Fans have been salivating at the prospect of a fully fit starting XI as Everton come to Villa Park, but no one has known what that would mean, especially given the two Emis have only just returned from Croatian quarantine. We do, however, have our first indication that 3-5-2 won’t just be a novelty formation for Villa this season.

Martinez, as expected, comes straight back in, and Buendia finds himself on the bench, as well, which is not surprising, given his lack of involvement in team training this week. The big news is that Villans excited to see Leon Bailey start will have to wait, as Dean Smith goes with the same set-up as last week, leaving out both Bailey and Bertrand Traoré.

The question everyone will be asking is whether Smith feels it’s more important to have both Watkins and Ings on the pitch than either of the two dangerous wide men. Many thought Ings would make way to get Bailey into the XI today. That hasn’t happened.

Me, I have to say I’m a bit surprised, and Rafa might be, too.

So why persist? Smith clearly got a very good performance out of this set-up last week, and the Ramsey-McGinn-Luiz midfield has the most familiarity with each other. The Mings-Tuanzebe-Konsa back three, not so much. Regardless, looks as though Deano would like to gain control of the middle, keep some consistency, and have 3 CBs to contend with a front three, which is what we look to be seeing in what I imagine is a 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 with Gray, Rondon, and Townsend.

Interesting decision, and while we’ll almost certainly see Bailey and Traoré if Villa find themselves chasing, there’ll be many who are not happy.

This is football with options, though, and I don’t for a minute think we’ve paid the Bailey money to see him be a permanent super sub. Same goes for Buendia. Tuanzebe and Ings may well have always meant we’d see a lot of this. May just also mean Smith is punting harder decisions down the line, or wanting another week in the system before employing it against United.

Anyway. We’ll see how this works.

Over to you.

Comments 67

  1. Shouldn’t be surprised, Everton I assume start as they ended last game and we start as we started because they both got the best out of the players, fingers well and truly bloody crossed.

  2. Amazing how things work out, we buy upgrades on the wing and play wingbacks:-) can’t imagine that will continue long term. Also with Smith not knowing his 1st 11 he plays the same 11 bar the keeper.

  3. For there is no easy way to get some invention on and don’t help that sum is off.

    Crying out for some invention from one of the members on the bench , the quality in the final third is not there yet with those on the pitch .

  4. Not been bad…Everton clogging up the middle pretty well near goal. Still, a little bit surprised we didn’t score.

    Cash has been very good defensively, but his service hasn’t been as good. Should’ve gone square to Ings instead of shooting.

    But we do have options.

  5. Well then that’s how its going to work 🙂

    Surprised Rafa didn’t do some tactical genius stuff there, lucky he’d left his wand at home. Had no answer to Deano’s winger for a wingback switch 😉

    All joking aside I was actually thinking Targett really should be going past their FB if we had a winger on we’d be in lol.

  6. As we’ve seen over recent days, Villa fans have been really struggling to pick the best team and bench. There’s one passionate Villa fan who called it absolutely right before the game started though . . . . . well done Dean Smith.
    It appears that last season’s reluctance to use subs may have been driven by his belief that any changes made would weaken the team. When you’re able to bring on players like Bailey, Young, Traore and Buendia (who didn’t even make it on the pitch), he has the luxury of bringing on equal or better players, when the opposition are staring to tire.
    Yes, Everton were weakened, but let’s not forget that they would have gone second only on goal difference had they won this evening so they were never going to be a push over.
    This is the first time that we’ve been able to put out a ‘nearly’ full strength side so you’re left wondering how good a start to the season we ‘could’ have had and emphasises how ridiculously premature those calls for Dean Smith’s head were.

  7. R0bb0,

    Agreed. Great performance and subs.

    I’m not a fan of 5 at the back. Much prefer to play Nakamba as extra holding midfielder if that’s against top 4. Watkins is class.

