With both Cardiff City and Fulham winning earlier in the day, pushing Villa back into fourth place, Villa went into the Wolves game really needing to beat the league leaders to stay firmly in the race for automatic promotion and lay down a marker.

The 4-1 result was a real statement of intent by Villa, and a win in midweek against QPR will keep Fulham at bay by four points and if Cardiff fail to secure three points in a tricky trip to Brentford (who have only lost twice at home this season), then Villa’s destiny for automatic promotion will be back in their own hands.

Villa Player Ratings vs Wolves

Sam Johnstone – 7

During the early exchanges, it looked like Johnstone was in for a busy night, yet while he should have done better for Wolves goal, he later had a comfortable second half. His distribution showed signs of improving, especially when he elected to throw it out long to Grabban and put Villa on the break straight away.

Ahmed Elmohamady – 7

Acquitted himself well against multiple threats including their wing-back and the arrival of Costa later on. Probably his best performance in recent weeks.

John Terry – 8

A great clearance off the line in the first half at a key time by Terry set the tone of his committed performance. Terry thrives in games like these, so it was good to see him lead Villa by example. His jumping fist pump to the Holte after the whistle is the kind of attitude we need as supporters going into the home stretch.

James Chester – 8

While probably not as good as all-round a performance as he had against Sunderland, due to perhaps being at fault for the goal and some sloppy play in the first half, it has to be remembered the opposition were a lot better.

Overall he had a good evening neutralising the threat of Wolves. Could he have done better with his overhead kick chance? Probably. But he made amends right away with his second goal in two games. Villa’s mister consistent is even chipping in with the goals now.

Neil Taylor – 7

Did well on what could have been a troublesome evening for the Welshman. Perhaps lucky at one stage when he went in a little two-footed in one challenge, considering his previous. Apart from that, it was a disciplined performance making Villa’s backline hard to breach.

Mile Jedinak – 8

Jedinak won the coin toss against Bjarnason, that Steve Bruce probably had before the game, when choosing his DM. Despite the potential mobility question marks going up against Wolves’ nifty midfield, Jedinak was impressive and made some vital interceptions.

He also brought a composure to Villa, helping the team to avoid getting flustered and overrun, as they had in the previous meeting against Wolves this season. He stopped the Dog Heads building up any kind of constant pressure and rhythm during the game.

Robert Snodgrass – 8

 As I’ve said before, Snodgrass is the perfect type of player you want for a derby battle – committed and playing with his heart on his sleeve (as the cliche goes).
His deadball deliveries were also on-point during the game and constantly caused trouble for the Wolves rearguard. He set up Villa’s first, got an assist for Chester’s goal, having earlier created the chance for the centre-back’s fluffed overhead attempt.
Yes, he was a bit flappy when standing in the wall for a Neves freekick, which he blocked with his hand. Luckily, the ref wasn’t watching, but even that highlighted Snodgrass’s commitment in trying to block it, rather than doing a token jump.

Jack Grealish – 9 MOTM

When it comes to the Sky TV MOTM awards they seem to go by Opta stats rather than by watching the actual game. Winner Albert Adomah had a decent enough game, but his rating was obviously boosted by an assist and goal.

No Villa player though, changed the complexion of the match and influenced the result like Jack Grealish did.

For the ten minutes or so after Wolves equalised it, it seemed that the visitors were in the ascendancy, that is until Grealish started to get more and more on the ball. It was a trend that continued into the second half, with the young midfielder dictating play, drawing fouls in promising positions and keeping the crowd vocal as he drove the team forward.

Despite the attention and pressure that he attracted, and the fact that he saw more of the ball than anyone else, Grealish’s pass rate (82.3%) was the best of all Villa’s midfielders.

This was a symbolic game for Grealish. He proved he was the man for the big occasion, as he had hinted at three years ago at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool.

Against Wolves, he outshone Wolves’ expensive Champions League experienced midfielders, including the £15.8m Rúben Neves.

With Grealish in Villa’s side we really do have a decent chance in the race for automatic promotion.

Albert Adomah – 8

Adomah was back to his own self, constantly trying to get things going down the left and drifting in to join Grabban as a secondary striker when the play was on the other flank. His crossed assist for Grabban’s goal and his poacher-like strike for Villa’s first, was a great example of how he’s been operating for Villa this season.

