After a difficult week, Aston Villa bounced back in style on Sunday as we picked up a commanding 4-0 win over Brentford.
Defeat to Fulham on Thursday night meant the end of Steven Gerrard’s tenure at the club, and Aaron Danks was put in temporary charge as we conduct our search for a long-term successor.
Given the circumstances, it can’t have been easy for the Villa first-team coach to prepare for this game, but prepare he did with a hugely effective game-plan that saw us dominate Brentford and secure a deserved victory.
Time will tell how long he remains in charge as candidates for the Villa job seemingly get ruled out one by one, but ultimately we’ll now look to our next game against Newcastle Utd next weekend with more confidence after a much-needed win.
Aaron Danks deserves special praise for win
As touched on above, given the circumstances he was thrust into late on Thursday night and the lack of time to prepare for the game today, Danks did an exceptional job of getting the players ready for it.
From his system change to the players he selected, and dropped, and the in-game tweaks he made, it was an excellent effort from him and he deserves plenty of praise for the job he did to see us produce a complete 90-minute performance.
Time will tell how many more games he’ll get before a long-term appointment is made, but he’s done brilliantly to give the whole club a lift and show just how exciting we can be and how appealing this job should be to potential candidates.
System switch makes all the difference
While it’s been something that many fans have long been calling for, Danks finally tweaked our formation and went with a 4-2-3-1 system and made personnel changes too.
Ultimately, he got it spot on. Douglas Luiz and Leander Dendoncker were brilliant in the midfield pivot, and that had a knock-on effect for our front four with Leon Bailey, Emiliano Buendia, Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings who all looked dangerous throughout.
We had a much better balance about us and looked more cohesive while playing with more rhythm in our attacking play, and so this should now hopefully prove which system suits the players in the squad best.
Dendoncker with an excellent contribution
There were reservations before the game on the selection of Dendoncker as he has looked like he’s struggled with the pace of the game when coming on off the bench.
However, this performance was a completely different story. He was a real physical presence in midfield to help us win that battle as he broke up Brentford’s play consistently while he also showed good technical quality to move the ball forward quickly.
His partnership with Luiz was hugely influential in our performance and win, and so the Belgian international deserves praise for the job he did before making way around the hour mark.
Front four full of excitement and quality
Today was the first time that Bailey, Buendia and Ings had all started for Villa since they all joined the club. With minimal minutes together on the pitch prior to that, along with Watkins they showed real excitement and a genuine threat throughout the game.
Given the license to press aggressively and more freedom by having the two-man midfield behind them, they excelled and showed great tenacity and work ethic off the ball and top technical quality and creativity in possession to carve Brentford open on several occasions.
If they can maintain that moving forward, they’ll be a handful for any side and it’s important that they are now rewarded by getting the opportunity to continue to play together, depending on fitness, to build their chemistry and understanding further.
Major confidence boost, mood lifted at Villa
There’s no doubting what this result does for all concerned with the club. It lifts the mood given our struggles in recent months and it’s a massive confidence boost for the players.
It was vital that the players gave the supporters something to get behind early on, and they didn’t disappoint as we came racing out the traps and stormed into a commanding lead.
The fans were brilliant at Villa Park, and it’s hoped that we can now build on this and start moving up the table with Danks hopefully leaving us in a strong position when a permanent manager is appointed.