    For me, not sure why we didn’t use preseason to gell. We have away some easy points because we were not ready on opening day

  8. VillaMD. A bit puzzled by your comment about not using pre-season to gell bearing in mind how late Jack left, and how late Bailey, Tuanzebe and Young came in.
    We also had our key pre-season game against quality opposition cancelled just the day before it was due to take place!
    After that of course we had players injured or covid ‘pinged’ and then travelling away for that ridiculous Brazil-gate fiasco, so it wasn’t as if we didn’t ‘want’ to try and bring the players together . . . . circumstances have just conspired against us.
    This isn’t hindsight, many of us were saying exactly this even before the season started and commenting that we needed to give the squad time to gell and in particular, we needed to give Dean Smith time to learn what his best squad, and even what his best formation(s) were likely to be.

  9. VillaMD. You’re right that the jury is still out on Tuanzebe, but let’s not write him off so quickly!
    What did you think of Jacob Ramsey last season?
    What did you even think of Jack 4 seasons ago?
    There are plenty of fans who said that both of those players were short of what it took to be a Villa player.
    Last season there were fans saying that we should cash in on John McGinn when he went through a quiet patch and even now there are people decrying Ming’s skills and contribution to the team.
    Dean Smith surely deserves time and space to work with the players and try to bring the best out of them for the good of the team?

  10. r0bb0,

    Would give you an applause emoji if I could.

    Axel: Just hasn’t been playing much. Very good player, my only concern with him, based on previous experience, is injury. Otherwise, will just take a little time for him, as well as the squad.

    Bottom line: Today was basically the first day Smith has had a full squad to choose from.

  11. JC- full squad or close to it, No Bidace or Chuk (plus king Trez ) through Injury although Chuk got a hat-trick for the U21’s while Ramsey junior still got MOM. Plus there was no chance Beundia a player touted as part of the Jack replacement would play a part unless desperate.

    In fact two thirds of the Jack plan have not been able to play this season much and all 3 haven’t graced the pitch together. Yet we turn in what should of been a match winning performance against Chelski and blitzed Everton eventually in a tight game that was actually played quite openly.

    That fact is another bonus we are defending well while not being overly defensive and being very threatening but without the edge yet, That is a massive leap from being one or the other last season.

    Quite rightly Smith told the sky reporter before the game when asked about changes “why should I”

  12. H&V In what way were Everton anywhere near what we did to Chelsea in the 1st half? they played on the break while we dominated play mostly just as we did at Chelski 1st half. In both games the expected goals were equal but the play was not imo.

    On the XG score so far our goals from open play far outweigh our set piece chances etc (of which we have created a lot)but XG goals against is very low so we are giving away low chance efforts where players are scoring worldies.

  13. Fabulous result well done to all

    I was a little concerned that we would get hit o the break and fall behind while playing 5 at the back and thought we really started to be more of a threat when we went to 4

    Bailey looks brilliant Emi B is brilliant so cant wait to see them both playing week in week out
    The striker situation looks like it will need a lot of work for the front 2 be be pottant playing together but saying that Emi B is so good at picking a forward pass the should give the strikers more chances to score going forwards… beating Everton is the first for me that the club is on course to reach its objectives which I don’t for a second think is mid table we need to be competing with everton spus west ham ect for those top 6 spots .. starting to look very good indeed 🙂

  14. I saw a fair few comments about Everton being without XYZ player from the same fans that were calling our lack of available players an excuse for smiths poor management . In a world full of bizarre lately that was “bizarre + “

  15. Thing is with Rafa’s Everton is they have started really well indeed are super organized and have been very effective so for us to brush them aside the way we did is a pretty good indicator of how could our squad actually is now

  16. One thought, Beundia’s party trick is those laser like balls through for the forwards, I’m hoping he can be accommodated without losing Ramsey. His skill set is very much what is missing and Bailey making a late run into space would provide another outlet for them.

  17. runtings so many ways to cook it which we want , for me I think we wont be 532 mostly so the Ings/Watkins thing will be either intermittent or Ings drops into a false ten role as he did yesterday. Watkins out wide? not for me but then depends on what the opposition do, Everton sat in and left room wide. I think there are many versions to go yet.

    Bailey might end up taking the set pieces, thought he was good on those, Targett ok as wingback but I think Youngs better. may end up being no set 1st 11 which for competition is great. For sure Smith has shown with players he can trust to change things change things he will.

