Five key talking points as Villa secure important, hard-fought win at Everton

Aston Villa produced a battling display on Saturday as we overcame Everton and secured all three points in a 1-0 win at Goodison Park.

Emiiano Buendia was the hero for Villa as his goal on the stroke of half-time was the difference between the two sides, while we both had chances in what was largely a scrappy encounter.

READ MORE: Villa player ratings vs Everton: Buendia, McGinn and Cash shine in win

Nevertheless, with a clean sheet and three points that temporarily moved us up to 10th place in the Premier League table ahead of the break, it was an important win for Villa to set the tone and standard for the next few weeks as we have a run of games where we’ll be confident of taking maximum points.

Battling Villa show a different side

While we’ve seen Steven Gerrard’s Villa play some eye-catching football since his arrival, this win required us to show a different side as we held on for all three points.

Most of the positive aspects of our game have revolved around the improvement in our attacking play and intensity off the ball further up the pitch, while we’ve still conceded too many goals.

Particularly in the second half at Everton, we stood up to the pressure being applied on us and while we also rode our luck at times, it was a fantastic rearguard performance to seal the win.

Defensive midfield area still a concern

At times, Douglas Luiz does an excellent job as our holding midfielder in front of the defence. He picks the pocket of the opposition well on occasion and when we’re in control of possession, he keeps us ticking over.

However, the problem arises when we’re not in control and coming under pressure, as we saw in the second half on Saturday.

Villa need a more physically imposing individual in that role who can break things up, win 50/50 challenges, keep possession more effectively and disrupt the rhythm of the opposition to it isn’t a case of us having to defend wave after wave of pressure. We’re arguably one important signing away from being a really competitive side.

Threat of competition driving improvement?

As we’ve seen with the additions of Lucas Digne and Philippe Coutinho, Gerrard is not afraid to bring in players and put pressure on others to keep their place in the side.

Matt Targett has seemingly now fallen to the bench, while Danny Ings joined him there this weekend as Villa went with one up top.

Particularly in the case of Matty Cash, it looked as though he was playing with a point to prove with pressure on him to keep his place on the side, not only from potential signings, but also from youngster Kaine Kesler Hayden who was named on the bench again.

It’s a good place to be in, especially if Villa want to get the best out of these players and start competing at a higher level.

Gerrard rectifies key Villa issue

In recent weeks, we’ve bemoaned the slow starts that Villa have made to games which in turn hands the initiative to the opposing side.

We saw that against Man Utd last time out, and we needed yet another half-time talk from Gerrard to inspire his players to raise their level and fight back to get a result.

There were no such issue at Everton as we started strong and were marginally the better side in the opening 45 minutes, and it’s hoped that is a sign of things to come and a key development on our way to being competitive and on top across a full 90 minutes sooner rather than later.

Buendia continuing to grow into key Villa role

Prior to the league encounter with Man Utd, Buendia said that he felt he was improving each week and believed that the best version of himself was coming soon.

While we’re probably still not quite there yet, the improvement is evident as he’s growing into a driving force in our attack.

From his ability to pick the ball up in great positions and drive at the opposition defence, to his technical quality in possession and his vision to bring others into play, he added a decisive touch to his performance on Saturday with the winning goal.

There’s no denying that he made a slow start to life at Villa, but the Argentine is starting to look every bit the player we hoped, and believed, we were signing from Norwich City last summer, and if he can continue to add goals and assists to his game, he’s going to continue to evolve into a fundamental piece of our side.