Three preseason games in and the Villa look dominant, as they should coming up against league 2 opponents, but I digress. No matter the opposition, it is always positive to see the Claret and Blue thump another team to the tune of 5-1. It was also notable that we saw the closest thing to the true starting eleven run out for the first time this preseason, with a couple spots aside. The 70-minute run out which the starting eleven had made it much easier to evaluate performances and truly see what we’ve got at the Villa.
As per usual the ratings will be on a 1-10 scale with 6 being about average, with that being said let’s get into it.
Starting XI: GK: Lovre Kalinic, RB: Fredric Guilbert, CB: Bjorn Engels, CB: Tyrone Mings, LB: Matt Targett, CM: Conor Hourihane, CM: Henri Lansbury, CM: Jack Grealish (C), LW: Andre Green, ST: Wesley, RW: Jota.
Like the Shrewsbury game, the Goalkeeper was the only player to play a full 90 minutes and just like the Shrewsbury game the man between the sticks was unconvincing in his role. Kalinic did not have much to deal with on the day yet somehow still looked shaky. He did not keep the clean sheet, but to be fair the shot that went in was world class. Also, his distribution was bad and predictable which led to a high press whenever a goal kick was given. Rating: 5
Guilbert is appearing to have been excellent business in the January window. The French full back has been immense and shows no signs of slowing down. He overlapped and linked up well while not forgetting his defensive duties and gave out the first assist of the game. Rating: 7.5
The new defender made his debut this game and truly impressed. The Belgian was tidy on the ball, confidant, and towers over the opposition. Also, the debutant made a few good plays from the center half position that raised the eyebrows, in the 12th minute he had a great header to clear the ball in the box and in the 69th Engles blocked a shot. Rating: 7
The rock in the middle of the Villa defense was once again solid on the night. Mings was active in preventing balls into the attacking players and did a great job in starting the play after interception or a key tackle. One moment which particularly stood out to me occurred in the 42nd minute in which Mings cleared the ball out, another Villa man lost possession, then Mings won the ball back kept it away from two Walsall men and then played it out the back. Rating: 7.5
Targett was good on the ball when asked and effective enough in defense to not get caught out. However, it never felt as though he took control of the game like Guilbert did. This may be due to the fact that action was mainly to the right of the pitch or because Andre Green did not link up with him effectively. Rating: 6
Conor Hourihane is fading in and out of games again. At points he plays brilliant balls forward in which the offense is sprung and at other times he goes missing. This game was much more of the latter, other than a good ball in the 16th minute the Irish midfielder did not leave a positive impression on me. Further, it could be argued that he was partially responsible for the goal allowed as he was the deep lying midfielder and should not have left Lansbury defending just outside the box. Rating: 5.5
Henri Lansbury is finally showing why he was bought from Nottingham Forest. Although, he missed a tackle leading to a goal, the midfielder had possibly his best game in a Villa shirt and was unfortunate not to earn a scoring contribution for the effort. Lansbury was instrumental in the link up, ran for miles, and didn’t miss a pass on the day. Lansbury is trying to force his way back in the first team, if this form keeps up then he just might. Rating: 7
Super Jack is just hitting another level right now. The Villa talisman is making runs forward in a way we haven’t seen before. Evidence of this occurred in the 19th minute in which Grealish got free in front of the keeper but just put too much power on it and in the goal he scored in the 59th. Further, Grealish dripped pure class as he cut through the Walsall midfield while they watched and could do nothing about it Rating: 8
Andre Green is having a tough preseason, even if you are a fan of his, like myself, you would have to admit that. Against Walsall, Green had a fairly uneventful game aside from a good bit of skill in the second half in which he beat his man on the dribble and then absolutely nailed the crossbar. The academy produce failed to produce anything of consequence and could not link the play up on his side of the pitch. Rating: 5
Wow, now this was the type of play I expected from the record signing. Big Wes was absolutely immense on the day with four goal contributions. The first goal was a clean finish from a ball provided by Jota into the bottom left corner and the second came off a penalty which the Brazilian earned and absolutely smashed into the top left. Then came the assists, one coming off an unselfish play in which the big man laid the opportunity to Jota and the second which was unviewable but ended with a strike from Grealish in the back of the net. Also, aside from the offensive contributions the 22-million-pound man showed good work rate to come back and defend even clearing a ball in. Rating: 9
Man, it’s really looking like we’ve pulled a fast one over Small Heath. Jota had three goal contributions on the day with two goals and an assist as well. The goals coming off a ball into the box in the 9th minute which was rocketed into the back of the net and a fantastic finessed finish off a ball provided by Wesley in the 44th. The assist was just as impressive however as Jota placed a perfectly weighted pass into Wesley’s path and all the Brazilian had to do was put it in the net. Further, the Spaniard provided excellent link up play with anyone who would come near him and really pulled the strings. In addition to his offensive play, the winger also came back on defense and provided interceptions from the high press. Rating: 9, Man of the Match
Substitutions: RB: James Bree, CB: Kourtney Hause, CB: Easah Suliman, LB: Neil Taylor, CM: Birkir Bjarnason, CM: McGinn, CM: Callum O’Hare, LW: Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, ST: Scott Hogan, RW: Keinan Davis (All 70’)
Got hit in the head early on into the appearance but got back up and made a solid interception in the 82nd. Like the resiliency from the young player to stick it out. Rating: 6
Looked good for the time he was on and none of the pressure really seemed to get to the former youth international as Hause looked to be the best defender in his back line. Rating 6.5
The academy product should be proud of the appearance he made against Walsall as he got first team game time and made no significant mistakes, hopefully for his sake this made an impression on the coaching staff. Rating: 6
The performance by Taylor was classic Neil Taylor, not much going forward yet decent in the back. Rating: 6
The Icelandic midfielder played the role of deep lying midfielder in a much more organized and competent way than Hourihane did. Bjarnason was more stringent in the back of defense and looked to be a better dispenser of the ball too. However, to me he needed to have more quality in his passing and dribbling and there were more wasted touches or misplayed balls for my liking. Rating: 6
McGinn was not as tenacious or aggressive as his usual self but was still quality. The Scot did not dominate the play when he was on the pitch but when he was on the ball it was impossible to take him off and he placed a couple of nice balls in the box. Rating: 6.5
Once again, Villa’s youngest premier league player was impressive during the time he was given. Hepburn Murphy was pacey and powerful on the ball and genuinely looked to make something happen every time he had a ball. The only negative came in the 76th in which he plucked a ball from Bjarnason out of the air dribbled past a defender and just couldn’t shoot. But when your worst moment came out of such a brilliant play, its probably a good day. Rating: 7
Got in good positions but either a lack of decent service or the offside flag denied him a couple of times and thus his impact on the game was minimized. Rating: 6
I enjoyed watching Davis on the ball a bit more as a winger, but I still maintain that he does not have enough pace in his locker to make an impact at the position. Rating: 5.5