A poor performance and a poor result made for an unsatisfactory opening day for those of a claret and blue persuasion, although our two second-half goals did give us some positives to talk about it!
The 3-2 defeat played out with Villa going three down following some very poor defending, before pulling two goals back in the second half through John McGinn and a debut goal from Danny Ings.
So, what did we learn?
1: Defence needs to improve, particularly against pacey forwards
We all saw Ismaila Sarr dominate the battle on the Villa’s left flank and Matt Targett found it very difficult to compete and defend against the Watford man.
Sarr, twice beat Targett to create two of Watford’s three goals and it was quite evident Targettt was not as sharp and up to the task of defending the wings like he was throughout all of last season. Many Villa fans, me included, were screaming out for more help to be afforded to Targett, with most, calling for the returning Ashley Young to get back in support.
The former Southampton man has not become a bad defender overnight, this was an off day for him and the defence as a whole, who are going to need to improve if they want to have better luck against Newcastle, and where Targett will have Allan Saint-Maximin to deal with!
If Villa want a good result against the Magpies, the first thing we need to do is mark and defend the likes of Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson out of the game – big improvement required.
While I am convinced that the Villa backline will be as strong as ever this season, it will need to improve and get back to the standard they were last season, and as quickly as possible, as we look to try and gather some good form going into the fight for that European berth.
2: The midfield needs to be stronger
John McGinn and Marvelous Nakamba are quality midfielders for Aston Villa, which was most certainly the case last season. But, with Villa’s all-out attacking style and the addition of further attacking talent to the squad in the shape of Danny Ings and Leon Bailey Villa’s midfield needs to be stronger in fending off any threats – especially if Villa play two up top once Watkins is fit again.
One thing that needs to be pointed out is that with a disjointed pre-season, the whole squad will have been affected by the inherent lack of sharpness, and as a result a more limited preparation, especially with some returning from international tournaments.
I would still argue though that Villa still needs reinforcements when it comes to the defensive midfield position, with this potentially happening, the likes of Anguissa and Chiek Doucoure have been linked with a move to B6.
The main point here is that McGinn and Nakamba WILL improve, and the confidence of the fans should not waver in their abilities to protect the Villa backline just yet, but reinforcement on the defensive side of midfield may still be a sensible option to consider.
3: Leon Bailey
Leon Bailey joined from Bayer Leverkusen a couple of weeks ago, coming in with a slightly unusual press conference and excitement from all corners of the Villa fanbase to see what the Jamaican could do in a Villa shirt and how he can help to replace the outgoing Jack Grealish. Many worry that Villa’s creativity and overall attacking prowess will be severely diminished by the former Captain’s departure, but in Leon Bailey, the Villa has someone with pace, trickery and creativity to help replace Grealish, and the signs were good with an assist on his debut from the bench.
Bailey has already proven his quality in beating his defender and putting a quality ball into the box, so for the likes of Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins – when he returns from injury, that delivery could be vital to Villa’s hopes of European football by the end of the season, and it is also well known that he can score a goal or two himself!
4: The second half
The first half performance was amongst the very worst of Dean Smith’s reign with the number of goals conceded being a symbol of the very poor performance!
But, in another positive, the second half display from Aston Villa was much more encouraging despite conceding again. This was because John McGinn’s volley and Danny Ings’s penalty meant that Villa clawed two goals back to reduce the deficit and make for a less humiliating scoreline, which in a way, masks the horror show that was the first-half performance.
The defence had improved in the second half, Villa winning the half 2-1 and proving that the defence is still solid, it of course just needs to be this way for an entire match if possible. The reason Villa lost on Saturday afternoon was because of the first half, and if the defence was as strong as it was in the final forty-five minutes of the match then Villa may well have come away with at least a point, maybe even all three.
5: Emiliano Buendia
Buendia didn’t have the best of games at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon partly because he was playing outside of his preferred position, with him playing as more of a number ten rather than his preferred right-wing position. While he can adapt to this position, he is at his best, as he proved at Norwich, on the right flank and this is where he should be being played going forward and I fully believe that Smith and the squad will get this right and give us the very exciting season that we all still anticipate.
While of course, the Argentine will certainly need to improve on his display against Watford, he has proven ability with his very successful time at Norwich and like Leon Bailey he has proven creativity, these two will be a vital part of Villa’s team going forward, as we look to make a challenge for Europe this season.
So, from what was a very disappointing day at Vicarage Road with obvious aspects of the game that needs to be improved on if Villa want to secure European football for the first time for over ten years, it must be said that there are many positives to draw from the match despite the result, and should everything come together, we should all be in for a great and exciting season.
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