Aston Villa made it back-to-back wins in the Premier League for the first time this season with an impressive performance at Selhurst Park.
Steven Gerrard said after the 2-0 win at home to Brighton that his team needed to, “Back it up” and the Villans duly delivered with arguably their best performance of the season, looking relatively comfortable for the majority of the game.
Crystal Palace were given little time to settle on the ball and the effort levels and determination was shown from every player in a Villa shirt as everyone contributed in some shape or form.
Villa made only two changes to the starting line up as Leon Bailey and Ashley came in for Emi Buendia and Danny Ings. Marvelous Nakamba started ahead of Douglas Luiz for a second game in a row despite the Brazilian returning from injury.
Tactically, it was a very astute performance and Gerrard’s game plan was evident from the off as the team remained compact and players were always on hand to support one another in midfield.
Jacob Ramsey worked incredibly hard for just over an hour, often carrying the ball through the middle of the park and sparking attacks.
John McGinn was a menace as was given the chance to push forward into the CAM role more often and Marvelous Nakamba repeatedly broke up play in Villa’s own half to regain possession and his passing was excellent and most importantly consistent in its accuracy.
The midfield and front line worked tirelessly to press Palace back and to win the ball higher up the park and subsequently the defence and Emi Martinez were not tested as often as expected by Patrick Vieira’s men who were unbeaten at home and in seven home and away before the game with Villa.
Ashley Young led by example and it certainly did not look like a 36 that was taking on Joel Ward. His direct play and set pieces caused trouble and his corner was put away by Matt Targett to give Villa the lead.
Villa created several attacks and at times caused panic in the Eagles back line.
However, Villa battled throughout a tricky 25 minutes in the second half and Gerrard’s substitutions all helped to give Villa a two goal lead late on.
Douglas Luiz, who was early sent off only for a VAR review to change the decision to a yellow card, played the ball out to Matt Targett and some fine work between Anwar El Ghazi and Emi Buendia saw a one-two on the edge of the Palace box before John McGinn hit a first-time, curling shot past Vicente Guaita to the delight of the away contingent.
Crystal Palace would provide a nervy finish for Villa as Marc Guehi would pinch a 95th minute consolation goal as he diverted home a good cross from Cheikhou Kouyate.
Six points from six for Steven Gerrard and a real team performance.
- The shape of the team was clear to see, everyone knew their jobs and they stuck to them. Even off the ball, Villa were well positioned and gave Palace very little opportunity to play the kind of football they have been praised for in previous games.
- Matt Targett who has faced media reports this week of a left-back potentially replacing him, stood up and had a good game topped off with only his second Premier League goal for Villa.
- Marvelous Nakamba – Where do I start? The Zimbabwean has looked assured and calm on the ball in the last few weeks and it bodes well as Gerrard gets more time to work with him. He was quite simply brilliant and did everything you want a CDM to do. The official Villa site vote saw Nakamba win man of the match with 59% of the 22,071 votes cast.
- Steven Gerrard used his substitutions at key points and all of them had key moments and roles to play. Douglas Luiz came on at a time when Palace were starting to get more of the ball and despite his initial red card, he added a combative element to the centre of midfield after the shift put in by Jacob Ramsey. Anwar El Ghazi picked up an assist for John McGinn’s goal after some brilliant build up play with Emi Buendia.
- The collective sense of confidence has been an obvious plus and very few mistakes on the ball in the last two games has been a welcome component of Villa’s play.
- John McGinn playing in an advanced role has been something the majority of the Villa faithful have clamoured for and he has looked excellent in and around the edge of the opposition box. He was unlucky to not score two yesterday with a brilliant curling shot that bent just wide of the top corner in the first half.
- Not so much the bad, but more a ‘work in progress’. I felt Leon Bailey at times needed to offload the ball quicker and was caught out a few times by taking an extra touch or by trying to take on an extra man. He is another player I really look forward to seeing develop under Gerrard as he undoubtedly has the talent and ability but it’s important the fans do their job and support him.
Aston Villa vs Manchester City
Wednesday 1st December (8:15pm kick off)
Villa face a tough test midweek as they welcome high-flying Manchester City to Villa Park.
All of the talk will inevitably switch to the return of Jack Grealish and whether he will play or not but under Gerrard the talk has been purely about preparation and focus at the job at hand and the fans need to get behind the players under the lights and play their part.