Aston Villa suffered a 2-0 defeat to Stoke City in our second pre-season outing this summer, with Wesley being sent off in the second half.
Villa kicked their preparations for the new campaign off with a comfortable win over Walsall in midweek, and so there was excitement over whether or not we’d follow it up on Saturday afternoon with another impressive display.
However, the hosts had other ideas as they scored two high-quality goals to secure a win, with Villa having plenty to consider and improve on which is something that is also needed as we go through our pre-season schedule.
Ultimately, it was a good run out to continue to build the fitness and confidence of the players, but also to raise issues over where our weaknesses still currently lie.
Villa undone by two great goals
Steven Fletcher and Mario Vrancic bagged two excellent goals for Stoke, and so credit is due for the quality involved to breach our defence twice.
Villa were the better side in the first half and had chances, while Stoke took control after the break and caused us more problems. While it was arguably a fairly balanced encounter, it was the hosts who produced the quality needed to find the back of the net.
Lack of clinical edge in front of goal
As noted above, Villa had a number of decent chances throughout the game but were unable to convert.
Having been so clinical in midweek at Walsall, it was disappointing not to see a continuation of that, with Ollie Watkins largely isolated as he continued to work hard and apply pressure from the front.
Nevertheless, it was a largely disjointed performance with no real flow to our play, while the missed chances obviously cost us.
One positive to take from this clash was Marvelous Nakamba’s influence in midfield. He swept up in front of the defence on a number of occasions to provide the backline with protection, while he played quick and crisp balls out of his feet to set up attacks.
Villa are still arguably a bit too lightweight in that department and a midfield general who can play in that deeper role is still needed. That said, Nakamba showed his quality and why he will continue to be a useful part of Dean Smith’s squad.
It was far from one of our best performances as we couldn’t really get going to move through the gears and apply consistent pressure on Stoke.
While we did produce moments of classy build-up play, it was all too rare and as we moved up the field into the final third, things didn’t really click into place.
It’s something for the coaching staff and the players to assess and improve on moving forward, as we need to ensure we’re clinical and have that cutting edge in the Premier League this season.
Wesley red a costly one
Unfortunately for Wesley, his afternoon lasted around just seven minutes, as the second-half substitute received his marching orders with a straight red after an altercation with Nick Powell.
The Brazilian needs minutes and must impress in pre-season to cement his place in the squad to offer depth and a different option up front to Watkins, and so this was certainly a missed opportunity for him.
Getting sent off so quickly after coming on isn’t going to help anyone, and so it remains to be seen if he can get himself back in the equation against Nottingham Forest next week.