A tough welcome back to the big time!
On Saturday, Aston Villa took part in their first Premier League game in three years against Champions League runners-up Tottenham. The game started off very strong from the Villa perspective as the newly promoted side showed the ability to absorb pressure and to come back with the counterattack which led to the first goal of the day. However, it was a bit of a tale of two halves as when the second half got going, the North London side stepped into 5th gear. Despite a well defended effort by the men in Claret and Blue, Spurs came away with three unanswered goals and three points. With all that being said let’s get into the individual ratings, as always, the ratings are from 1-10 with 6 being about average.
Starting XI: GK: Tom Heaton, LB: Neil Taylor, CB: Tyrone Mings, CB: Bjorn Engles, RB: Ahmed Elmohamady, CM: Conor Hourihane, CM: John McGinn, CM: Jack Grealish (C), LW: Anwar El Ghazi, ST: Wesley, RW: Trezeguet
The score line will hardly reflect Heaton’s efforts on the day but without his quality, it may have looked far worse. The former Burnley man stepped up in major moments throughout the game including making a brilliant save in the second half against a Christen Eriksen free kick from just outside the box. Looking past his shot stopping quality, Heaton also did well as a sweeper keeper having come out of his box to clear danger, once with a diving header. Although, the performance was not enough to keep three balls the back of the net Heaton will hold his head high. Rating: 7.5
Roughly 30-45 minutes before the game kicked off the starting XI was announced on the club’s social media accounts, arguably the strangest thing about it was the inclusion of Taylor. The Welsh international had a solid yet uninspiring preseason and was included ahead of Matt Targett. However strange, it seems that the manager made a good call here as Taylor was asked to hold the wing down and did so well. During the first half Taylor was a wall that could not be passed and cleared the ball out very well to boot. During the second half, with more activity at his side Taylor was caught out a bit more and when attempting to begin play down the left side he gave the ball away which led to a dangerous free kick outside the area. All in all still a good defensive shift from Taylor. Rating: 6.5
I feel like Tyrone Mings left quite the impression on those who watched the game, from the announcers noting that he had been “immense” to the fact that odds for a spot in the England side were slashed during the game. Big Tyrone was a huge presence in the game having made a whopping 15 clearances and chalking up an assist as well on a trademark Tyrone Mings longball to start the counter which broke for John McGinn. Although it was not all roses as an unlucky mistake Mings made was capitalized on for Spurs’ second goal, his performance will be remembered for 80 minutes prior. Rating: 8
Engels was every bit as immense as his partner against Spurs. The Big Belgian blocked many Balls coming into the box and impressed in the air as well. At one point a ball to Harry Kane seemed inevitable until Engels outjumped the English Talisman and cleared the danger. The day could be further characterized by the 6 won duels out of 8 that the center half was involved in. Rating: 7.5
Another interesting starting XI choice, another good pick by the manager in hindsight. Elmo was a strong, experienced presence in a back line which had to batten down the hatches under attack. The experienced Egyptian scared Villa fans in the first minute with a dreadful error which led to the first opportunity of the game for Tottenham; however, after settling into the game Elmo did not look to be caught out again. Rating: 6.5
Conor Hourihane (Subbed 82’)
The Irish international did extremely well for much of the game and played the part of deep lying midfielder well. During the first half Hourihane got stuck in and was a bit of a roving nuisance for the Tottenham midfield having gotten 5 interceptions. The second half started well for Hourihane but as the match drew on, the pressure which the Spurs’ midfield had been applying became too much as he lost control. Rating: 7
McGinn did not let the big stadium, or the television cameras phase him one bit, he was still stupendous on the day. The young Scot was all over the pitch through out the game, defensively he won 5 tackles out of the 8 in which he attempted and physically dominated the opposition at times when fighting for possession. Offensively, McGinn kept composure and won many fouls around the field and scored Villa’s only goal with an intelligent run forward, a composed collection of the ball from Mings, and a well placed finished past a world class goalkeeper into the bottom right corner. Rating: 8 (Man of the Match)
Jack Grealish made his Premier League return as the captain of his boyhood club against the team which tried to pry him away for Josh Onomah and some change fished out of Daniel Levy’s couch cushions. This alone would have been enough, but the Villa captain also had a good game to boot, in the first half he looked to cause headaches on the break and of course was fouled constantly. As the second half got going Grealish was forced to drop deeper and play a more defensive role amid the Tottenham onslaught. Although he dispossessed late which led to Kane’s first, Grealish looked confidant and composed on the ball which bodes well for the season ahead. Rating: 7
Anwar El Ghazi
El Ghazi was the hero which broke the playoff final open in May, but today was severely lacking in quality. In the first half he seemed to go down far too easy on challenges and could not pull much together on his wing. In the second, the former Ajax man tried to do too much and although he received more link up help from Taylor, he was too selfish at times. This was highlighted by a shot from about 45 yards out on one of the few ventures forward for the Claret and Blue which was ultimately a waste. Rating: 4.5
Wesley (Subbed 74’)
Villa’s record signing had a difficult adjustment to the Premier League against Spurs in his debut. Although he had flashes in which his quality was clear, like the ability to hold defenders away from the ball during McGinn’s goal, the striker did not have many opportunities to show it. As the game got on though Wesley started feeling his way into it and was looking much better towards the end of the first half and when given the opportunity in the second half. Rating: 6
Trezeguet (Subbed 59’)
In his competitive debut for the club, Trezeguet looked to be one of the more effective offensive options on the pitch. The Egyptian linked up well with Elmo to no one’s surprise and was a tricky dribbler. Further, it seemed like he didn’t play the role of a traditional winger as he drifted along the wings sometimes switching sides or overloading with El Ghazi. Trezeguet almost broke the game wide open late in the first half and caused problems throughout his appearance, it was a shame he was taken off early. Rating: 7
Substitutions: RW: Jota (59’), ST: Kodjia (74’), CM: Douglas Luiz (82’)
A surprising omission to the starting XI in the eyes of some Villa fans, Jota came on for the final third of the game to spark some possession and creative offensive play. However, this didn’t come to fruition as Villa had to sit back and absorb constant pressure from Tottenham. Thus, Jota never really got going. Rating: 5.5
Coming on for Wesley for the final 15 minutes of the game, Kodjia was likely another attempt by Dean Smith to breathe some attacking life into the Villa side. Like Jota, Kodjia was never really able to get going due to Spurs pressure and his most notable moment was a VAR review of handball. Rating: 5
Brought on late to be a defensive influence for a midfield who sorely needed intervention, The Brazilian was not able to keep Spurs away from goal. However, this was Luiz’s first minutes in a Villa shirt and should not be judged harshly as he’s only been training with the team for a few days. Rating: 6
Agree? Disagree? Let us know below!