Aston Villa secured a 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar in Townsville on Wednesday, with Cameron Archer scoring the winning goal in the second half.
Much like our first game in our pre-season tour of Australia against Leeds Utd, Villa boss Steven Gerrard opted for two different XIs for each half, as he looks to give minutes out across the squad and get everyone fully fit.
Villa were largely poor in the first half, as although we enjoyed extended periods of possession, we struggled to create clear-cut chances until the end of the opening 45 minutes.
With a lack of tempo and rhythm to our play, it likely wasn’t what Gerrard was hoping to see, but ultimately we remained organised and focused defensively and benefitted from making changes for the second half as it freshened things up and sparked us into life.
As he seems to do on a regular basis, Archer eventually found the back of the net to break the deadlock, as he produced a composed and clinical finish after good work from Tim Iroegbunam and Kaine Kesler-Hayden, with the latter impressing off the bench after the break.
Villa now prepare to face Man Utd on Saturday in our final game Down Under, and Gerrard will know that there are still things to improve and work on as we edge ever closer to the start of the new Premier League season.
Aston Villa first half starting XI: Martinez, Cash, Chambers, Carlos, Digne, McGinn, Kamara, Coutinho, Bailey, Traore, Ings.
Aston Villa second half starting XI: Martinez, Kesler Hayden, Konsa, MIngs, Augustinsson, Iroegbunam, Luiz, J.Ramsey, Buendía, Archer, Watkins.
Villa boosted by Konsa return
After suffering a serious knee injury in May, Ezri Konsa made his comeback on Wednesday and got 45 valuable minutes as he works his way back to full fitness.
The Villa centre-half has returned ahead of the initial schedule given by Gerrard, and it will be such a boost for the Villa boss to have him back and potentially ready for the start of the new season.
Konsa will face a battle for a starting berth though with Calum Chambers, Diego Carlos and Tyrone Mings all impressing during pre-season thus far, but he’ll be delighted that he’s back and in contention.
Carlos, Kamara bring calmness and composure
While both Diego Carlos and Boubacar Kamara carry out their defensive duties with great effectiveness and minimal fuss, they also bring calmness and composure to the side on the ball.
The pair will play a crucial role in helping us build out from the back, and we already look much more comfortable in that phase of the game with the duo leading the way.
Albeit it’s still pre-season, the early signs are promising and it’s certainly an improvement on last season where we struggled to successfully build our play from defence.
Traore the right fit for Gerrard?
While many are impressing this summer, Bertrand Traore arguably looks a little out of place as Gerrard gave him another chance to impress in midweek.
The effort and desire is certainly there, but he’s struggling to show that he can be influential in the final third in the preferred Villa system, and with the level of competition for places at the club now, it’s questionable as to whether he’ll still be with us come the start of the new campaign.
Kesler Hayden, Iroegbunam, Archer to stay until January?
Although there is a strong argument in favour of loaning our youngsters out to give them that all-important opportunity to gain experience and develop through regular playing time, there is also one in favour of keeping some of them at the club.
Kaine Kesler Hayden, Tim Iroegbunam and Archer came on in the second half against Brisbane Roar and while they’ve done so previously as well, the trio all impressed and showed what they can offer Gerrard.
While there is little doubt that they’ll be key players for us in the long term if they stay on their current paths, it could be argued that they can push their more senior teammates now, continue to learn from them and provide important contributions when involved with plenty of games to come in the first half of the season.
If it doesn’t work out, then a loan in January is still possible.
Buendia must start
Brought on at half-time, Emiliano Buendia added creativity, energy, urgency, movement off the ball to create openings and space as well as continuously probing for a breakthrough.
The Argentine playmaker needs to be in our starting XI week in and week out as he has shown he can pull the strings and make us tick in the final third.
While Gerrard has seemingly favoured Philippe Coutinho since his arrival at the club, he needs to find a way and system where both can start and be highly influential and effective.