We’ve picked out five key talking points from the game against Norwich.
Words: Harry Trend | @HazaTrand
Aston Villa picked up their first win in quite a while against Norwich City yesterday afternoon.
We’ve picked out five key talking points from the game as we reflect on the performance.
Ezri and Kortney stand firm
Eyebrows were raised when Dean Smith decided to keep Bjorn Engels out of the starting eleven, but against Norwich, Ezri Konsa and Kortney Hause justified their inclusions at the heart of Aston Villa’s defence.
Hause was the most impressive. Sometimes the former Wolves centre-back isn’t always the most comfortable on the ball, but when push comes to shove you can always rely on Hause to clear his lines.
Konsa made some key defensive interventions too, denying Teemu Pukki with a sliding tackle as the Finnish forward was bearing down on goal.
Too many passengers
It was crucial that Aston Villa won against a fellow relegation struggler, but that doesn’t mean that there were not any poor performances in claret and blue – in midfield especially.
Marvelous Nakamba offered little creativity and was at times bypassed too easily. Douglas Luiz was slightly better, but a 71% passing accuracy denotes that the former Manchester City man needs to do more.
Misplaced passes were a theme of the game’s last 20 minutes, with the Pride struggling for confidence. Jack Grealish was visibly getting frustrated with the lack of ball retention from the likes of Trezeguet and Matt Targett, and ultimately Villa could have made a much easier job of closing out the game.
Hourihane sub crucial
In the words of Dean Smith, Conor Hourihane was the key to Aston Villa getting a ‘foothold in the game’.
Brought on for Nakamba just before the hour mark, the Irishman added some controlled aggression into the centre of midfield. With 64 minutes gone, Hourihane scored the game’s first and only goal; receiving the ball from Anwar El Ghazi, the midfielder laid the ball off to Jack Grealish before making a run into the box.
Grealish went past Tettey before playing it to Hourihane who duly lashed the ball past Tim Krul.
With the games coming thick and fast, the midfielder should start to get the game time he deserves.
Imagine, just imagine, where Aston Villa would be without the services of Tom Heaton this season.
The £8,000,000 that the club paid Burnley in the summer is looking an increasingly better deal.
Against the Canaries, Heaton made some crucial saves; the first being a stop from Tom Trybull’s header inside the post.
With the clock ticking down, Onel Hernández hit a powerful half volley from six yards, but there was Heaton again – body in the way to preserve Aston Villa’s three points.
Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
It’ll be interesting to see how Dean Smith freshens up the starting eleven as Aston Villa travel to Vicarage Road to play Watford in two days time.
The Aston Villa gaffer couldn’t afford to rest his preferred XI at home to the Canaries – but the likes of Trézéguet were clearly running on empty with ten minutes to go, whilst Grealish was here, there and everywhere.
Henri Lansbury? Jonathan Kodjia? It remains to be seen which fringe players will choose away at the Hornets, if any.