A training game, yes. And normally I wouldn’t have much to say, but it was Man Utd., we had two debutants on display, and I’m getting a bit tired of the Milot Rashica saga. That said, it looks like we may well have two more new boys to welcome in Emiliano Martinez and Bertrand Traoré. With Rashica, I’m just starting to wonder that if he’s so reluctant to come, do we really want him.

Anyway, in Saturday’s run-out, Villa were lucky to come away with a win. United were sharp, James and Shaw provided a constant threat down Villa’s right, and more than one quality cross was just begging for a tap-in. Were it not for Jed Steer producing two top saves from Jesse Lingard and a goal-line scramble that went in our favor, the scoreline would’ve looked a lot different than the 1-0 final.

Basically Villa were poor in possession and overwhelmed at the start. No one could really get involved because we just didn’t have the ball.

But, there were some good things. First and foremost, Watkins getting his first in a Villa shirt off a fizzing cross from Trezeguet well against the run of play. He showed good instincts to be in just the right spot, and it will do him a world of good to have knocked one past United. He was a bit isolated at times, and we weren’t good with long balls, but he showed strength, good footwork and work-rate, and didn’t look out of place. And the goal went to show just how much taking an early, quality chance can mean.

Villa were much better in the second, and while substitutions naturally altered things down the stretch, we were more combative, had much more of the ball, and just seemed more comfortable.

Matty Cash was handed quite an assignment with James and Shaw overlapping. He acquitted himself pretty well, showing speed, aggression, and good legs. With Trez supporting him, he had a willing partner and decent terrier to work with, if not a more physical ball-winner. There were some moments of naïveté, which were to be expected, and it was a really good test for him. He’ll have lots to think about after his exposure to top-flight opposition, but should feel really encouraged. He didn’t look out of place, either.

And perhaps Villa’s 4-3-3 will take a little getting used to, in that wide players are going to find space just around that final third. Time and again, United accurately found those runners, giving them a lot threatening build-ups. But Villa continue to tuck the FBs in narrow in their base positioning. Seems to me Smith would rather the ball go wide than come in through the channels. It makes for a tough FB assignment, because you’ve got dangerous players running at you with room to cut in or take it deep. But I think we like our chances with Mings and Konsa dealing with crosses. The biggest danger is when the wide player can penetrate and make the cutback pass.

Luiz? He picked up right where he left off. He was everywhere. McGinn got more involved, and showed flashes of his old form. It’s becoming evident how far he’s had to work to get back. Hourihane was Hourihane. Konsa and Mings did well, Jack had an okay day overall, but it got better as the game wore on. The only surprise was Jota getting some late minutes rather than Ghazi. Nakamba didn’t get on the pitch, either. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to read into these things, but with Nakamba versus Luiz, it’ll be Douglas all day long, so he might as well get 90 under his belt.

So, the kind of training game you like as a coach. A result, some confidence, but plenty of things to work on and no room for complacency.

With more new players looking set to arrive, Smith & Co. are going to have others to work into the set-up in a busy week. Trez in particular looked very much like he was playing for his place. However you rate him, I think we’ll see some of the benefits of competition.

Anyway, roll on Burton in the Carabao, and another useful outing before Sheffield next week.

Over to you.

Comments 60

  1. JC,

    Really excellent summary of the game. Well thought out , with plenty to observe. Hopefully will see the whole game soon, but the bits that I did see, are confirmed in your summary.
    Looks like the Martinez and Traore deals will be announced in the next 24 hours, with the possibility that the Rashica deal may still come off.

  2. Cheers, PP.

    Looking forward to those two…Traore should be an upgrade on either Trez or Ghazi. Friend of mine who was a schoolboy keeper in England, and got to work with Clemence, Shilton, etc., really likes Martinez.

  3. Thanks JC. Any win against Man Ure is satisfying. Don’t care if it was fortunate.

    Tonight I’m expecting to see some of our fringe players on view and hopefully one or two youngsters will get a run out. Anything stronger than that is a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. Really hoping to see Freddie because I don’t want him to leave. The dog walker likes him, the guys down the ale house like him, the guys in work like him but Deano seems less enthusiastic. I think there is a number of players ahead of Guilbert on the offload list.

  4. Good analysis about the game. I will write about Rashica. The club needs to move from the saga if the player does not want to come. Wolfsburg have Josip Brekalo; who for me,is a superior player to Rashicah. Maybe the board could be reading this blog and take note. UTV.

  5. Super Jack Grealish signing a new contract extension is fantastic news. We can build our future around him. Well done Jack.

    We still need some quality signings to improve our squad. Did anyone notice how good Brighton looked last night? Their football was excellent and they were unfortunate to lose the game. And they finished just above us last season.

    This season is going to be extremely competitive, the experience gained last year will be vital but we do need more quality in the squad.

    Watkins is a great signing however we need another striker and better options in the wide positions.

    I also believe we need another central midfield player and another experienced central defender.

    I am assuming that we sign Martinez from Arsenal

    Hopefully, we can target the right players on wages that we can afford. When the likes of Newcastle are paying Wilson £110K per week I can appreciate and understand the challenges that we face in signing the experienced Premier League players available.

