During the past couple of weeks Aston Villa has been in favorable positions and dropped points against the likes of West Ham and Arsenal. This week was no different having been leading against Burnley on two separate occasions and letting the opposition equalize both times. Although the 2-2 draw is disappointing the result does not tell the entire story of a Villa team which looked good as a whole on the day. After a couple of team changes by Dean Smith and player development over the season, it is important to look at the individual performances on the day.
Here are the player ratings.
Aston Villa XI: GK: Tom Heaton, LB: Matt Targett, CB: Tyrone Mings, CB: Björn Engels, RB: Fredric Guilbert, CDM: Marvelous Nakamba, CM: Conor Hourihane, CM: John McGinn, CAM: Jack Grealish, ST: Anwar El Ghazi, ST: Wesley
In his first game against his former club that he captained, Heaton was not as poor as the score line suggests. In fact, I thought the former Burnley man was fair in his performance on the day. While there is something left to be desired on his outfield delivery, Heaton is still competent with the action in his own box and between the posts. Heaton looked like he had an early free kick from Dwight McNeil covered early and saved another shot on target. Also, the goals he allowed were point blank headers which aren’t attempts that a Keeper is usually expected to keep out.
Matt Targett (Subbed 61’):
One of the two changes to the team sheet was putting in Targett in place of Neil Taylor, Targett was far more progressive and impressive than his Welsh counterpart. Targett linked up with the midfield well and came forward in place of a winger at times. Although Targett came out injured in the 61st minute, I think he was one of the impact performers on the day and it was noticeable to the performance to the team as a whole when he was removed.
When playing out of the back you place a tremendous amount of trust within your centre-backs, Tyrone Mings almost violated this trust a couple of times this game. There were moments in which Mings could have been more secure with possession and chose to control the ball instead of clearing which bothered me. Furthermore, against a pair of strikers like Wood and Barnes who are known for their aerial prowess and Jay Rodriguez known for his handiness, you would expect Mings to take a more cautious approach. Neither of the goals were directly his fault but Mings was playing with fire in this game.
The Belgian centre-half was on the whole decent in the day but will be remembered for the lapses in play which he had. During the second goal for the Visitors, Engels did not switch properly onto Wood and then lost a step on the aerial subsequently. For a defender who is as tall as Engels is should win a large majority of the aerials that come their way. Although the Belgian had a decent enough day on paper, defenders are often judged on their mistakes!
Guilbert did well to provide the width on a day in which Dean Smith attempted to use narrower team shape. The energy levels from the Frenchman was commendable as he did well to get back on his defensive duties and rarely was caught out. The influence from the full back was seen on the score sheet as well due to the beautiful ball the Guilbert put into Anwar El Ghazi for the first ball. All in all, a solid performance and one of the reasons for Deano to keep the shape and team the same.
After a so-so appearance against Arsenal, the Zimbabwean defensive midfielder was given a run out against Burnley in a vote of confidence move from the Villa managerial staff. The move was paid back in full as Nakamba put in a fantastic performance in the role, in what I thought looked almost to be a narrow 4-4-2 at times. Marvelous did a job worthy of his name as he covered for the bombing full backs, filled in for defenders, and played the part of pivot man for the offense.
After a long expulsion from the starting XI, Conor Hourihane made his return today. Although I have been critical of the Irish midfielder in the past, time without him has made me realize that what he lacks in consistency he makes up for in game-changing moments. Hourihane had a game in which he had his moments like the VAR disallowed goal or the set piece opportunities that he took but also went missing here and there. I think the Villa team is far better with him in it as when Hourihane is ‘missing’ he’s really doing the dirty work that is necessary for others to succeed and I feel as he did that this game week.
John McGinn was super against Arsenal and again against the Scot had himself a game. McGinn ran relentlessly throughout the game and was a nuisance for the Burnley midfield and defense. The Scottish international scored early on a goal which was disallowed to VAR on a volleyed cross. Later, the Scot scored the second for the Claret and Blue on a ball slotted home from a Trezeguet cross and celebrated by mocking the VAR system. He is our Super John McGinn and today he was better than Zidane.
Rating: 8.5 (Man of the Match)
Although Jack was not the one of the men that found themselves among the goal contributors, the Villa captain was the main creative influence on the day. The team shape allowed him to drift in and out of positions naturally and create space. Grealish fashioned 3 key passes and put a shot on target from a more advanced position and with more time in this system one would think that the Captain will thrive. The only standout poor moment to me was a missed pass to Trezeguet late. The Egyptian was in space going into the box while Grealish took the attention of the defenders in the area. Ultimately the academy product opted for the shot and missed an opportunity for the assist otherwise another fine day at the office.
Wesley (Subbed 88’)
The Brazilian went missing for a bit and until he was ‘knocked out’, I was constantly wondering how a 6’3’’ man who weighs roughly 230 is pushed off the ball so easily. Wesley lost 6 aerials on Saturday and of his total 12 duels won only 2. Further, although he is the number 9, Big Wes had no shots and only 18 total touches. I am far from ready to give up on the former Club Brugge man as I think he is loaded with potential, but this game certainly tested my patience.
Anwar El Ghazi (Subbed 70’)
I have been advocating for some time for the two-striker system with Wesley acting as a facilitating striker that would do the hard work for a second striker type to flourish. I had expected the winger to convert to this play to be Trezeguet, but Dean Smith put his trust in El Ghazi and was rewarded handsomely. The Dutch attacker did well to drift into space when it existed, go wide when necessary, and attempted to play off Wesley too. El Ghazi also showed a burst of the quality he holds in the first goal as he got his foot into an outrageous angle to collect the cross from Guilbert and simply lead it to the only place Nick Pope could not reach it. I hope that El Ghazi is able to stay in this positioning because it fits to his play style like a glove.
Substitutions: LB: Neil Taylor (61’), ST: Trezeguet (70’), ST: Keinan Davis (88’)
Neil Taylor (Subbed 61’)
Neil Taylor took the job that Matt Targett did at Left Back and made it look far better with his play. Taylor let the attack flourish along his wing and within 10 minutes of his introduction had let up a goal and stagnated the offense. The defensive prowess that Taylor had shown the first few games of the season had gone missing at the wrong time.
Trezeguet (Subbed 70’)
Having come on for El Ghazi, the Egyptian attacker had a large role to fill and he did well. Trez stretched the field of play with his pace and used his ability to set up the McGinn goal with a cross at the backline.
Keinan Davis (Subbed 88’)
Keinan Davis was on for two minutes plus extra time and had more of an impact than Wesley did over 88’, enough said Rating: N/A