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Talking Points: Is Aston Villa’s European dream still alive?

We weigh up all of the key talking points from Tuesday - with Steven Gerrard leading Aston Villa to four wins out of their last six, can the Villa continue to push towards the European places?

Norwich City v Aston Villa - Premier League
Pictured: Aston Villa players mob Jacob Ramsey who celebrates his opening goal in the 2-0 win over Norwich City,
Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

On an emotional day that saw Dean Smith play against his former club for the first time since his sacking, it was Aston Villa who prevailed and took all three points back to the Midlands. Goals from Jacob Ramsey and Ollie Watkins were enough to secure the victory, placing the Villans into 10th in the table and just three points off Tottenham Hotspur in 7th, who occupy the Europa Conference League qualification place.

Let’s take a look at the standout moments in the 2-0 win over Norwich City, in this week’s edition of ‘Talking Points’!

Jacob Ramsey’s breathtaking goal

Jacob Ramsey is one of the many players that have improved this season since Steven Gerrard’s appointment, and it is fair to say that he is now a staple in the starting eleven.

The 21-year-old was unlucky not to have scored his second Aston Villa goal a couple games ago against Leicester City, after VAR drama saw his tap-in chalked off for a foul on shot-stopper Kasper Schmeichel.

His first goal for the club was the curling consolation strike in the 3-1 defeat at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal in October, and in the couple of months since, the number forty-one has come ever so close to bagging his second.

Thankfully for JJ, that next goal would finally come and in some style too! It was a goal that Steven Gerrard himself would be proud of during his playing days, and is surely an early contender for the goal of the month accolade.

Villa had made a bright start to the game, and certainly looked the better side, as they dominated possession and saw a number of early chances go their way. John McGinn looked bright, as did Emiliano Buendia who was playing against his former side for the first time since his big money move in the summer.

Jacob Ramsey also looked like he could make a difference with plenty of intricate play on the ball and relentless work out of possession too, interchanging the ball nicely down the right with full-back Matty Cash.

His goal, coming in the 34th minute, stemmed from a counter-attack down the Villa left, where Ollie Watkins teed the 20-year-old up on the half-way line. Ramsey would burst onto the loose ball, and proceeded to go on a spectacular run through a sea of yellow and green, before smashing the ball past ‘keeper Tim Krul with his weaker left foot.

Norwich City v Aston Villa - Premier League - Carrow Road
Pictured: Jacob Ramsey striking the ball for the opening goal of the game.
Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images

It was a truly special goal, and one that many top midfielders in the league would be proud of scoring. Composure and belief were the abilities on display for the goal, highlighting the phenomenal dribbling capabilities he possesses also.

It is a goal that young Ramsey deserves for all the hard work that he has put in for the team in the games he’s played this season. It will do the boy from Great Barr the world of good, and hearing the fans chant his name each game will only give him more confidence heading into the next fixture against Sean Dyche’s Burnley on Saturday.

Ramsey’s impact on the side is substantial, and it is certainly not untoward seeing his name on the team sheet each week. The performances the attacking midfielder puts in leaves Gerrard with no choice but to start him, and the Villa faithful will be hopeful he can keep this fantastic form up for a long time to come.

‘Jacob Ramsey, he’s one of our own’.

Trust in the youth

Steven Gerrard is a man renowned for putting his faith in the younger players during his time in charge at Glasgow Rangers - a component of his managerial style that may stem from his academy work whilst coaching for Liverpool’s U18 side.

This prospect brought about plenty of excitement when his Aston Villa appointment was announced, particularly due to the wealth of talent that exists within the academy and youth sides at the club.

It would be unfair to criticise Dean Smith for not doing this also, as he was the man who gave Jacob Ramsey his first Premier League start, but Gerrard brings with him the experience of playing in the league as a teenager, and therefore he, more than anyone, would know exactly what it takes to excel in the competition as a younger player.

Players such as Carney Chukwuemeka and Jaden Philogene-Bidace are names to keep an eye on with Gerrard at the helm, and it is Chukwuemeka who would receive many plaudits after the final whistle, as he picked up an impressive assist for Ollie Watkins’ game-settling winner in the 87th minute.

Norwich City v Aston Villa - Premier League
Pictured: Carney Chukwuemeka on the ball for Aston Villa in the midfield.
Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Chukwuemeka took the ball down neatly from a Matty Cash clearance, and maneuvered his way past Norwich’s Billy Gilmour and Jacob Sorensen, before executing a perfectly driven ball to the back-post where Ollie Watkins stood, and subsequently put it home.

Aside from this, Villa’s number 33 demonstrated excellent defensive work and ball recovery as he occupied the space between Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings in Villa’s attack and the gaps in the Canaries’ midfield.

Upon entering the field, Chukwuemeka was instructed to man-mark Chelsea-loanee Gilmour, as the number eight was “getting too many touches on the ball” according to boss Steven Gerrard. The 18-year-old did so superbly and as a result, nullified the young Scot’s influence on the game.

Chukwuemeka and Ramsey are both academy products, and their excellent performances for the first team signify just how remarkable the youth setup is at the club. Proof of it’s success lies in the recent match-day squad that saw as many as six players who have been brought in due to their performances at U18 or U23 level.

Albeit, Gerrard and his staff are nursing a number of injuries and a handful of his players are affected by recent COVID issues, but it is difficult to dispute that players such as Tim Iroegbunam and Cameron Archer haven’t earned their way into first-team action.

Steven Gerrard was quick to commend both Chukwuemeka and Ramsey for their efforts in the game during the post-match interview at Carrow Road:

Ben Chrisene, a player who featured in Villa’s impressive FA Youth cup success last season, has recently been spotted in a training video for the first-team, once again signifying the vast amount of youthful talent at the club. This once again publicizes Gerrard’s tendency to promote these players and provide them with experience that will aid their development and progression as footballers.

Other players involved in that victorious Youth Cup campaign, such as Kaine Kesler-Hayden who is currently impressing on loan at Swindon Town, will see the opportunities given to their fellow academy teammates and will look themselves at being given a chance at first-team level in the future.

Ultimately, Gerrard makes Aston Villa an appealing place to come if you are driven and hungry to succeed. The new Head Coach is paving the way for young players to make their mark and show their abilities on the pitch, and this characteristic of the former Rangers man is something you can only admire and appreciate.