An Important Point?
The last time Aston Villa faced Derby it ended 6-0, thanks to a Stiliyan Petrov stunner from the half-way line. No one was expecting the same score line, but it was far from an all-action goal scoring frenzy. Yet it could prove to be an important point for Aston Villa come the end of the season.
Derby are a team I should really start becoming accustomed to seeing, as I’ll no doubt be watching a lot more of them once I’ve started university in three weeks’ time. However, my one and only Villa should have gone into the break two goals to the good, seeing off Derby in the process.
Villa currently have five points, a points tally that wasn’t achieved until November 8th last season, showing we are not struggling with a post Premier League hangover. Although the draw may feel like two points lost, we must not forget that we are still a work in progress. With two weeks of the transfer window remaining, more incomings are expected, but Villa’s business so far has been spot on. Five of the six summer signings all have Championship experience, whilst three have been promoted with their former clubs. There is a now a strong winning mentality coursing through the heart of the Villa backbone, which can only be a positive.
Starting XI Verdict:
Gone are the days when Eric Black’s team news ruined your day, thankfully.
The only change from the Huddersfield draw was in the centre of midfield as Aaron Tshibola was replaced by Gary Gardner. At the time many fans would have been left disappointed to see that the former Reading man was injured, after two composed performances on home turf, as it left our midfield looking lightweight once again without his presence.
A signing that could help address that problem is Mile Jedinak. The Australian, who signed on Thursday, was unable to make his debut against Derby County, due to uncompleted paperwork regarding his work permit. Jedinak, another leader that has been added to the spine of the team, will bring confidence and steely determination to Villa’s midfield which has been missing for years. At 32-years-old the midfielder will add experience as Villa look to regain their Premier League status, which could benefit Tshibola who is 11 years younger.
When the two are fit and available to play, you would expect them to come straight into the centre of the park in place of Gary Gardner and Ashley Westwood, who failed to impress in the game against Derby. Jedinak will offer a calming, defensive head, whilst Tshibola has the potential to be a box-to-box midfielder. The perfect pairing of young and old it appears on the surface; however we shouldn’t put too much pressure on the two before they’ve even kicked a ball together.
Di Matteo’s Game Management:
While Villa dominated possession in the first half of the game, Di Matteo perhaps discovered the limitations of his team as a counter attacking outfit in the second-half due to a lack of pace in the team. It’s a factor, if not addressed, which could hinder any plans the manager has for the rest of the season, especially for the tougher away games.
With Adama refusing to play and Gabby sent back to the gym, we don’t have many players that possess game changing pace. Of course, it is not essential; teams can still break quickly without a speed merchant. Yet that does appear to be what is missing when Villa break down the opposition’s passage of play.
Also, Aston Villa still seem to be one striker short. When Gestede picked up a hamstring injury in the first half, Libor Kozak – making his first appearance since the game against West Brom last season – struggled to step up to the plate. Yes, he is only just returning to the first team after several months out with another injury, but he had the chance to prove himself and fell short.
With Gestede and Ayew off to the African Cup of Nations in January that would leave us with Ross McCormack and Kozak, alongside Hepburn-Murphy for five games that could be crucial if Villa are involved in a tight promotion battle. Although Di Matteo could change his system to accommodate just one striker, it looks as though the Italian prefers to play two up top. 17-year-old Rushian Hepburn-Murphy has all the qualities to fill the gap left by those outgoing, but he is yet to be tested on the Championship stage.
With Patrick Bamford and Nakhi Wells both rumoured to be on Villa’s radar, Villa owner Tony Xia has suggested a ‘world class’ striker is incoming. Next week could be interesting.
Paul Tierney had very little to do, having a much better games than the referees Villa have encountered so far this season. However, Derby fans were probably not best pleased having been denied what could have been a penalty. In the 85th minute, Villa breathed a sigh of relief, after Tierney missed Cissokho holding onto Richard Keogh’s shirt. Had the penalty been awarded, it would have left little time for Villa to react and could have ultimately cost us a point in the end.
On the other hand, Villa could have been 1-0 up by that time. In the Championship there is no goal line technology, which could have been called upon when Tommy Elphick’s shot was cleared off the line by Will Hughes. The replays were inclusive, leaving Villa ruing their missed chances from the first half, including McCormack and Gardner’s efforts that rattled the woodwork.
In a toss-up between centre-backs Elphick and Chester, the latter just pipped the captain to the post. On his third start for the claret and blues, James Chester arguably had his best game in a Villa shirt to date.
It is a stark comparison to the days of accidental back pocket tweeter (he shall not be named) and Micah Richards, with the new pairing of Chester and Tommy Elphick notching up two clean sheets so far this season.
He confidently kept Chris Martin quiet throughout the game at the iPro, and is now forging an understanding partnership with skipper Elphick. Very rarely did the Welshman miss a header; he is a defender who does the simple things well. There’s no extra unnecessary touch, he just wins the ball and plays it off – job done. No fuss, just solid defending.
In a first half that Villa dominated, Derby didn’t show much of anything. However, as they worked their way into the game after half time, both Tom Ince and Will Hughes had good games.
Nigel Pearson changed tack, allowing Will Hughes more freedom to attack. He was able to pull the strings which meant that Derby could finally get a foot-hold in the game.
After spending eight months out last season with injury, Hughes could be a key player if Derby are to go back up this season.
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