birkir Bjarnason.
Let’s focus on the new boys. In the first half, Ezri Konsa, Matt Targett, Jota and Wesley started the match. Konsa looks the real deal. He was calm and composed on the ball. He maintained that composure when defending in the final third. Ultimately, he didn’t have much to do tonight, and should get more looks in the coming preseason games.
Targett, who is Premier League tried and tested looked just that tonight. He was hardly bothered on the right – where he started the match – by Jurgen Klinsmann’s former favorite Miguel Ibarra. Targett got forward well and contributed to the build-up, but ultimately didn’t impress in the final third tonight. The 23-year-old is a welcome addition to the Villa back line and will make an immediate impact.
Special note for Callum O’Hare here. Though he’s not a new boy by any standard, be worked his socks off in the middle of the field in his 45 minutes and really impressed. It’s unclear if he’s ready for the Premier League and it may be best for him to get a solid run in the Championship playing week-in week-out.
On the right wing, Jota looked crafty and creative, playing in El Ghazi with a beautiful ball over the top. MNUFC keeper Shuttlesworth played it well and snuffed it before he was able to make a real chance of it. While Jota looked comfortable and had the freedom to cut in and roam from the right wing, his lack of pace is worrying in the Premier League. He’s reminiscent of Carles Gil for me. He’s got skill and craft, he can pick a pass, but I’d like to see another right winger come into the team. Where Jota and Gil differ is Jota has the experience of playing in England in the very physical Championship. Making the transition to the Premier League looks far more doable.
Villa started the game with Wesley at the point of attack. The big Brazilian was unable to make his mark in the first 45 minutes with his new team but got into dangerous positions. He put a beautiful curling effort just over the bar early in the match from 18 yards out. Later in the half, he scuffed his header from 6 yards out putting it well over the crossbar. It’s going to take him some time to acclimate and work a rapport with the likes of Grealish, El Ghazi, McGinn and Jota, but the £22 million-pound man should be able to make his mark on the Villa team.
In the second half, Villa fans were given their first glimpse of new right back, Frédéric Guilbert. The 24-year-old Frenchman made an immediate impact providing the assist for Lansbury’s goal. He read the play well and made a quick decision catching the Minnesota United players sleeping before swinging in a beautiful low cross for Lansbury to fire home. It was quite the way to make his mark tonight.
Tonight showed that Villa’s squad is not complete. Reinforcements in the midfield, wings, and up top are high priority. CEO Christian Purslow said today during a Q and A that “two or three more signings were needed”. Douglas Luis is the name on the Villa fans lips lately and a player of his caliber would really add something to the squad. Hourihane has been fantastic in the Claret and Blue, however, Villa are going to need a true defensive midfielder to contend in the Premier League.
Additionally, Villa are in desperate need of help on the wings. Pacey Egyptian winger Trézéguet has been a transfer target for Villa during this summer’s window, and supposedly negotiations have taken place. It’s been quiet on that front for a few days now, and Villa may have to look elsewhere. Villa’s current group of wingers, Jota, El Ghazi, Green won’t be enough to get the job done in the Premier League. Apart from his assist tonight Green didn’t do much to impress me in his first preseason match. Jonathan Kodjia, while capable from the wing is much better suited as a centre forward.
Speaking of which, Villa could do with another striker in order to compete next season. Kodjia may just have found his mojo again after a good AFCON, but other than him and Wesley, Villa simply don’t have enough up top. Scott Hogan probably isn’t good enough for the Premier League. We all keep waiting for Rushian Hepburn-Murphy to take a leap forward. At nearly 21, it hasn’t happened yet, and he needs a run of games in the Championship before he’s Premier League ready. Keinan Davis is a tank, but it remains to be seen if he can cut it in the Premier League.