With the season on the way and all transfer business done and dusted, some questions linger about the quality of this Aston Villa squad after Saturday’s fixture. Many positives were taken away from the game against Spurs including Grealish’s class, McGinn’s ferocity and Heaton’s quality. Still, with only 30% possession and largely ineffective wing play, some questions linger.
The lack of possession may have been one of the worst I’ve seen from this side in years. Away from home, against one of Europe’s best was never going to translate into 60% possession but 30%? One could argue we led for 78% of the game but the lack of positive football was disappointing despite leading for most of the way. This will have to be rectified at home against Bournemouth.
The lack of physical strength and grit in the midfield was another question mark that will need to be answered on the weekend. Conor Hourihane, albeit a fan favourite and favourite of mine, lacks the speed and strength needed in the defensive midfield role at this level. I love his work rate, passing and dead ball ability but defending and protecting the backline isn’t his strength. I’d start him again and again but unless he improves his tackling and positions himself better to compensate for his lack of speed, eventually change may be necessary at the base of that midfield formation.
Speaking of the midfield, Douglas Luiz is a seemingly exciting talent but doesn’t look physically ready for the defensive midfield position to me. He was too easily blown by when Sissoko went right past him to set up the third goal. Sure he’s not match fit and will have to adjust to the pace of English football, but first impressions were not impressive for his short time on the field. It would be nonsense to write Luiz off after a few short minutes of play and no preseason action, but he will have to catch up fast to contribute to this team.
Old habits will have to die fast, very fast. As tough and rugged as the Championship is, there was always time to hold on to the ball and drift around the park looking to make something happen. The Premier League, however, is a different kettle of fish. Grealish will be the first to testify that time on the ball just isn’t a luxury that is afforded to players in this division and will rue that second goal as his delay on the ball created the chance for Harry Kane to score. A quick adjustment will be necessary to ensure no repeat giveaways result in the ball ending up in the back of the net.
Attacking from the wing has been a strength of Villa over the last 3 years, starting with Bruce and continuing with Smith. It’s almost a part of their identity and will need to be prevalent on the weekend. El Ghazi and Trezeguet didn’t particularly threaten Tottenham one bit and will need to step up their game on Saturday. El Ghazi, in particular, has a history of inconsistency and tends to run hot and cold for games at a time. Here’s hoping for hot on Saturday versus the cold we witnessed last week. Trezeguet may take some time to show what he can do but seems to have the size, strength and speed needed to compete at this level. Hoping to see more from him going forward.
Servicing the striker will be a requirement against Bournemouth. The lack of overall possession and effective wing play resulted in a long and frustrating day for Wesley. To his credit, he held the play up as well as he could and didn’t look out of place but for him to have an impact he will need service. All the more reason the wing play absolutely has to improve on Saturday.
Now, this isn’t a doom and gloom piece because as I mentioned earlier, the positives were plentiful. Mings, Heaton and McGinn, in particular, were excellent. The team’s defensive discipline held Tottenham off for long periods while Grealish was one of the best players on the pitch. There are signs of promise for this team but some questions will need to be answered at home against the Cherries.