After an exciting pre-preseason for the Villa, yesterday we got our first taste of football for the 2019-2020 campaign in the form of an international friendly against the MLS side Minnesota United. Although the live stream details were a bit… interesting I was able to watch the live stream and can provide my thoughts on the friendly. Due to it being the first run out for all the players with a different XI for each half, I have decided to provide more of a set of player impressions as gathering a true numerical rating on the 45 would be inaccurate. With that having been said let’s get into it.
First Half XI: GK: Steer, RB: Bree, CB: Konsa, CB: Hause, LB: Targett, CM: Hourihane, CM: O’Hare, CM: Grealish(C), LW: El Ghazi, ST: Wesley, RW: Jota
Steer dealt with everything given to him with poise and even made a solid save in the 25th minute which went on to overshadow the first goal of the game on the livestream. I thought Steer had been good and kept a clean (half) sheet, if it keeps up its hard to imagine him losing the starting role without someone newcoming in.
The young right back has returned from a half season loan at Ipswich Town in which he had not made the impact that he would have wanted. That being said the young full back had a solid performance, looked formidable in the link up/overlap play on the right and had a good ball which nothing came of in the 30th. Although, he had a few defensive lapses and a misplaced ball here and there.
The first new man on the team sheet, he looked fairly unsure of himself to start the game and made a couple mistakes in defense, one of which led to a shot on goal in the 25th. This is worrisome but the young center half eased into the game and seemed to improve by the end of the half, we may need a proper game to see if he is a rotational squad player with a view to the future or is someone contending for the spot next to Mings
The former Wolves man was not perfect but was tidy on the ball when playing from the back and seemed to snuff out any big chances that he could. Also, it seemed like he was playing more physically than I remember. Hause was solid, already looks to be a steal
Another new man also made his debut in a Villa shirt and really impressed. Targett overlapped with El Ghazi consistently allowing the Winger to move inside, he brought the ball out from his own half consistently, and he loved a bit of a slide tackle as he went for them at the end of the half, with varying success. The biggest takeaway for me was the stark difference between Targett’s play and Neil Taylor’s as Targett was everything that Taylor was not and seemed to be able to unlock more out of the Dean Smith offence.
Hourihane really needed to grab the game by the throat and show why he deserved the deep lying midfielder spot. However, he didn’t, and the game seemed to pass him by at times, this may be that he needs a full game to get into or that it is preseason, but he simply was not up to it this time.
The youngster did not look out of place in the game, which honestly is a huge positive. He showed some flashes of impressive play with the one-twos with the other midfielders and even swapped place with Jota at times to go down the right wing.
Super Jack was indeed super on the night, he pulled all the strings in midfield, dribbled circles around the opposition, and scored a goal in the process. Although I hadn’t seen it live, from the angles provided from fans on twitter it looked to be a finessed shot from about 25-30 yards out. A good goal and a great start to the preseason.
Another Villa man made permanent; the playoff final goal scorer looked in fine form but just didn’t see enough of the action for my liking. Although, when he was on the ball, he looked good with some tricky dribbles and balls in. He also took an ambitious shot late as it was known that a new XI would start the second half, shows that he is chomping at the bit to get back to full form
Big Wes made his debut as well against Minnesota, although the record signing didn’t initially impress there were some things I thought stood out about his game. Firstly, he was noticeably more physical than Tammy, he looked to get into it and beat down the defenders around him. Secondly, an argument with Hourihane about a misplaced ball showed that feisty demeanor we had been told about from fans of Club Brugge. Lastly, the link up play in the latter parts of the half which allowed the rest of the team to get forward was great.
The standout player of the first half in my book, Jota looked incredibly impressive as he floated all over the field and looked liable to create chances out of thin air when he had the ball. Jota deserves his spot in the team and made me wonder what the hell was going on at Small Heath to keep a player like this down
Second Half XI: GK: Kalinic, LB: Taylor, CB: Chester, CB: Mings, RB: Guilbert, CM: McGinn, CM: Lansbury, CM: Bjarnason, LW: Davis, ST: Hogan, RW: Green
The Croatian international got the nod in the second half with a much more composed defensive line in front of him. With the rocks of Chester and Mings in front of him he put forward a calm and decent performance. He looked to be more confident in his own box when controlling the ball but still has to show more to usurp the starting keeper position from Jed Steer.
The signing from the winter window of this year made us wait for his debut but it was worth it. The former Caen man was suburb on defense and provided a top tier play as he forced a dispossession on the wing then swung in a tremendous ball to Lansbury for the second goal. He seems to be our right back prayers answered.
O’ Captain My Captain, Chester is back after giving everything he could to the club last season and if last night is any indication he isn’t done yet. He was calm, cool, and collected, which was shown by a goal saving clearance in the 47th minute. Smooth on the ball and played out the back very well. Hopefully he is back for good because a back pairing of him and Mings could pacify many Premier League attacks.
Was a thorn in the side of the Minnesota attack, showed his nasty side a bit, and covered for Neil Taylor’s performance as well. Mings was a present defensive threat to the attack but also brought the ball forward as well, had himself a great ball to Guilbert which got a break going.
The Icelandic midfielder had himself quite the game last night. Thor was able to grab a hold of the game and organize his midfield well, made a play or two in defense, and had an incredible header due to a smart run. Essentially, he did everything Hourihane didn’t.
The Scottish midfielder affectionately named “Meatball” was a bulldog last night. He was all over the pitch and couldn’t be stopped from taking or keeping a ball. Also, he put in an incredible ball on a free kick which he created. He is still clearly our Super John McGinn
The forgotten midfielder had an opportunity to show the club why he was still around and deserved a spot in the squad. He was inconsistent after being invisible for much of the half he was upended at the halfway line and then came to life and began looking like a solid attacking midfielder. This culminated with the second goal of the night in which he got on the end of a ball form Guilbert and smoothly put it to the right of the keeper.
The wing seemed like an odd spot for the big center forward, Davis seemed out of place for the majority of the game. However, when inside the penalty area the young striker caused problems for the Minnesota defense and deserved a penalty after being sliced in the box around the 65th minute.
Another forgotten man, Scott Hogan made a solid appearance as the striker in the second half. He made several quick runs through the defense and just never got the service he needed. Still, the striker had a shot on goal and possessed the ball in midfield a couple of times, one of his most active Villa performances
You’ll see the shot attempt that Green sent toward the linesman all over social media, but the winger had a solid performance otherwise. He preformed admirably on both wings and got an assist on the Bjarnason goal in the process.