We’ve gone over Spurs to death, just like the punditry and everyone else. Most think we’ll be okay, some think better than that, one thinks Villa will crumble. With that last one in mind, I wrote the headline, admittedly, as the tiniest of friendly wind-ups.

Bournemouth today as Villa Park sees its first Premier League action in three seasons, and most on the outside would say it’s a match-up between two teams looking to avoid the drop. Which is pretty much what 10-14 of the teams in the PL are trying to do—though some will obviously have a much easier time of it than others.

It’s too early for us to really have any idea how easy it will be for Villa. But the team sheet’s out, and Smith has made only one change, a change that might be the most important one he can make without changing his system. Douglas Luiz comes in for Conor Hourihane.

I’ve said I have a lot of time for Conor, and I do. But Smith, Compass et al, didn’t fork over £25m-£30m on two defensive midfielders not to play them. The idea is that it gives Villa a much better floor for Jack Grealish and John McGinn to build on.

I’ve certainly been of this mind, and if Spurs taught us anything, it’s that we need to be a little tougher in the middle. Whether Luiz will give us that remains to be seen. But as I was saying Friday, this marks the first time Villa have had a proper holding midfielder in I don’t know how long, and certainly since Grealish and McGinn teamed up.

So what we’re looking for is Jack playing further forward, more ball winning in the middle of the park, and someone else who can bring it out and spread play.

Elsewhere, as you’ve read, no changes. Trezeguet remains preferred to Jota, and Elmo and Taylor…well, seems like Smith is telling Guilbert and Targett they’ll have to take those shirts. I think they probably will in due course, but for now Smith hasn’t seen a reason to take two players out who acquitted themselves pretty well under constant attacking pressure last week from a stable of very talented and dangerous players.

Now, is it a six-pointer? Let the games begin. I do believe it’s an important game, and while a draw wouldn’t be the end of the world, Villa will be hoping that they look good getting whatever they do from the game. Everyone will want to see signs of settling in and Villa playing their football. Putting a couple points between us and one of the weaker teams in the league would certainly not hurt our season any.

So, there we go. A raucous and happy crowd, the Premier League back to venerable Villa Park, and Douglas Luiz with his first start. Home debuts for Wesley, Trezeguet, Engels and Heaton. A day we’d all like to see yield three points so we can really say game on.

Should be interesting.

Over to you.

Comments 77

  1. This is abysmal. £700 and a 5hr journey for this.

    It’s like I’ve come back in a time machine to watch Paul Lambert’s team.

    Wesley is woeful; Grealish is weak and can’t pass to a Villa player

  2. One of the stranger halves I’ve seen. Heaton’s indecision, Luiz not knowing who would be where…and 0-2.

    On balance, despite some missed passes, I thought we looked the better side through most of it, and Billings should’ve been off. But, two mistakes, a cruel deflection, punished for both, and a big uphill climb. A couple good saves from Ramsdale, and I thought Wesley did very well to put Trezeguet in. But a good last-second intervention saved what would almost certainly have seen us claw one back.

    Bournemouth are going to get some chances since we’re chasing it, but…

  3. I’m watching the game & I think we’ve been very unlucky. Heaton is not likely to make a mistake like that again & the 2nd was a big deflection. We definitely came into the game as it went on & they are lucky to still have 11 on the pitch. It maybe through claret and blue tinted glasses but I can still see us winning this.

  4. Yep looks like suicide so far, Bournemouth haven’t had to create much and the ref and Var can fook off. We are worryingly poor in the midfield, whether thats down to the FB’s staying home and us playing with one arm behind our backs or just that we are to hurried. To me we went from possession based pre-season to counter attack now?

    PW hang in there

  5. Will be curious to see if Guilbert comes in next week. Maybe Targett as well. Could’ve used better service from both FBs.

    Small consolation, but beautiful goal from Luiz.

  6. Not sure John why you thought we deserved anything. Passing and control was poor, movement was almost non-existent. Apart from long range pot-shots, it’s not clear where the goals are coming from. Bournemouth are one of the weaker sides in the division.

    Wesley is slow and can’t jump/head. Neither winger goes past fullbacks. Grealish and McGinn are struggling with the pace/physicality

    As you say, our fullbacks offer nothing going forward. Taylor did his defensive job ok today.

    Everton on Friday will be ugly

  7. Very disappointing, and only ourselves to blame. Jack looking out of sorts, Luis looking handy but as was reported pre-season has a gaff in him. Wesley is to isolated. If Jota plays he needs that overlap that Guilbert offered, El Ghazi ineffective, Trez needs to start out left. Midfield so far is the biggest problem we have bar shooting ourselves in the foot.