Conor Hourihane – 6.5

After Hourihane was a little lost in the first half of the game, with his passing completion rate the lowest of the starting XI at 73.7%, he got move involved in the second half, with some vital tackles, as he helped Jedinak and Grealish contain Wolves in the centre of the park.

His most notable contribution this time round was certainly defensive in helping shackle Wolves, as he allowed his teammates to dictate Villa’s forward play.

Being subbed by Lansbury after picking up a late yellow card was good game management by Bruce.

Lewis Grabban – 8

MOMS choice to play solo up top against Wolves and more importantly he was also Steve Bruce’s choice.

Grabban looked like he’d been playing for Villa for a few seasons, nevermind just a few games. He provided thoughtful running and good interchange with Villa’s midfielders and was always stalking the penalty box.

He was unlucky not to have a brace, instead he was accredited with the assist, after Adomah got the final touch on Villa’s opener.

His eventual goal demonstrated his touch and predatory instinct, and after the season he’s been having with both Villa and Sunderland, with 16 goals to his name, the question of why he ended up as a journeyman striker during his career is certainly a head scratcher.

Grabban is now the third highest scorer in the division, only one goal behind Bristol City’s Bobby Reid and Derby’s Matěj Vydra, who both have 17 goals to their name.



Off the Bench

Birkir Bjarnason (74) – 7.5

‘F**k this taking it to the corner flag and passing it around to run the clock down routine’, thought Bjarnason, as he picked up the ball deep and decided instead to run at the whole Wolves backline.

His crafty toe poked finish after beating four or five defenders was a great way for Villa to cap off the win.

The determination of his effort and the lack of smile in his muted celebration, seemed to be the Icelandic international demonstrating his frustration at being left out of the first XI, when his recent performances had suggested he’s been a worthy starter.

Expect him to start against QPR in midweek. He deserves to.

Henri Lansbury (80) – 6.5

Somehow Lansbury was credited for an assist for Bjarnason’s solo effort. Easy work, if you can get it! It was good to see him in the fold, as he showed against Leeds at Elland Road, he still could have a role to play in the run-in.

Scot Hogan (85) – N/A

Only two touches…but in just five minutes, when you compare it to his previous averages across entire games, that’s pretty good for Hogan!

Team Performance – 9

One of the secrets to Wolves’ success this season is the level of intensity that they play at and Villa more than matched it. In terms of conviction, this was even a step above the Blues derby game. They team showed great fight, defended soundly and also took their chances at key times. If they continue in the final games with this mindset, you wouldn’t bet against them.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Agree with everything that Paul has said, it could come down to goal difference now so let’s take it to QPR on Tuesday, I believe we can win all of our remaining games if we keep the same intensity going

  2. Heresy, maybe, but I enjoyed this game more than I did when we beat Small Heath. Great that we beat them as it always is, but they were so poor and never threatened us (apart from the Terry slip in the first half that they failed to take advantage of). The game on Saturday was a different proposition. The Wolves fans had been giving it what for all week. All that “Mind The Gap” stuff on local radio and social media. Predictions from them of 0-3 and how easy it would be. I don’t actually blame them. If we had looked like running away with the Championship, playing good football, I would have been crowing just as loud. But they couldn’t cope could they? All very well going to smaller grounds, smaller crowds, and dominating the play. But Villa Park, under the lights, almost capacity crowd, lots of noise and an intimidating atmosphere. Not the same. When balls out to the wing backs were not controlled, giving away easy throw ins, I suspected they were not up for it. And we were good. Grealish was teriffic, again. Is there a better attacking number ten in the Championship than him? Always finding space, wanting the ball, looking for forward passes? Wolves have to go to Cardiff still. Cardiff have to come to Villa Park. We just have to make sure we win the mundane fixtures between then and the crucial ones (starting with QPR on Tuesday).

  3. Bit harsh on Hourihane I think. Jedinak was absent for a large part of the 1st half and Hourihane had to do extra work to cover for him. I agree some of his distribution was poor, but think 6.5 is not a fair reflection.

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