The international break felt like a lifetime, but they always do. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to see Bailey fully fit, and of course Traoré picked up a quad injury himself with Burkina Faso. So, it’s 3-5-2 again for visiting Wolves, which will probably send some into a frenzy.
In December of 2009, just shy of 12 years ago, Villa beat United 1-0 at Old Trafford. Since then, they’ve managed just four draws. In the previous decade? Three draws. One win in the last 45. Not a lot to hang your hat on. Probabilistically, though, that’s a reason for optimism.
Short answer, it might. Given the differences in squad depth and fitness, Villa will inevitably field a weaker side than the one that lost to Chelsea 0-3 just over a week ago. Smith has said all the right things about the quality available to both sides, and how they both want to win and progress. But it’s clear that Villa will have one hand tied behind their back.
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.
I think this can be a tidy side. There was slick passing and interplay. Villa weren’t slow on the ball. Good positional reading, combativeness, and energy. What Villa look like with a preferred (and very much debated) starting XI is beginning to look appetizing.