    We kept the ball better second half but as PW said far to slow. Think the only way to know is to play the new fullbacks, play Jota and see what happens.

  8. Basic mistakes, can’t keep doing it. Engels looked average as well. Would have been better to bring Hourihane on with 20mins left. Wesley got better as the game went on, but he was awful at the start. Can’t see him getting 10 goals. SJM looks class. I thought Jack was good, just a few mistakes. Would like to see him run with the ball more.

    We deserved a point. Hope we can get something against Everton. Any free transfer strikers left?

  9. Can’t continue to play Jack as 1 of midfield 3,likewise elgazi needs to be dropped try
    Guilbert engell mings target
    3 from houirane mcginn Luis and marvellous
    2 from trez Jack elgazi hota

  10. PW,

    I thought we did…I think a lot of what we saw was being a bit shell-shocked to have gone two down so quickly. Of course Bournemouth could play differently then, but we took the game them, had the odd dodgy moment as a result, and it’s hard at this level to dig yourself out of a two-goal hole.

    Still, a lot of attacking intent, some good movement. I really felt an equalizer was almost inevitable, but it didn’t come off despite some decent chances. Jack and John were further forward with Luiz in, who settled down pretty well after the mistake. Just like the deflection against Spurs, I’m thinking there’s a good chance Heaton makes the save if the ball isn’t redirected so perfectly. Coulda, woulda, shoulda…But it wasn’t like we deserved to be two down on the balance of play.

    There are some concerning aspects, but I don’t think Bournemouth looked the better team, in the end. If anything, I think Villa are still adjusting to the overall better quality of players at this level.

  11. JG,

    Don’t think you’re going to see Jack lose his place anytime soon.

    Just looking at the stats on the OS:

    63% possession
    22 shots to 12
    7 on target to 4; 6 blocked to 4; 13 inside the box vs 8
    487 passes to 291

    Like I say, you’re up 2-0, you can play differently, so the stats probably will be skewed. Not all the shots were great, could use better balls in. Think that’s where Guilbert and Targett can help. But it’s obviously a different game if you don’t concede a penalty after 40 seconds.

  12. JG, agree on El Ghazi. I also think he’d be a better impact player off the bench.

    JC, I also thought we played well. Remember Jack had a shot just wide and should have scored with a header. We’re not far off our first win.

    Will be interesting to see the full back changes as I think both Elmo and Taylor have been good. Dying to see the French lad though. Luiz showed enough for me to see he will be class for us. Just needs to get familiar with the players and learn a few words of English!!

  13. VillaMD…

    We did well enough. Wasn’t perfect, by any means, but Jack and John both narrowly missed, and then the header, the defender just gets enough body into Jack. I mean, I didn’t see Bournemouth score a goal we didn’t needlessly gift them.

  14. I think Wesley has learned that falling over doesn’t win frees. Maybe that was the way in Belgium, but epl is a big step up and u need to toughen up. Even Davis looked weak which shocked me.

    BTW, I’m watching Man C vs Spurs. Spurs chasing shadows. May end up 6 or 7 to 1.

  15. Blimey thought Engels was ok, just shows you how we all see it differently. Defo think attacking FB’s would of helped when we were 2 down but that was not expected so to late.

    Maybe Dean Smith needs to place more faith in his own philosophy and forget being overly cautious, we are playing within ourselves, whether thats coming from instruction or the players waking up to reality I don’t know, maybe a bit of both.

    That said both games could of been very different.

  16. Elmo and Taylor haven’t really been outclassed…Mainly it’s been the service. The lofting crosses Elmo was putting in weren’t good balls to get onto, and the CBs at this level are simply going to be better, on average, than we’ve been playing against.

    The one thing I’ve seen both times, and it’s concerning because it won’t really change, is that we’re a bit lightweight. We lose a lot of battles for the ball in midfield. Wes, Davis, then Luiz and Nakamba are the only big bodies we have outside the CBs.

    And then there’s the striker issue.

    We saw some flashes of what Wes can do, and then we also saw his first touch let him down when it was pinged up to him. Haven’t been able to make it work for him, yet, and we do need to find him before he has a CB plastered to his back.

    I think Smith’s gone with AEG and Trezeguet for speed, mainly. But one of the three has to get off the mark. We did look to play it up quickly to runners a number of times.

  17. MK,

    I do think Wes, and a couple other players, are surprised at how much defenders are allowed to come through them. Wes might well be used to winning fouls in those situations.

  18. MK, I don’t think Engels was poor today, just thought he got caught for pace a few times. Vs Spurs I would give him a 9, today a 7 or 6.5

    JC, good points on the full backs. It’s almost as if u need to watch a game twice

    I would rest Wes. Bring him on after 70mins for next 2 games. Let’s see how he does with tired defenders. It’s weird, I was thinking during the game – would love Benteke back or even the other Belgium striker

    Is it just me or is Jota really super left footed and looks slow and not epl class?

  19. JC- Totally, it hasn’t gone unnoticed by me that we never really settled on how we we could get him in front of goal pre-season. It was always the ball up to him and play off which at the moment is failing.

    The sharp passing around the box has disappeared too. Some pace and threat from our full backs just might make our wingers jobs a lot easier and that box a lot fuller. At the moment its back to aimless crossing, unfortunately Conors the man in that area.

    If the FB’s can provide width theres a little less need for Jack and Mcginn to arrive so early to, they might be a bit less knackered.

  20. Jota is very left footed, thats why Guilbert suits him on the overlap as FB’s just offer him outside. If there is nobody to play one two’s with him he’s buggered.

    DS has spoken about the step up in Class and physicality and that has been apparent, it does beg the question why not find more physical players? I suppose those with skill and size are big bucks. I think we need to be patient now as £130m does not buy you an instant team.

  21. If we take a step back, we’ve played a top 3 team and top half team, the latter we should have got a point from.

    I think Watford will come good, so our competition is Toon, Brighton, Sheff U, Norwich, West Ham, Burnley, and Southampton. Maybe Palace and Watford.

    If we can’t get results against the above teams then something is wrong…and nothing is wrong with Dean Smith and co.

  22. Jc
    I didn’t say drop Jack just push him further forward, as for 2 fb the last friendly the 2 new full backs looked ok,Elmo Taylor don’t give nothing mighten have made mistakes but give nothing going forward Taylor had a super chance and blew it

  23. VillaMD- Engels was up against some decent forwards today though mate, You missed out Newcastle who got smashed by Norwich today 3-1. Pukki on 4 goals now, he sure suits their system.

  24. JG,

    Sorry. Yeah, he was further forward today, and looks to me that as Luiz finds his feet, he’ll be a good player.

    Just finished watching City-Spurs. Goes to show…Spurs deserved nothing from that.

  25. Engels was shakier than last week. I actually thought his step forward was the main cause of the penalty situation.

    We concede too much possession to live comfortably in this league. I didn’t like the midfield formation. Luiz was surrounded and isolated too often, for which he coped quite well.

    The failure to recruit adequate strikers will cost us dear

  26. The possession stats contradict my last statement so I should have said that we give the ball away too cheaply. Bournemouth were poor but I don’t ever recall them being under sustained pressure

  27. PW- missed the pen indecent as couldn’t get a stream quickly.
    The Midfield just isn’t working at present, can’t work out why yet other than teams shutting us down and the wingers FB’s offering not much relief. The FB prob might ultimately mean two DM’s and Jack on the wing , we might also be guilty of shoe-horning Jack and MCginn into the side. To much looks disorganised at present.

  28. That’s what I love about this blog, honest feedback on games vs just writing cr*p.

    Mark King, looks like both PW and me saw gaps with Engels. For Everton I would almost drop him and give Konsa a shot as Everton don’t have a big striker. Would like a playmaker CB to take pressure off Luiz. For sure that is not Engels. Mings can hit a pass, but I see him as the master that is always back with pace. Push up Guilbert and Target, have Konsa sit in the DM role during games as we attack. Allow Luiz to be starter for DM, but he has license to move forward as the lad can pass the ball and is fast and strong.

  29. Back home now, after my usual round trip to Birmingham and Villa Park. It has been a great weeekend, apart from the final result.

    I am going to give a completely different take on the game, which seems to have been missed by everyone, including Dean, the tv pundits and everyone here.
    From where I sit, I have a complete view of the game, and what I saw was the “Tale of two goalkeepers”. Unfortunately, yesterday was a poor day for Tom Heaton and giving away a penalty, but his distribution was not good either, and he put more pressure on his back four.

    At the other end of the pitch was Aaron Ramsdale, who gave the most amazing display of goalkeeping that I have probably ever seen. every ball that came within his 18 yard box was his. Never once did ever hesitate, taking every ballin the air and on the ground, in fact it meant that Bournemouth virtually had a team of 12 on the pitch, as he acted as centre back, full back and goalkeeper.

