After the frustration and disappointment of the Bournemouth loss, Aston Villa bounced back with a win over Everton to secure our first points of the season.
Despite a strong pre-season and high expectations for the campaign ahead, there was real disappointment as Villa failed to produce a performance and ultimately suffered defeat in our opener last weekend.
That in turn put pressure on Steven Gerrard and the players for this game as we needed to respond, allay that pressure and nervousness and produce a display that we can build on.
Fortunately we did exactly that and although it wasn’t entirely convincing and there is still plenty of work to do, we showed quality in the goals scored by Danny Ings and Emiliano Buendia and dug in defensively to hold on for all three points. The hope now is that we kick on and show consistency to put ourselves higher up the table.
Gerrard gets response from Villa players
A lot has been said about Gerrard over the past week, both in terms of his management and comments he has made to the media regarding some of his players as well as decisions on his line-up.
While one win doesn’t magic all those concerns away, it shows that he can still get a reaction from his players and that they’re certainly behind him in trying to develop and display his style of play and philosophy.
From the intensity, urgency and aggression we showed from the first minute to the quality of the goals and ability to dig in late on, it ticked a lot of boxes but with room to improve still.
Mings excellent on return
Similarly to Gerrard, there was a lot of talk around Mings ahead of the game given he has seen the captaincy go to John McGinn and was an unused substitute at Bournemouth.
Having fully recovered from an injury, he was restored to the starting XI for this encounter and he produced an excellent display in the heart of the backline.
His aerial ability is key in clearing danger and while he kept it mostly simple throughout which proved to be very effective, he produced a game-defining intervention late on to deny Everton an equaliser as he showed his character and class.
Diego Carlos injury blow tarnishes win
Villa have now confirmed that Carlos suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon and will undergo surgery before beginning his rehabilitation.
The Brazilian defender will now miss a significant part of the season and that is a huge blow for us as he looked strong and commanding in his first two Premier League appearances.
While we have depth to deal with the absence, his attributes and strengths both on and off the ball won’t be easy to replace, especially given how Gerrard was set to heavily lean on his summer signing this season.
Buendia must start
While it’s been the case for some time now, Buendia delivered another reminder as to why he should be in the Villa starting line-up on a regular basis.
An injury in pre-season was the reason he didn’t start at Bournemouth, but Gerrard sounded more likely to bring the Argentine into the fold moving forward after another superb contribution.
Buendia brings inventiveness, creativity and energy without fail, and it’s time for him to be made the creative hub of the side in the final third.
Ings, Watkins show their quality together
If the Bournemouth game showed us that Ings perhaps shouldn’t start on his own up front, the win over Everton showed us that alongside Watkins, the pair are a real threat.
From the quality in Ings’ finish to break the deadlock to Watkins providing two assists and another tireless performance, the Villa front pair were crucial in getting this win and it’s shown Gerrard that this system can work.
That said, he needs to get it right on when it will be most effective in terms of against which opposition, but Ings and Watkins showed that they can influence a game positively together when things click.