Dean Smith, by his own admission, didn’t consider Villa’s 2-0 win over Bolton at Villa Park, as good his team’s performances in their back-to-back losses to Norwich and QPR. The result was absolutely key though and there was further proof of a team coming together under their new
manager Head Coach.
In the QPR game, Jack Grealish was visibly playing further forward and looking to break in advance of Villa’s forwards, and within the opening minutes, he did just that to open the scoring. Chester and Tuanzebe looked more comfortable, as they continue to develop into a partnership. Neil Taylor is visibly showing the signs of benefiting from a run at left-back too.
It’s still a work in-progress and the players will learn on the job, as they now go into the toughest fixture stretch of the season with a run of matches against seven legit promotion contenders.
The win against Bolton at least checked their slump with the bookies. Ladbrokes currently have Villa 25/1 for the title and 6/1 for promotion and now might be the time to utilise the Ladbrokes sign up promo code, as Villa will now fancy their chances of clawing back points in the coming weeks.
While there are still concerns, Villa at least seem to be moving the right direction.
Aston Villa Player Ratings
Orjan Nyland – 5
Apart from some routine saves, Nyland wasn’t really tested in terms of his overall game. Now that he has a regular back four in front of him, hopefully that will improve his decision making.
Alan Hutton – 7
No complaints in an overall decent enough display. Got caught out of position occasionally when cutting into the middle of the pitch further forward, but at least he was willing to have a go.
Neil Taylor – 7
An overall solid performance from Taylor who is baring the fruits of a run in the team. Put in a decent ball or two when he did get forward. Taylor had the most touches of any Villa player (88).
James Chester – 9 MOTM
Completely dictated the destiny of the game, first of all, by getting lucky with the referee with one of this two headed goals from offside positions. And then, by acrobatically cleaning a definite Bolton goal off the line. This was the James Chester Villa fans had become accustomed to last season. He also topped the clearances stats and was tidy in possession to boot.
Axel Tuanzebe – 8
Becoming a smooth operator at centre-back. He looked comfortable against Bolton and it’s going to be interesting to watch to see how he fares up against the tougher challenges to come over the coming weeks.
Conor Hourihane – 7
Replacing Bjarnason, Hourihane played in a deeper role, but more like a Quarterback than a traditional DM like Bruce played. The Irish midfielder was disciplined in the role and saw plenty of the ball, including a lot of set piece duty.
Jack Grealish – 8
Finally got beyond the Villa front men when they came deeper to open the scoring. It certainly beats watching Grealish picking up the ball so deep, as he has been doing this season. Grealish could do with watching a few videos of David Platt in his Villa pomp, as he was a master of breaking from midfield. Progress is being made though and Grealish should be a more effective attacking weapon in the coming months.
John McGinn – 7.5
Did his thing. Always a 10/10 for effort and tenacity, the kind of midfielder that Villa have been crying out for since they’ve been in the Championship.
Jonathan Kodjia – 6
Frustrating at times with his final action, including some wayward shooting. In an ideal Dean Smith XI world, I don’t think he’s in it.
Tammy Abraham – 7
Worked hard leading the line and was alert to thread Grealish through for Villa’s opener. There’s a potentially good understanding building there from their England youth days. Abraham will still feel he’s got some improvement in his finishing to be made.
Albert Adomah 6.5
Was keen early doors with an effort and then reacted well with an overhead kick that went close. Not quite on song yet, but he’s still giving teams something to think about.
Off The Bench
Yannick Bolasie (72) – 7
Gave Bolton a threat to think about in the final stages. A few decent crosses.
Scott Hogan (80) – 5
Made a few good runs, but got caught offside at one crucial moment. Only one touch though on the Scott Hogan Touch Count Meter™.
Glen Whelan (89) – N/A
Just got a couple of touches, as Villa closed out the game.
Manager Rating – 8
Smith’s main decision was opting for Hourihane over a more defensive DM. To be fare, it’s something Bruce did do earlier in the season, but thinking about being more positive in midfield at Villa Park is a must.
The most impressive thing that Villa supporters have seen so far from Smith have been his informative and articulate post-match interviews.
There were interesting insights into him coaching Grealish at half-time, showing him his goal back and comparing it previous game footage. It’s encouraging to hear that Smith is truly focused on trying get the best out of Grealish