Chelsea 5–4 Villa (pens): Far From Ugly.

In the end, an excellent performance and Villa were perhaps unlucky not to win in regular time. For all the changes, absences, and youth, the team seemed to know what they were doing, and the mentality was really good. I expected more timidity and hesitation. It wasn’t there, or if it was, not for long. The set-up looks good.

Deano Actually Has Options for Villa’s Trip to Chelsea

No one knows how Villa will approach the match. If it were me, I’d probably lean toward playing this one in two phases, perhaps by starting 4-5-1, trying to blunt Chelsea, then look to get more attacking in the second. But that’s me.

The question is whether Smith will want to go all in for grabbing the first, or keep his powder dry, go for 0-0 as long as possible, and then throw on more firepower? Not at all sure he’ll want to start out with a combination that’s barely played together against such a strong side, however much he might want to see them all together.

Watford 3-2 Aston Villa: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Returns

Aston Villa away to promoted Watford on opening day, and finding themselves on the wrong side of a 3-2 scoreline. It was an underwhelming start to the season that had Dean Smith fuming at halftime, and a lot of Villans shaking their heads. As I’d guessed, Dean went with his usual 4-2-3-1, which wasn’t the worst idea. The more familiarity the better for starting out after so much change and a disjointed preseason. However, the team sheet did surprise me a bit with Ashley Young on the left flank and El Ghazi wide right.

No surprise in Ings up top, or Buendia at 10. No surprises in McGinn and Nakamba behind. So what happened?