As the beautiful night sky presided over an electric Villa Park atmosphere and with the floodlights beaming brightly, it was the perfect setting for what was to come.
We have been unbeaten against Everton since our return to the Premier League and in turn, Rafa Benitez had never lost in nine meetings against Villa with his array of various clubs. What a way to give him his first taste of defeat against us, albeit looking like a stalemate for a long time, a blistering nine minutes obliterated those initial feelings.
So what are the five things we learnt from this rampant victory?
‘A Captain, Leader, Commander’. I could go through all the adjectives to describe this brilliant footballer. Tyrone Mings was exceptional and made crucial blocks, interceptions and even had opportunities to either score or create a spark in Everton’s box. After making a discernible error against Chelsea, he got some unsavoury criticism on social media. All players are entitled to receive it but not in this manner. He was the first to hold his hand up to his teammates and even apologise online to all the fans.
Mings never shy’s away and fronts up when he makes mistakes. Fans need to realise that although he can be susceptible he is also a warrior who has saved us numerous times. If it wasn’t for his vital interventions when the game was finely poised, this match could have easily gone the other way.
An excellent riposte after last week’s misfortune, onwards and upwards Captain!
Cash In The Attic!
It was an incredible display from Matty Cash. A former winger at Nottingham Forest, you can see the 3-5-2 formation really suits him playing as a wing back.
His energy going forward was equalled in the opposite direction when called upon to defend. He put a few crosses into the box and although they weren’t always on a sixpence, his endeavour to keep putting them in over time will bear fruit. There were also a couple of incredible balls to switch play, which were frankly jaw dropping. It was fitting he would be the one to break the deadlock in the second half and as a predominately right footed player, he had two shots with his left foot in this game.
In the first half it drifted wide but in the second half, from an even harder position, he drilled it into the top corner. The celebrations that followed provided even more joy, a player scoring his first goal for his club at the Holte End with his family there to witness it, what could be better??!
Passing Out From Defence
This match felt like the birth of a new and alternative playing style we haven’t seen too often under Smith. Our strength in depth is now why we can change systems so effectively and this is epitomised no more so than with our backline.
We have a great goalkeeper in Martinez who can play a variety of passes from the back and adding Tuanzebe to this means he can play it to any of our three centres backs knowing they will hold possession and play an accurately progressive pass to set off our attacks. Our first goal symbolised this, what preceded a stunning finish was our football from the back, culminating with brilliant play from Ings and Luiz’s delectable one-touch pass to find Cash to then rifle it home. If this can be our signature way to play henceforth, it’s going to be quite something to behold.
It has been quite remarkable we are now playing a system that for the past two matches at least doesn’t include any of our excellent wingers. Perhaps with Buendia being ineligible against Chelsea due to quarantine rules, it gave Smith a chance to look at a new formation.
It has been a blessing in disguise as it has allowed one of our own, Jacob Ramsey to be given more of a chance and he has emphatically taken it. Arguably the best midfielder on the pitch against Chelsea and again he was terrific when pitting himself against the solid Everton midfield. Alongside him, Mcginn and Douglas Luiz have been exceptional and when Mcginn had to leave the pitch with a concussion, Marvelous Nakamba was well, marvellous! I didn’t see a misplaced pass from him and that has usually been his biggest flaw.
Our depth now means we can be flexible in our formations or personnel. If plan A isn’t working there is plan B and C to call upon. We certainly weren’t able to say that last season!
Bailey’s Majestic Cameo!
Do I need to say more than the headline? Have there ever been a more mesmerising 21 minutes of football at Villa Park from one player? If so, I can’t remember! The reception he received from the crowd was incredibly powerful and heart-warming.
Leon Bailey echoed those sentiments in his post-match interview and it was clear that fuelled his blistering short but sweet display. We have lacked consistency with set-pieces last season and his first touch of the ball was to come on and send a decent free-kick into the box. But what was to follow was pure excellence. A corner that was whipped in with great height and arc, which initially looked like it went straight in, may as well have as it was so difficult for Everton to defend, it concluded with Digne putting it into his own net. The third goal there was no question it was Baileys. I can’t praise the assist from Ings highly enough for this goal, it was immaculately stunning. The technique to hit the ball around 40-50 yards with such an elevation and accuracy, it was just as aesthetically pleasing as anything witnessed during the 90 minutes. Once Bailey got hold of it he didn’t let the ball settle, took one touch with his head before composing himself to hammer it down Begovic’s throat, not literally! A stunning goal from a special player.
Unfortunately, he had to be substituted shortly after, ironically because he hit the ball with such ferocity he felt his quad and didn’t want to risk further aggravation. If that’s the kind of impact he’ll have every week then I say I’m all for him taking these risks!
Thanks to everyone for taking the time to read this piece. If you enjoyed it please leave a comment or message me on my twitter handle, @Villa4LifeAlex.
Until next time, this is Alex signing off, UTV!
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