Reading was a game that Villa should have put to bed early. There was plenty of constructive and tidy approach play by Bruce’s men early on in the game, and even going into the break at 0-0, it felt like a win was inevitable. Villa just needed to keep up the intensity and put away their chances.
Poor finishing continued to let them down though and after they took the lead, Jonathan Kodjia often came looking for the ball in deep or wide areas leaving Villa with zero threat in the box. In the end, Villa’s failure to score again invited a half-expected sucker punch.
While Steve Bruce likes to talk up all Villa’s opposition going into games, the truth of the matter is that without the late point at Villa Park, an unimpressive Reading team would have been bottom of the table.
Villa Player Ratings vs Reading Home
Orjan Nyland – 7.5 MOTM
A good day at the office that will definitely give Nyland much needed confidence going forward – the only thing that was missing was a penalty save. The highlight was a double save that would have been remarkable in any goalkeeper’s book. Also noticeable was his on-point distribution whether throwing or kicking, which was a grade above all of Villa’s recent keepers from Guzan to Johnstone.
Reading though didn’t really test him with crosses or higher balls into the box, which is the main concern about Nyland. Noticeably, the keeper tended to stay on his line for corners.
There’s a few MOTM contenders, but I’ll give it to Nyland for how his performance contrasted to his previous appearances and that double save, the like of which you don’t see too often.
Axel Tuanzebe – 6.5
Looks increasingly comfortable and showed his athleticism is a clear attribute. He won a few headers too. Tends on the side of caution when in the opponents final third though.
Alan Hutton – 7
A decent performance from Hutton. He saw more of the ball than any other Villa player. All good at the back and supported El Ghazi well in the first half at times, although El Ghazi would have benefited from a genuine overlapping fullback.
Mile Jedinak – 6.5
Bruce publicly declared his support for Jedinak at centre-back leading up to the game, yet the Aussie continuing alongside Chester at the back, elicited the most moans from the Villa faithful in the bars and stands before kick-off. There was no faulting his aerial or physical presence against Reading, but there’s always a mistake waiting to happen due to his fading pace – as we saw when his keeper rescued him late on.
James Chester – 6.5
Hit the bar with an early headed chance and was having a composed and tidy enough game until what Bruce described as a “cardinal error” of going to ground and giving the referee a decision to make. Still not 100% it was an actual penalty, but that doesn’t matter now.
Birkir Bjarnason – 7.5
After a couple of lapses early doors, which Bjarnason impressively recovered from (his tackling back was excellent throughout the game), the Icelandic midfielder had a very decent game and kept Villa flowing, recycling the ball to good effect. His best performance this season.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 7
Contributed two big moments to the game – a clearance off the line and then stooped to header in, after a rare sortie into the box. Will Bruce stay loyal to him now that Bolasie has signed? Or will he slip back to right-back?
Jack Grealish – 6.5
Again kept Villa moving forward as always and was unlucky with a shot that flashed across the face of the goal. Drew a few fouls and went off at half-time due to a dead leg.
John McGinn – 7
Once again McGinn covered a lot of ground, frustrating and closing down Reading’s midfield very well. His shooting let him down though with the player seemingly unable to get the ball off the ground. A lame effort in the first minute, when he had a couple of free teammates screaming for it, was a pivotal moment that perhaps came too early for him in the game.
Jonathan Kodjia – 6
Kodjia saw a lot of the ball, but often he came deep or was out wide leaving a nobody in the box. This is something that is undermining Villa’s threat going forward.
No one seems to be getting into the box to fill the void and get on the end of things and this is something Bruce needs to plan for.
While Kodjia has maverick ability to fashion openings like we saw recently against Yeovil and Brentford, he doesn’t have the greatest football IQ, as we’ve seen with his selfishness in previous seasons.
Getting the best use out of Kodjia or another striker will be key to how Villa do this season.
Anwar El Ghazi – 7.5
Impressed the Villa faithful with his debut and he was given hearty applause when he was subbed in the second half. He provided Villa with a constant threat on the left in the first half and was unlucky not to open his account for his new team. He did deliver a peach of a cross for Villa’s goal though, a sign of positive things to come.
If he builds on this debut, then Villa will have some threat, once Bolasie is also up to speed.
Off the Bench
Albert Adomah (66) – 6
Did ok, although should have drifted in more centrally when Kodjia was out on the right at times. Adomah must be wondering about his future now that the new wide men have come in on loan. Will no doubt start against Burton though to prove himself.
Conor Hourihane (45) – 7
Hourihane came on with plenty of intent, ending the game with the most shots by a Villa player (5), even if his shooting wasn’t up to his normal standard. His last gasp free kick attempt to score a dramatic winner, hitting the Reading wall, summed it up.
Neil Taylor (90) – N/A
The idea of taking off Kodjia for Taylor in injury-time was to shut up shop and waste a few seconds…it didn’t exactly play out for Bruce that way though. Taylor only had a single touch in the seconds he was on.
Manager Rating: 7
Villa created enough chances and got into good positions to be a threat, but were let down by poor finishing or not having more bodies in the box to deliver to. Again, it was a little like the Brentford match, a game they would have won, if they took their chances.
Ultimately, Bruce will need to sort out the role of his striker to be more effective, this maybe as simple as getting more movement out of his midfield in terms of them getting forward to allow Kodjia to stay more central.
No issues with his main subs, as Hourihane was a natural replacement for the injured Grealish. If El Ghazi wasn’t 100% up-to-speed, then you can understand his substitution.
FREE WORLDWIDE DELIVERY on all of Villa’s three kits and training gear. Click here or below: