We tried placing round pegs in round holes rather than in square ones yesterday and it worked!
It was nice to hear applause at half time and again at full time from a packed Villa Park on Saturday as the team left the field. It is very early in Dean Smith’s tenure at Villa Park and he has only had a couple of training sessions at best with some of his new players but there were still some early encouraging signs.
We pressed our opponents in their own half and showed a willingness to do so. Doing that took some pressure off our defence and we didn’t let Swansea begin to cause us too many problems at the back until the last quarter of the game when they had us on the back foot as we tired and might have denied us the victory our overall play and improved work rate had deserved.
We even started to look a bit more like a team than a group of individuals yesterday. This much needed win brings us level on points with Dean’s former club Brentford and only 3 points off the play off places. Leeds and Albion will soon be looking over their shoulders and don’t look so nailed on for promotion after their defeats yesterday.
Dean, JT and Richard O’Kelly have a 100%-win record. Dean Smith has a win from his first Villa game and that is something that none of our previous six managers achieved. We had lost to Swansea on their last two visits to Villa Park, so this was a case of third time lucky for us. The acid test will be our next two games which are away from home. We took 3 points from these games last season and could do with getting at least the same this. Let’s go to Norwich and QPR looking for wins instead of with our backs to the wall. Six points from these two games would really get this season started and we do have some ground to make up. We are also Aston Villa and are claiming our new manager bounce!
We are not going to become a team that will walk away with this league overnight. We started well and got a win but lacked a clinical finish and enough invention in the final third. We don’t dominate games although we have the players who on paper look capable of doing so. The problems we have found so far this season will not have disappeared and they may well rear their ugly heads again. We just may through hard work and application have it in us to turn the corner and make this a season to remember rather than one to forget. We may just have witnessed the start of something big yesterday. Let’s hope so!
My player ratings from a game that we kept a clean sheet for only the second time in a league game this season are:
Orjan Nyland – 7 – This was his best performance to date for us by some distance. This can be a new start for him as well as others and he can take some confidence from this display. Horton tried to turn in a cross on 23 minutes from just inside of the box that Nyland pushed away to his left. He then cut out a dangerous looking 56th minute cross low at his near post. Made a good reflex save on 69 minutes from a close-range Fulton header.
Alan Hutton – 7 – Gave his usual whole-hearted performance.
James Chester - 7 – Solid following his return from suspension.
Axel Tuanzebe – 7 – Looked reasonably comfortable alongside our captain in the heart of our defence. Worth a run in this position. Its not as if we are spoilt for choice when it comes to central defenders after all.
Neil Taylor – 7 – Has an opportunity to make this position his own again now. Looked solid enough at the back and denied the visitors an equalizer on 79 minutes when he got a foot to deflect a Roberts shot wide that had beaten Nyland who had come off his line towards him. Hit a nice cross on 22 minutes that McGinn almost connected with.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 7 – Claimed his fourth assist of the season yesterday. His crosses often find their man, don’t they? I was a little surprised to see him still a starter, but I guess managers know what they will get from him and Dean got that yesterday.
Bikir Bjarnason – 7 – Looking more comfortable in the holding midfield role with each game. Likes a tackle and worked tirelessly. His distribution is something he could do with looking at.
John McGinn – 8 – MOTM – Back to his best yesterday. John pressed and harried his opponents throughout and worked incredibly hard for this win. We will miss him at Norwich.
Jack Grealish – 7 – Play him in the position in which he feels most comfortable and you are likely to get match winning performances again from him. This was an improvement from Jack and I hope he will kick on from this and begin to consistently produce what we know he is capable of. Hit a 21st minute free-kick from the right edge of the box that just needed a touch from someone that it did not get. Hit a 47th minute shot from the edge of the box that took a deflection off a defender before Nordfeldt got a hand to it diving to his left. Elmo picked up the loose ball and Adomah headed the cross back towards Jack whose attempt to hook the ball in from around 8 yards was saved by Nordfeldt.
Albert Adomah – 7 – A much better performance than of late. Albert seems keen to impress again and made a couple of decent crosses being much more involved than he had been recently. Hit a 37th minute shot that was gathered easily enough by Nordfeldt. McGinn found him with a quickly taken 29th minute free-kick and his resultant cross took a deflection off Roberts that led to the ball eluding Nordfeldt and almost creeping in at the far post. Hit a 52nd minute effort just wide of the post.
Tammy Abraham – 8 – Got our early winner on the 8th minute and on another day, he could have had a hat-trick. Got into the positions to score and this was his 4th goal in 7 games for us which is a more than acceptable strike rate. His goals can get us promoted this season and earn him international recognition again. He was a threat to the visitor’s defence from start to finish and seemed to be enjoying the game and the responsibility of leading the line.
Jack hit an 8th minute free-kick against the wall after Tammy had been fouled on the edge of the box. Elmo picked up the loose ball wide on the right beat a defender and cut the ball back to Jack who found Elmo again whose flighted cross towards the far post was headed past Nordfeldt for our winner from just outside of the 6-yard box by Tammy. Couldn’t quite reach a 58th minute Adomah cross and brought down a cross from Adomah 4 minutes later that Nordfeldt dived to his left to save. Headed a 68th minute cross from Bolasie downwards which bounced over the bar with the keeper ending up in the back of the net rather than the ball.
Yannick Bolasie – 7 – Replaced Elmo on 64 minutes and hit a nice cross 4 minutes later for Tammy that could have given us some breathing space at the end.
Jonathan Kodjia – Came on for Albert on 74 minutes. Not on quite long enough to earn a rating or to make the sort of impression that might demand a starting place.
Conor Hourihane – Replaced Jack on 83 minutes. Unlucky to find himself on the bench again in my opinion. Not on long enough to gather a rating.
Up the Villa!