  18. Lots of good comments…

    I know one small thing irking me is hearing about “under-strength” Everton. I never hear that caveat offered up so broadly for Villa, who almost always are playing under strength.

    A minor matter, but the same as hearing commentators at halftime saying Everton had been the better team. Not what I saw at all.

  19. And when Villa are going to attack, get bodies forward, there will be counters, and it can be a bit nerve-wracking. They’re not really trying to pass it around and work the edges, resetting, etc., as a possession-based style.

    They will play it around the back a bit, invite teams forward, rest a little, but from all I’ve seen, Smith wants a stretched game when it’s there to be won.

    Who knows, may move more toward that style depending on personnel, but generally, Villa are looking for quick moves, like Cash’s goal. Defenders on the back foot, running at them with space to use.

  20. Oh dude. VP at its very best. Rocking and raucous. More please.

    I’m still stoked from last night. Bailey was something else, but it’s unfair to single out individuals, we stand and fall as a team.

  21. Funny that Beundia is the one I was really looking forward to seeing and then Bailey. Ings you kind of know what you get and its usually good. All three have been involved in the goals and assists this season already and only one has played all the games, Ings. As transfers go that’s not a bad hit rate.

  22. I have sympathy for bailey having gotten injure when shooting, about 6 years ago having not really played for about 4 years since a knee injury I played 8 a side. I went out for a jog round but then soon got in on the shooting that always happens before these games. To my delight it seemed that all was in working order so the shots got harder and harder until bang, felt a twinge in the old rectus femoris which sounds like your arse but is part of the quads, I did ok in goal 🙁

  23. Nakamba has improved in the holding position, he used to always have one brain fade per game which was avoided in the Watford and Everton games. Luiz looks more confident since playing with the Brazil u23 and national teams, starting to give us more options. With teams focusing on Ollie and Ings, our other players are finding more space to attack.

    On to Chelsea and ManU

  24. No Tuenzebe against manure so he likely starts on weds. Young will be LB if Targetts still out so will he play two games? Beundia you would think plays, no McGinn likley too. Chuk may feature and Ramsey. Who plays RB? will Cash start? No bailley but I guess Traore and El Ghazi start. I hope we go for it as we have more chance of winning rather than the standard loss at Manure.

  25. Saturday’s excellent win should subdue those calling for the manager’s head. . . . . .until our next draw or loss that is!

    I assumed that all clubs would have a section of fans who will be similarly disaffected when things don’t go as well as they dream they should.
    With that in mind I took a trip to some Leeds blogs to see how vociferous the ‘Bielsa out!’ brigade are, considering the disappointing start they have made to the season. Surprisingly, the sentiment was still in his favour. There was some muted criticism over him not offering youth players a chance and also concern that maybe they have now been ‘found out’, but generally their fans were admirably supportive and understanding of the pressures that injuries and squad size have imposed on their manager.
    There was one underlying grumble, that the players just don’t seem to have the ‘zip’ of previous seasons and a growing concern that the players are a year older and may just be wearing out as a result of the intense training pressures that his methods impose. There were also criticisms of the back-room team not handling players as well as they should and injuries piling up as a result. It reminded me of our time under Houllier when his training coach tried to impose much more rigorous training for our squad which then led to a whole slew of players ending on the rehabilitation table.

    The point was, that Leeds fans seemed to me to generally accept that despite their current concerns, (the R word was even mentioned quite a few times) they had faith that their current manager was the best person to work with the current squad and bring the best out of them.

    It left me wondering. . . . what is it that instills fan loyalty in a football manager and which managers really deserve it?

  26. Think we’ll see Sanson start against Chelski. And Buendia. Up front, it will probably be the kid. Traore and El Gassy in? Tuenzebe and House at the back. Young and ? at FB. Dunno, could be well wide of the mark.

  27. Mark, the question for Wednesday is whether we’ll put out a completely different team from last, and next Saturday. It’s one way of ensuring that all squad players, including our really promising youngsters get some meaningful game time.
    if we really want to go for the Carabao cup then we won’t do that, but personally it’s what I’d like to see.