    I am certain, without his magnificient display, Villa would not have lost yesterday, He was the major difference between the two teams, once Villa settled, and Taylor was probably the best player of our back four. Mings also had a good game, and Engels will improve. The weakness is the mif field, and maybe Jack has too much responsibility to be captain as well as playing. Mings should maybe be given the role, or Heaton.

    Trezeguet was our best player up front, but gradually, Wesley is finding his feet, but El Ghazi, as has been noted, had a poor one. David Luiz will settle in, and McGinn will have better games.

    THe other person that of course affected the result, was Martin Atkinson, who should have dished out a second yellow, and any penalty claims equalled themselves out.

    The David Luiz goal was superb, and hope to see more..!!

  30. Gutted about yesterday’s result. Luiz’s goal deserved to win any game. I can’t add anymore to what lifers have already contributed.

    The 2 goal start we gave them killed us. Hopefully it won’t happen again. I am expecting Everton to be a tougher opponent than the Cherries. But I will patiently wait for our team to get up to speed on pace and thinking that prevails at this level. Then I believe we’ll be OK. The team is young and will improve.

  31. The difference for Villa, is definitely learning to adjust to the Premier league, but also adjusting to playing with each other. Norwich City and Sheffield United are both using virtually the same teams that got promoted, and it showed on the weekend, that understanding does not come overnight.

    I am sure by the end of September, we should be gelling as a team and be more comfortable on the ball. Also, not everyone will have a Ramsdale in goal…!!

  32. Well cant add much than has already been said. Lets not get on any bodies backs though, Dean’o is learning life in the prem for the first time and so are most of the squad. We don’t look awful, and much better than before Dean’o came in. Toon have Spud so we only have to worry about being better than two more lol. On a brighter note, this DAZN site what ever it’s called was awesome. Never flickered or dropped any audio through the whole game. At half time the missus wanted ne to join her on the patio so i took the I-Pad out side and it still never dropped a single pixel. Good stream, good Wi-Fi from my provider, so set for the season now and from what I’ve seen so far will be worth the $20 a month.

  33. why when guilbert and jota were our stand out players in pre season with most good things comning down the righ been dropped?! seems very bizarre tom me.

    Get target and guilbert in. taylor and elmo far too safey safey and don’t contribute in such important positions.

    abandon 433 too

  34. What a frustrating game that was. If we didn’t concede in the first bloody minute we may well of gone on to win that. Apart from a lucky second, defensively we looked sound.

    It’s going forward that worries me. I don’t think we can retain this 433 with the lack of wingers we have. We will soon see a formation change i think, maybe even Friday. Go to a diamond or 5 at the back, 532

  35. I think we would suit a diamond formation. We have the midfielders who can cover the ground. Keeo trez and Ghazi on the bench, as game changers to gk 433. Better than starting with it

  36. H & V,

    Guilbert only looked good going forward against poor opposition, defensively he struggled, as did Targett. ELmo and Taylor are vastly more experienced, and have done well so far. The problem is the pressure, because the mid field is failing to hold up.

    Once Luiz is fully settled, and Jack and McGinn get used to playing with him, things will improve, as they started to on Saturday. We may have to use Lansbury/Houihane and push jack further forward, and leave out El Ghazi for now. Trezeguet seems to be holding his own for around 60 minutes of the game.

  37. Villa MD- having seen the pen now I think basically their keeper hits a quick ball forward and catches the midfield out. luis loses out in the air and they have a run at our back four who are in a line. They all (Backs and mids) try to jockey and back off rather than get a tackle in on Fraser. Engles lets the player go behind him as he thinks I assume Mings has got him and he’s off side. However the other forward takes mings eye and everyone else is watching Fraser as king slips in behind. Its not great defending all round. Can’t say I thought Engles was that iffy, maybe having Luis there rather than Hourihane unsettled the defence a bit.

    Don’t know why heaton stuck a foot out either as king was going away from goal and had effectively kicked the ball out. And why trez passes to Luis who steps over it is anyones.

    All in all I agree with PP the midfield is a bit all at sea at the moment and our pressing is poor.

  38. All I know is Taylor and Elmo ain’t the answer. Going to struggle massively.

    4231 seems perfect to me but smith does love 433. Doubt we will see change. El ghazi not up to it. Feel deflated and its 2 games in. So much hype and promise in the summer and its deffo a case of bubble burst. Getting relegated will be seriously depressing. Hope palace, toon and 1 more is worse than us.

