Aston Villa secured all three points against Norwich City on Saturday, with Tim Iroegbunam making his full debut.
Goals from Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings sealed the win which saw Villa move to 40 points and up the Premier League table, as we followed up our draw with Leicester City last weekend and continue to move in the right direction to end the season.
Steven Gerrard handed Iroegbunam his full debut in a key selection decision, while Lucas Digne returned ahead of schedule from injury to start the game in one of three changes.
With Villa heading to Burnley next weekend, Gerrard has decisions to make in terms of his starting XI and while this wasn’t an entirely convincing display, it was one good enough to earn three important points and a result that will hopefully continue to rebuild confidence in the team.
Iroegbunam impresses on full debut
After producing a positive performance in the latter stages of our draw with Leicester last weekend, Iroegbunam was rewarded with his first start and full debut at senior level for Villa.
The 18-year-old didn’t disappoint, as although there were key areas where he’ll learn and improve with the benefit of having that experience, he put in a good shift for the team and was impressive.
Gerrard evidently rates the youngster highly, and so he’ll hope to continue to help his development between now and the end of the season with more playing time.
More frustration for Leon Bailey
Unfortunately for Bailey, there was more frustration as he was forced off after 40 minutes having picked up an ankle injury.
As per Gerrard in his post-match interview, he confirmed that the Jamaican international will now undergo an MRI scan to determine the full extent of the problem, but it looks like another frustrating and disappointing setback for Bailey.
Having managed just one goal and two assists in 18 appearances in his first season at Villa, it hasn’t gone to plan for him. However, it’s hoped that he’ll get the pre-season to try and impress Gerrard and be a key part of his plans for next year.
Watkins-Ings partnership continues to improve
Having encountered issues early on in terms of trying to build up chemistry and an understanding with one another, it looks as though Watkins and Ings are showing more signs of being able to click.
From the pass over the top from Ings to set Watkins on his way to scoring our opening goal, to the link-up play we saw at times between the pair, there is a strong case in favour of sticking with starting them both up top alongside each other.
It remains to be seen which games and how often Gerrard feels that’s the appropriate choice, but it looks to be producing results.
Coutinho struggles continues
That’s now six Premier League games in which Philippe Coutinho has failed to provide either a goal or an assist, and for a player of his quality, he’ll be disappointed not to be more influential for us.
It’s certainly not through a lack of trying, as he not only worked hard off the ball against Norwich, but he was constantly trying to find pockets of space to make something happen.
Unfortunately, it’s just not clicking into place right now, and so it remains to be seen in the short term if he keeps his place in the starting XI, and beyond that, if he’s done enough to earn a permanent switch to Villa this summer.
Time for Buendia to start
In limited playing time, Emiliano Buendia was excellent as he came on, provided us with an instant spark and starting to pull the string for us in the final third.
The Argentine playmaker has consistently shown he can flair, creativity and quality to our attacking play, but he has seen his minutes limited over the past month or so.
Particularly with Bailey now seemingly set to be sidelined and Coutinho out of form, Gerrard has to start Buendia at Burnley and give him a chance to show his quality and ability to become a fundamental part of the Villa side moving forward.
Mins played: 14
95% passing accuracy
Key passes: 2
Big chances created: 1
— Talk Villa (@thetalkvilla) April 30, 2022