Aston Villa 0 Stoke City 1
A September to remember is in the rear-view mirror for Villa, with four wins and a handful of signings. The first match of October brought Stoke to Villa Park, the winner would head on to the quarter final of the League Cup. Last time Villa played Stoke, it was the game before the memorable ten game winning run that propelled the Villa boys to a Play-Off place.
With a resounding victory for the team against Bristol City in the last Cup clash, Dean Smith saw no reason to change the starting line-up. Star performers against the Robins, Jacob Ramsey and Bertrand Traore, kept their places. Unfortunately, there would be no Villa Park return for fan favourite James Chester, as Stoke fielded a young, second-string side against the Villans.
In a change of the pattern from recent weeks, Villa looked devoid of ideas and motivation in the first half. Some lacklustre marking from Fred Guilbert allowed Sam Vokes to head home from the near post after 26 minutes. The best chance from the boys in claret and blue came off the head of Henri Lansbury, who somehow couldn’t direct a free header on target. The Potters nearly added a second through Nick Powell shortly before halftime, to round off a truly awful 45 minutes.
The second half continued in the same way, with Stoke having the better chances. Villa struggled to assert themselves at all, with snatched chances from Anwar El Ghazi, and an unmet Keinan Davis cross providing the only real openings. The game meandered on, and without upping the tempo too much, Villa could have played another hour and still failed to grab an equaliser.
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Aston Villa Player Ratings
Jed Steer – 6.5
Jed Steer was called into action a fair few times, and other than having to pick the ball out of his net once, he did his job. There was one iffy touch that he made in the box in the first half, but nothing came of it. Another dependable performance from Steer and probably Villa’s best chance of scoring, when he went up for the corners at the end.
Frederic Guilbert – 4.5
There wasn’t an element of Fred Guilbert’s showing that could give the Frenchman a shout of challenging Matty Cash. The enthusiatic full-back’s defensive positioning was diabolical, and this has always been a weakness in his game. He lost Sam Vokes for the goal, though in fairness it was a physical mismatch, and nearly allowed Nick Powell to waltz into the box unmarked and score, shortly before half time. It can’t even be said that Guilbert made any trademark runs forward, because he was nowhere to be seen when Villa attacked, bar from one cross.
Ahmed Elmohamady© – 5.5
Ahmed Elmohamady wasn’t exactly bad, in a position that is still unfamiliar to him. He did struggle to deal with the experienced and physical presence of Sam Vokes, though he found this task a lot easier than his centre-back partner. He did a reasonable job, but god forbid if he had to play at centre-half in a Premier League game.
Kortney Hause – 5
Before being subbed off due to injury, Kortney Hause didn’t exactly inspire confidence. His marking was at times very ropey, he allowed Sam Vokes to have a good chance with his head early on. With the ball at his feet the 25-year-old was either way too pedestrian, or tried to force passes into gaps that just weren’t there. Performances like this suggest that the Villans may need more reinforcements at centre-back.
Neil Taylor – 6
Welsh full-back Neil Taylor didn’t do a lot wrong. He covered for Kortney Hause well from time to time, including one instance where the centre-back found himself out on the right-wing. He tried his best to support the attack, but he was never going to be the dynamic presence that was needed on the front foot.
Marvelous Nakamba – 6
Defensive midfielder Marvelous Nakamba tried his best to win the midfield battle on his own. His efforts weren’t helped by having a complete passenger, Henri Lansbury, next to him. The Zimbabwean’s passing was accurate and unspectacular, but he clearly wasn’t going to be the game changing player for Villa.
Henri Lansbury – 4
When Henri Lansbury joined the Villa, from Nottingham Forest, he was a dynamic, feisty box-to-box midfielder. He is now a Poundland Pirlo, though that is doing a disservice to the Italian midfield maestro. The 29-year-old struts around the pitch slowly, making the occasional overly ambitious pass, and offers nothing defensively. The transformation from his Forest days, has been quite incredible. A failed reinvention. The missed free header in the first half only added to what was a dreadful performance from Lansbury.
Jacob Ramsey – 5.5
With a couple of glimpses of what Jacob Ramsey could be, in the last few matches, this was not a good showcase of the young midfielder’s skillset. Stoke were dominant in the middle of the park, and Ramsey showed his inexperience. There were pleasing parts of his performance, as he rarely gave the ball away and looked good on it, but he failed to have the spark that he did against Bristol City.
Betrand Traore – 5.5
After his rip roaring success of a debut against Bristol City, and some promising signs against Fulham, Bertrand Traore didn’t make an impact against the Potters. The Burkinabe winger failed to link up with the rest of the front three effectively, and gave the ball away on a few occasions. He didn’t get involved with the play as much as he could have either, making 18 passes in 76 minutes.
Keinan Davis – 5.5
Usually Keinan Davis’ hold up play and ability to take on defenders is fantastic, he just couldn’t get going against the Potters. He did have his customary missed chance as he couldn’t find the net from the end of an El Ghazi cross. Most of the big striker’s touches were around the edge of the box, and this contributed to his frustrating evening.
Anwar El Ghazi – 6.5
Anwar El Ghazi was the only member of the starting XI to provide any spark. Most of the Villa chances came through El Ghazi, and though the Dutchman was unable to convert or set up a goal, the effort to create was there. He put in 11 crosses had seven shots and two key passes. On the other hand, being the best performer in this game didn’t take much. Doesn’t look like a Villa first XI player when it came down to it though.
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Off the bench
Ezri Konsa (57) – 6
Ezri Konsa didn’t have a huge amount of work to do after he came on. Stoke sat back more as Villa tried to take the game to them, and Konsa simply had to sweep up any counter attacks. He had 100% pass accuracy from 35 passes.
Ollie Watkins (70) – 5.5
It would be nice to say that Ollie Watkins came off the bench and changed the game, but he didn’t. The striker had little service, and apart from a shot from outside the box, early on in his cameo, he didn’t test the Stoke keeper.
Jota (77) – 5.5
Jota put in a couple of floaty crosses that were easily cleared, in his short spell on the pitch. It’s clear why the Spaniard doesn’t get any time in the first XI.
Dean Smith – 5.5
What a way to put a dampener on such a positive start to the season. Even though this was a team of back-up players, Villa were outdone in every department, by a weakened Stoke XI. The result was a performance worryingly close to some of last season’s, no fight, no passion and no quality. Deano will have to get the first XI much more up for Liverpool’s visit on Sunday. We can only hope that there is some pushback from the boys in claret and blue.
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