Against Middlesbrough, Aston Villa repeated the feat of their trip to Derby before the international break, by going to one of the Championship’s frontrunner’s backyards and despatching them 3-0 in controlled style.
Despite having a few players out due to injury and suspension, the likes of Yannick Bolasie and Anwar El Ghazi announced themselves as potential key players in Villa’s evolving promotion march. Both helped Villa control the width and protect the fullbacks behind them on the wings, as Villa buzzed with intent to get at Middlesbrough from the off.
The clean sheet especially pleased Dean Smith, making it four out of their last eight games, which suggests that the defence isn’t necessarily a lost cause just yet (although in need of reinforcements).
In terms of goals, it’s been 12 in three games, which has been both impressive and enjoyable for Villa supporters.
Villa have successful got back in reach of the play-off spots and a few more impressive results before the new year, should see them well placed.
(MOMS was ill the past week, so missed a couple of player ratings posts, but references to the Blues and Forest games can be found below)
Aston Villa Player Ratings
Orjan Nyland – 6
A bit shaky with crosses in the first half, but didn’t have too much to deal with as the game progressed. Will be very thankful of the clean sheet after shipping five against Forest – two of which he should have done better with.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 7
Saw plenty of the ball as he normally does when he plays right-back (in for the suspended Alan Hutton). He visibly held back hitting flighted early crosses into the box, as Smith obviously instructed his strikers to work openings and not just serve up meat and drink to Boro’s centre backs.
Neil Taylor – 6.5
A steady no-thrills performance from Taylor, which is exactly what Villa need from him.
James Chester – 8 MOTM
After a difficult couple of games against the Blues and Forest, a much more solid display by Chester and he was back amongst the goals, with his deft back heel flicked opener. Chester also led the way in terms of clearances and interceptions and looked a lot more comfortable than he did against the speedy counter-attack of Nottingham Forest.
Axel Tuanzebe – 7
Like Chester, Tuanzebe struggled against Jutkiewicz last Sunday and then against Forest on Wednesday, but against Boro, he was a lot more composure and looked good bringing the ball out from the back.
Conor Hourihane – 7
Laid off Whelan’s goal and helped Villa maintain and be effective in possession. He was constructive with the ball with a 93.6% pass completion too, which was good considering he saw a lot of the ball.
Jack Grealish – 7
It was a good sign to see him arriving on the far post to nod home his first Second City derby goal, as it provided evidence of him getting forward more and making runs that have the potential to hurt teams. Grealish against Boro touched the ball more times (86) than any Villa player and had the second highest pass completion of any Villa player 87.5%.
He certainly seems to be enjoying himself more that Dean Smith has everyone playing on the same frequency.
John McGinn – 6.5
Never stopped, despite not being 100%. He certainly struggled against Forest, but he looked better against Boro and hopefully will be closer to full fitness come the Baggies.
Anwar El Ghazi – 7.5
El Ghazi has impressed in the last couple of games and seems to be grafting a lot more and realising his defensive duties in closing down the opponent’s build-up on the flank. He was also strong on the ball when he got forward and caused Boro’s defence issues.
With El Ghazi coming up to speed, Smith now has several options to fuel his attacking intent.
Tammy Abraham – 7.5
A great week for Abraham, who scored his sixth goal in three matches. He’s work for the team in being a focal point has been impressive too and he’s a big part of Villa’s recent success. Hopefully his injury from the Boro game is no big deal.
Yannick Bolasie – 7
You can tell Bolasie is just revving up at the moment, and even while he is, he seems to chalk up an assist-a-game. His crossing against Boro, as it was against Forest, was sharp and dangerous, and you feel there is so much more to come. Five key passes too.
Off The Bench
Whelan (81) – 7
A delighted Whelan found the back of the net from range after the Boro keeper fumbled his low rocket. He put the game to bed and like he did against the Blues, showed he has a part to play this season in the run-in.
Jonathan Kodjia (72) – 6
Managed to get a shot on target, but didn’t do an awful lot when he came on. He may get a chance in the number 9 berth, if Abraham misses the Albion game.
Scott Hogan (81) – 6
Scott Hogan Touch Count Meter™ – 7. This was above average. Progress.
Manager Rating – 9
A big win for Smith and vital in closing the gap to the play-off places. While he was disappointed about the Forest draw, this would have made up for it and sets up the trip to the Hawthorns nicely.
Smith has faced a few injury concerns over the past week, but seems to have set up a system now that all the players in the squad understand and they have been successfully slotting in.
His front three are certainly proving to be a handful in a way that Brentford’s used to be, but with Villa, he’s got a calibre of player that will do serious damage, as we’ve seen from the 12 goals in three games in the past week.
Smith in his post-match interviews has shown he has high standards and clear levels of what he’s expecting from his players. He wasn’t happy with the performance against the Blues or the result against Forest.
It’s good to see he’s set the standard high and feels there is more to come from this team.