  28. Robbo problem is Chelski could field their women and compete at the moment, I would really like us to stay in and give the kids more chances against the not so talented sides rather than see them lose 3-0 and have no further games until the FA cup. Besides we owe them.

  29. I’d love to see us stay in too but I’d also love us to get a result on Saturday. United have a midweek game against Villarreal next week and Solskjaer really can’t afford to slip up again after their surprise loss last week so you imagine that the players will have half an eye on that game which just may give us more of a chance than usual.
    As you say, Chelsea will be competitive whichever team they put out so Wednesday may be our last game in the cup anyway. On balance, I’d give youth a chance again on Wednesday, and have a fully fit side for Saturday

  30. Yeah, funny one. Shame we drew Chelski.

    You’d like a cup run for all the fringe players, but I’d rather make a showing against United than play a lot of starters to try and stay in. Just sacrifice the cup, basically.

    Like everyone’s saying, a number of players won’t be available anyway, and even if they were…

  31. so are we looking at:

    Philogene Bidace

    Do the positions work there?
    Should Buendia have a run out? what about El Ghazi for a bit more experience on the pitch?

  32. A lot of the players that could of made a fist of it are out on loan. If Manure are playing a game midweek that they really can’t cock up then come Saturday it will either be a tired side or a weakened one. So for me play as good a side as we can, one because we need to stay in as a possible route to Europe and two the team needs time together desperately.

  33. Mark,
    How little faith you have in our youth.
    Would you put our full strength team out?
    As far as I’m concerned it’s one or the other. Either we’re really going for it with our full strength team or we give youth a chance.
    If we think Europe is essential this season and believe that the Carabao cup is our best chance then I’d agree with you. . . put out a full strength side tomorrow. . . .AND. . . .for any future cup games.
    If that’s not the case. . . play the youth.

  34. How do you know it’s not the case Robbo? And as I have pointed out the players required to put out a strong side are out on loan if we put the youth team out it won’t be what you think so naff all to do with faith.

  35. Mark, I showed the team I’d play, including the best of our academy players who are now training with the first team. Yes we have other academy players out on loan who the club presumably think will be able to make the step up that players like Chukwuemeka and Philogone-Bidace have done and hopefully they will then join the first team training squad too in time.

  36. Mark, I imagine that the actual team tonight will be a halfway house, using some of the youth players but also adding in some of those who didn’t get a full game, or saw no pitch time on Saturday like Buendia and Traore.

  37. Yeah, I’d expect to see Buendia, Traoré, Ghazi, Nakamba. Maybe Sanson, though he can’t have 90mins in him.

    Ollie seems to have the running in him to play. Would save Ings, I imagine, partner with Archer if going 3-5-2.

    JPB, and Chuk, Ashley…RB?

    Think the CBs are interesting. Depending on the RB solution (Axel?), Konsa and Hause, probably.

  38. Robbo- what I am saying is of the team that faced Barrow two are on loan Conor and Fred, the three kids were Chuk, Bidace and Archer, the first two just back from injury. The rest of the team ElGhazi, Nakamba, Targett, Hause, Tuenzebe, Steer.

    We have no full backs other than Young , Konsa or Tuenzebe. So it might be kids playing there and Kessler is on loan along with few other defenders from the FA cup game. So to play Chelsea with half a defence? then add Sanson with no match time plus Traore little match time. Bidace and chuk similar through injury and Hause, Beundia same, Elgahzi might be the fittest player.

    The other youth players are all kids that have been moved up, Chuks brother and The DM from WBA both 19 could get a look in.

    Still think that’s pretty inexperienced, lacking in match practice and playing time together to phase Chelsea one bit, hope I’m wrong but.

  39. Oh and Our 1st team lost 3-0 (rather unluckily) to what amounted to Chelsea’s 2nd of their 1st 11’s, this is not unfortunately Barrow. We also pressed the crap out of Chelsea but I can’t see our 2nd and maybe 3rd string doing similar. Maybe I’m a bit grumpy as I’m going to band practice and can’t watch 🙂

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