  39. One thing I noticed on Fantasy football was Elmo got three bonus points, as he didn’t score or assist he must have been up front crossing a lot.

  40. Stop panicking H & V.

    Dean’s worst patch last season was when we lost two on the trot, one home and one away, against Brentford and West Brom, then we drew against Hull City, before winning the next ten..!!!

    I am sure that it will be the same now, and we will get a draw against Everton before we go on to win the next ten…

    In Dean we trust, and the team, which will get it together before the end of the month.

  41. Pukki was cheaper….!!!

    What a find he has been for Norwich.

    Was impressed with Traore last night against Manure.. He may not be near perfect, but his ability to past and through players last night, and he put some useful crosses in. One day, he could be a great player!

  42. PP, Heroes,

    I’d be really worried if I was a Narrwich fan. Pukki is the only man scoring for them. He could get injured at any moment or opposition teams can man mark him out of the game. What’s their plan B look like?

    As for Traore, it’s clear that Man Ure didn’t have Cafu to keep him quiet.

    I thought we were so unlucky to lose on Sat. Can’t see Bournemouth being given a 2 goal start after 10 minutes again this season. So roll on Friday night’s game and let’s see what happens.

  43. H&V- I play the fantasy.premierleague.com, Its my brothers Works league and I run his team for him (he’s the boss and knows naff all about footy)

    Bought Pukki as soon as I saw they were playing spuds team, thank you steve 🙂

  44. Have just read that communication is part of Dean Smith’s selection in the early fixtures, which explains Trezeguet playing with El Mohamady , rather than Guilbert. This communication situation may be part of the settling in with Wesley too.

    It must be hard for some players, where their English is poor, and they players round them have different first languages they do not understand.

  45. On the team selection, the obvious thing is we have started with the most players on the pitch from last season as possible. Conor dropped this week, and Steer the other that might of started if not for Heaton.

    As for Language you have to wonder what Luis heard to let the ball go for the second goal.

    I have the feeling not much will change for the game on Friday with ElGhazi looking the likeliest to be dropped. I do think DS has a problem in how to get conor into the side when you have such riches available? I think we could of done with his free kicks and set pieces on Saturday, we had enough of them.

    I have two solutions, put jack up front with licence to drift or give him a free role behind Wes and Trez (sounds snazzy) a 4312 then the mid three becomes luis, conor and McGinn (I’m leaving out Marv as I don’t think he exists). It would probably require attacking FB’s though.

    We could always find another dead ball maestro in the team but as yet he hasn’t stepped up.

  46. I always thought jack could whip a good ball in?

    agree about change in formation but doubt it.

    wonder if deano is waiting until after int break to put all new guys in. give them a decent amount of time to bed in.

  47. H & V ,
    I think you may be getting closer to it , and I am sure that Dean is looking for the international break to assess progress so far, and plan for the winter run.

  48. Mark
    As you say.
    I think more good than bad by all the accounts so far, it’s just that with the modern tendency to justify your own existence by finding a scapegoat is part of this, along with a whole industry investing in looking for negatives without any balance or thought for what happens, the ‘me me’ generations.

    PP seems to have strong views on his competence, I haven’t heard that much, so It’s probably time for him to leave anyway, as massive change is happening in every part of the club, & he has had a long relatively successful career.

    But for anyone of his generation, shouting was a normal way of operating, that was the same everywhere.
    I could prosecute a lot of people with what was done to me before I was 15, but what’s the point after all this time?
    Also the rest of society bought into it at the time, so would it be particularly just, unless it was severe?
    Is revisionism to suit current agendas even useful, as it appears to me to have a political agenda.
    It wouldn’t do me any good either, but I think this has been overblown as usual.
    If we treated everyone like this, there wouldn’t be many left standing.

    What triggers all these things off, & irritates me, is the majority who haven’t got the attention span of a gnat, so go into a feeding frenzy with what they’re given by the media & social media, to increase their own self esteem.

    f**k em

    Looking forward to Friday.

  49. IanG- couldn’t agree more, went through the fire brigades tests and was abused in the 1st in 1993 then encouraged in the 2nd 4 years later. wondered if I had come to the right place.

    Political correctness is a great discussion ender, they have it down to one or two words now, try Nazi or racist as long as you say it 1st you win, the recipient is taken out and shot by the crowd that instantly gathers to show they are not one 🙂

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