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Villa Pass First Test
Aston VIlla’s belated first game of the Premier League at Villa Park was pretty much decided before Ezri Konza’s header sealed the win for the home team. Sheffield United’s going down to 10 men and then Martinez saving their penalty shortly after, soon turned it into a test that would immediately showcase if Villa were an improved package on last season.
Villa had largely struggled to break 10 men down last season, with the 3-2 defeat at the Emirates, after being 1-0 up at half-time against a 10-men Arsenal, being the most jarring.
Admittedly, Villa huffed and puffed when it came to taking care of business against a 10-man Sheffield United, but at the moment, while the fine tuning is being done with new additions, results are king. Considering the struggles to get draws out of the Blades in recent seasons too at Villa Park, Villa’s opening game win will be seen as progress.
It’s also three consecutive home wins for the first time since 2007, not to mention five games unbeaten in the Premier League.
While he had been bright and effervescent against Burton in the cup, Jack Grealish was a little off the boil against the Blades in the league, with his decision-making frustrating at times. The introduction of Bertrand Traore and more time playing with Ollie Watkins should improve matters for the Villa captain though. Still, there are question marks over Grealish’s midfield support, which need addressing to release his full potential for Villa.
With their focus on their defensive shape and duty, Villa have struggled to impose their will on the midfield in games since the restart last season, making them rather predictable when they do attack. It’s no surprise that seven of their last nine goals have come from set pieces.
Will Dean Smith’s recent mooted interest in a new number eight (a loan move for either Ross Barkley or Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been reported) be with an eye to this?
Meanwhile, the new boys Matty Cash and Ollie Watkins quietly impressed, while Emiliano Martinez made a big splash with his penalty save and promising footwork. We won’t get the hype machine out just yet, but the Argentinian keeper could be the surprising top pick of our signings from the evidence displayed so far.
Episode 115.5 Notes
The post-match reaction to Aston Villa’s 1-0 win over Sheffield United at Villa Park in Dean Smith’s boys 2020/21 Premier League opener.
As well as looking at the game itself, we look at some of the issues it threw up for the rest of the season.
Doe Grealish need more help? What’s up with Villa’s midfield? How Watkins, Cash and Martinez fared. Why Mings and Konza will be key in the other half of the field and much, much more.
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David Michael – @oldmansaid
Chris Budd – @BUDD_music
Phillip Shaw – @prsgame
Produced by David Michael