Aston Villa face a difficult challenge this weekend as Brentford are the visitors hoping to continue their impressive start to the Premier League season.
Thomas Frank’s men have picked up four points from their opening two games as Villa bounced back from defeat at Watford on the opening weekend with victory over Newcastle Utd last time out.
Dean Smith knows his opposite number well after their time working together at the Bees, and so it will be a big day for all concerned as they test themselves against each other at the top level.
- Aston Villa have never lost a top-flight match against Brentford (W5 D1), with this the first such meeting between the sides since February 1947 (Brentford 0-2 Aston Villa).
- Brentford are unbeaten in their last six league meetings with Aston Villa (W3 D3, all in the Championship between 2016-2019). However, all three games at Villa Park in that run finished level, with the Bees never winning away against the Villans in all competitions (D5 L2).
- Aston Villa haven’t lost their first Premier League meeting with an opponent since August 2008, going down 3-2 at Stoke. The Villans have won five and drawn two of their seven such games since.
- Aston Villa have scored two goals in each of their last five Premier League games. They last scored 2+ goals in more consecutive top-flight matches in October/November 1980 (7), in their last title winning campaign.
- Brentford are yet to concede a goal in the Premier League this season, with only two newly promoted sides keeping clean sheets in their first three games of a season: Charlton Athletic in 1998-99 and Huddersfield Town in 2017-18.
- Aston Villa have scored four goals from just four shots on target in the Premier League this season, the only side with a 100% such record in the competition so far.
- Aston Villa’s Emiliano Buendía has been involved in a goal in all three of his league appearances against Brentford (2 goals, 1 assist), all with Norwich between 2018 and 2021. He was involved in 100% of the goals the Canaries scored against the Bees in games he played against them.
- Danny Ings has scored in his first two Premier League matches for Aston Villa, finding the net against Watford and Newcastle. The last Villa player to score in their first three league matches of a season was Dalian Atkinson in 1992-93.
- Since the start of last season, only Ederson (20) and Édouard Mendy (18) have kept more Premier League clean sheets among goalkeepers than Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martínez (16). The Argentine has kept a clean sheet in 40% of his Premier League appearances for the Villans (16/40), the best rate of any keeper with more than 10 starts for the club in the competition.
- Aston Villa manager Dean Smith took charge of Brentford for 143 games between 2015 and 2018 – he lost his only previous meeting with the Bees after leaving them, going down 1-0 at Griffin Park in February 2019 in the Championship.
For Villa, Ollie Watkins will hope to face his former side but a late decision will be made on his availability after Smith noted in his press conference on Friday that they’ll see how he comes through training in the afternoon.
Leon Bailey, Morgan Sanson, Bertrand Traore and Keinan Davis are all still sidelined by injury as they continue their respective recoveries with the first three hoping to be back after the international break.
As for Brentford, Frank will hope to have Matthias Jensen and Shandon Baptis available while he expects Ethan Pinnock to recover from a knock suffered last weekend. Mads Bech has picked up a knee issue, Charlie Goode has a minor injury but Tariqe Fosu is available.
Ings vs back three
Danny Ings is expected to come up against a Brentford back three in Ajer, Jansson and Pinnock, and so he’ll have to work hard to ensure he doesn’t become isolated and needs the right service to ensure he’s involved and can make a decisive contribution.
It won’t be easy to find space in a congested final third, but his movement and ability to run the channels to spread play and create space for others will be key, and it’s down to the likes of Anwar El Ghazi, Emiliano Buendia, Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn to get forward and be a threat in supporting him.
Toney vs Mings
Ivan Toney is still missing his goal but his physical presence up front and ability to bring others into play has been impressive and he’ll hope to do the same against Villa.
While Tyrone Mings could get the assignment to keep him as quiet as possible, Ezri Konsa will also have a role to play and so between them, they need to be physical and switched on to nullify his threat.
Young, Cash vs Canos, Henry
Brentford will look to get it wide and cut in from the wings, and so Ashley Young, who could start ahead of Matt Targett, and Matty Cash need to be defensively sound in this one.
The visitors will target winning the midfield battle and get their wingers forward to create chances, and so not only do we need to try and cut off that supply, but also force them back to defend and in turn take control of the game and put ourselves in a strong position to get three points.
As we saw with Brentford against Arsenal in their opening game, they have plenty of tall, physical options in the box on set pieces and so we have to win first and second balls to cut that threat out.
Equally, with Austin MacPhee in as a dedicated set-piece coach, he’ll draft up ways to do that, but also as we saw against Newcastle with our well-worked throw-in routine for Ings’ goal, we must test them in that department too.
It should be a fascinating mini-battle within the game and one that could prove to be crucial.