Keinan Davis, whilst not managing to score, shone against a strong Sheffield United side as the season resumed last night.
Words: Harry Trend | @HazaTrand
Keinan Davis was one of Aston Villa’s brighter players in the Pride’s draw against Sheffield United. The 22-year-old led the line effectively in his first Premier League start for Villa prior to being substituted for Mbwana Samatta after 69 minutes.
Davis’ opportunities in the first time have been sporadic since joining Villa’s youth set-up in 2015. Making his debut in the FA Cup against Spurs in January 2017, the striker didn’t get a run of games in the first XI until the following season, where his hold up play and ability to bring others into attack made him somewhat of a fans favourite.
Since then the Davis has found starts in the starting XI harder to come by. Nevertheless, the Villa youth product has played his part this campaign – coming off the bench five times in the league before today.
The 22-year-old was clearly motivated to play the Blades in a game so crucial to Villa’s survival hopes. Early on it was clear that Davis wasn’t going to give John Egan an easy time of it, rolling the United centre-back on two occasions as well as drawing the odd foul; using his muscular frame to get to the ball first.
In the first half Davis was first to a long ball over the top. The striker was pulled back for offside, but it was encouraging to see the big man hold his own against a herd of Sheffield United defenders.
It begs the question of whether Villa would be better off having a man to partner Davis. So far this term Dean Smith has been reluctant to play more than one-man upfront, but Samatta might benefit from the link-up play of his colleague in games to come.
Davis was caught up in controversy with 41 minutes gone. The 22-year-old accidentally bundling both ball and Nyland over the goal line after the Norwegian gathered Oliver Norwood’s free-kick. Thankfully for Villa, a faulty goal-line technology system meant nothing came of it.
After the break Davis had chances to open his Premier League goalscoring account with the game becoming ever more stretched. The former academy prospect found Dean Henderson in the way of his near-post shot. Soon after Davis was again foiled by Henderson, unable to get the power on his header to beat the Blades goalkeeper from Conor Hourihane’s corner kick.
A lack of killer instinct in the box is a common criticism labeled at Davis. Earlier on the 22-year-old had headed over from point-blank range after Kourtney Hause kept Jack Grealish’s corner alive. However, the striker was inches away from getting his pink boots to Anwar El Ghazi’s square in the second period – Davis coming so close to breaking the deadlock illustrated how the striker made the correct run into the Blades area.
As Smith’s side start to adapt to the rigours of a busy fixture list, Davis will undoubtedly get another opportunity to lead the line. And by today’s showing the signs are promising.