    We must start well and keep away from the bottom three. Life is going to be tough for West Brom and Fulham.

    We need to kick on this season and make sure we are not involved in the relegation battle.


  6. Midfield is the engine room where games are won and lost. I thought Everton’s revamped midfield looked good at Spurs so it can be done in 1 window and they needed an entire midfield.

  7. Don’t disagree about a midfielder, Plug. If we could replace Hourihane with a more combative ball-winner who can also play a through-ball? That would put us over the top next to Luiz and McGinn. But I’m guessing that’s another £20m-£30m.

    The emphasis has been at the back and up top. There’s only so much to spend, and I think Smith & Co. are ruing all the chances we didn’t put away, the games crying out for just one more goal. But one upgrade in the middle would do a lot to help us have more of the ball and break things up.

  8. Plug,he is not that quick but he is a classy player. Can play in either wing or off a striker. Scores goals too,creates loads of assist. He can thrive in a more attack minded team than Wolfsburg. Villa is the place to be.

  9. ah mani just want the window over so I can relax! surly the promises to jack will mean a strong end to window.

    Talk of a new st if sammatta leaves which he is linked strong to fenerbache.

    Imagine we get Eduardo or king as well as toure and rashica! arrrgggghhhh the hope is killing me

  10. Just a thought or two, Most of Watkins goals appear to be supplied from the right with him arriving at the left hand area to put it in. I wonder how this is going to affect our approach if at all? jack, conor and Targett are our usual suppliers from the left, from the right, ElGhazi more than trez and elmo more than Fred. Is this the reason Cash has been brought in? or if Bertrand arrives is he likely to supply the number of balls in watkins thrived on last season?

  11. Great news on Grealish.

    Hopefully the owners promised proper players and wingers

    H and V yes we need a number 8. Someone to push hourihane and Mcginn and add depth

  12. Trez definitely better on the right where he should wip the ball i. He can’t do that cutting inside

    Really hope Tarore isn’t our only winger.. Simply isn’t enough

  13. Interesting line up with a few surprise faces

    El Ghazi


  14. f**king Grealish out wide. Joke. Ghaizi is s**t. Absolutely f**king useless. Taylor at left back in 2020. Absolute joke.

    This team needs wingers. At least 2. Wd canty have Grealish and Ghazi wide

    Wd need a left back

    We need a central mid

    Ee lack so much quality it’s scary

  15. And the benchyis absolutely awful.. Like last season. No quality on it

    We are still so short. Need another striker, 2 wingers, a quality creative number 8

  16. We need quality closer ti him l. We can’t have Ghazi starting on wings at anyol level

    Please go get Rashica and Traoré. Imagine grealish with them

    Watkins shows us how poor Sammata is

  17. If we go into the season with with Marvelous, Ghazi, Taylor, lansbury close to starting or on bench, we willbe in another relegation fight

    I honestly can’t believe how useless Ghaizi is

  18. The fact Smtih thinks some of these are good enough is scary

    Nothing has changed from last season. Still slow passing. Clueless on the ball.

  19. I’m sorry but nobody can rate or defend Ghaizi anymore

    If we only sign one more winger we will go down. Ghaiz and Jota not good enough. Trez not either

  20. Don’t waste this window Villa. Sign some quality to make Jack even better. Please. Help him

    He didn’t stay to play witbJota, Ghazi, lansburyx Taylor, ans trezeguet

  21. Our squad depth is still dire.. No quality

    We are still way off. Need many more players

    And some to leave.. Ghaizi. Lansbury. Sammata. Hause isn’t good enough. Taylor isn’t. Jota isn’t although he did ok tonight

  22. Frem,

    Calm yourself. Hause, Taylor, Elmo, Lansbury, Nakamba, Ramsey, Nyland. That’s seven of 11 who aren’t going to be starting unless someone’s injured. Just a run-out.

    That said, Ghazi did not play himself into consideration. Lansbury, wasn’t the worst, didn’t add much. Elmo’s delivery was terrible. Ramsey acquitted himself well.

    Watkins could’ve had three: the goal, crossbar, and he’d likely have buried the header Hause took off his head and looped over. Davis finally got on the scoresheet. Jack came through, got a goal to get him started.

    All in all, good enough at 1/2-3/4 speed with so many subs. I wouldn’t mind moving some of these on. But as we’ve said many times, takes a buyer, and this is what Smith still has to work with in terms of depth.

  23. Taylor and Lansbury actually had good games considering the game time they have had so far, and both provided excellent assists.
    That is the first full 90 minutes that Lansbury has played, and he got involved more as the game developed.
    Nkamba did ok, and we have to remember these players have not played as a team, unlike Burton, who all had been playing together for around four matches. Makes a big difference.
    Nyland also had an excellent game, and yes, I was disappointed with El Ghazi and thought he may have done better.
    All in all, a reserve side did well with Jack and Ollie in to give them a boost.

  24. Super Jack. He is so good.

    We need to sign some absolute quality upfront.

    I have no idea how good Traoré and Rashica actually are. And will they adapt to the Premier League?

    I would love to see us put in a bid for Sarr from Watford. The kid has electric pace.

    I would take Origi or King as another striker.

    And what about a loan move for Deli Ali? He is a close friend of Jack.

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