It was Aston Villa’s first five-goal win since the time they turned Sunderland over 6-1 at Villa Park. As with that result, the timing was perfect, jolting back some optimism in Villa’s promotion potential after a woeful December.
Villa were unrecognisable from the team we’ve tended to watch at Villa Park. Instead of trying to manufacture a win by grinding it out, they decided to start 2018 with vigour and craft a win with attacking artistry.
Grealish and Hourihane pressed higher and were always scheming away behind most of Villa’s forward play. Snodgrass too was a man regenerated. Elphick and Chester stood firm and once again looked impressive.
When the games come thick and fast, then rotating Elphick to preserve Terry is a real option now.
If today Bruce turned over a new leaf, then 2018 should be a good year.
Gut says, Hogan will score the opening goal. Head says, don’t be so stupid! #AVFC
— MY OLD MAN SAID (@oldmansaid) January 1, 2018
Villa Player Ratings vs Bristol City
Sam Johnstone – 6
The second game on a trot where Johnstone has only faced one single shot on target. We might not need a keeper at this rate, but saying that, don’t believe the hype of him going to WBA.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 7
Had the most touches of any Villa player, but didn’t seemed as involved as Hutton on the other flank. If Villa continue to play as they did against Bristol, then he may have more licence to bomb forward.
Tommy Elphick – 8.5
Another top show by Elphick, who is now starting to make a mockery of the fans and manager that perhaps doubted him. He led the way in terms of clearances and headers, and also got a vital block in too.
I don’t know about you, but I feel sound with Elphick and Chester as a partnership.
Terry, take your time, mate.
James Chester – 8
Chester is Villa’s consistent rock. He does the same thing every match and rarely lets us down. A good partnership with Elphick is up and running.
The centre-back also exemplified a more positive attitude from Villa, when out on the touch-line in the opposition’s half, Chester elected to backheel it forward to Adomah, rather than pass it back. Seconds later, after Hogan’s header from Adomah’s cross was well saved, Snodgrass pounced on the rebound to make it 2-0.
Alan Hutton – 8
Mile Jedinak – 7.5
I actually saw Jedinak cross the half-way line. Yes, it’s true. It looks like the question in terms of Villa’s first XI will be Jedinak or Whelan. Based to today’s showing by the rest of the midfield, I’d certainly go with Jedinak.
Robert Snodgrass – 9
Doubt they’ll be anymore haters for the Scottish international, who finally delivered end product. He was unlucky not to make it a hat-trick when he had a decent chance in the dying minutes. If you have Snodgrass giving it 8/10+ every game and the rest of the midfield stepping up, then Villa should start putting away teams.
Conor Hourihane – 8.5
Hourihane was certainly playing a lot more forward and with Grealish were the schemers behind most of Villa’s attacks. Whatever his instructions were today, keep doing this Bruce. Deserved his goal. More to come too.
Scott Hogan – 7
Hogan’s alive! Again, he didn’t see much of the ball in the game with 18 touches in 82 minutes (the same Bjarnason managed in 21 minutes), but strikers are paid to score and Hogan’s header was a beaut (he almost had a second too, but for a good save).
A massive confidence builder for the striker and I’d play him against Peterborough to try to get him into a groove.
If Hogan comes good, then half the promotion battle will potentially be sorted.
Jack Grealish – 9 MOTM
Will the real Jack Grealish please stand up! Grealish was very much the heart beat of the transformation of Villa as an attacking force against the Robins. He was impressive in both halves as he continuously went looking for the ball at every opportunity and drove Villa forward when he got it.
He certainly teased Villa fans to the last second in setting up Snodgrass for Villa’s third, after running with the ball for half the length of the pitch. Unlucky to hit the post with a decent effort, as he deserved a goal for his efforts.
Albert Adomah – 7
A good assist to get the ball rolling and relished the new commitment of Villa to attack. Some of his crosses failed to beat the first man though, but ultimately that didn’t matter today.
Off the Bench
Callum O’Hare (79) – N/A
Didn’t really see much of the ball to make an impression.
Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (82) – N/A
Likewise, while he did put himself about, too short a cameo to judge.
Birkir Bjarnason (71) – 8
GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! Feed the Birkir and he shall score! Great to see him involved and on the score sheet. Also, made himself a presence across the whole of the midfield and got stuck in, contributing also to the fifth goal.
Promising cameo and a player that still has more to offer this season.
Team Performance – 9
The first 45 mins were one of Villa’s best in this division. Purpose, positivity and drive. The way they saw out the game in the second half was good to see too. Rather than settle and lock down the game, they looked for more and were rewarded.
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