81: Aston Villa’s Premier League Baptism of Fire

Baptism of Fire

In the words of Aston Villa Head Coach Dean Smith, the opening game away at Spurs was always going to be a “tough baptism of fire” against last season’s Champions League runners-up. Despite a 3-1 defeat though, there was certainly a lot of comfort to be taken from Villa’s first game back in the Premier League. 

A further baptism was to come after gifting Bournemouth two goals in the opening 10 minutes in the first home game of the season at Villa Park, but more about the Cherries game later.

Despite missing some of their big hitters including Son and De Ali, Spurs are a different beast to the one Villa faced the last time they played a league game against them three seasons ago.

After breaking into and becoming one of England’s Top 4 teams, this is now recognised as one of the best Spurs teams in their history, while Villa’s has only recently risen from one of the darker periods in their own past.

A decade ago, the two teams were seen in the same ballpark of English clubs, both hovering below the top guns with ambitions of European football. Yet no two top English teams have faced such differing fortunes in recent seasons, symbolised by a fantastic new stadium for Spurs and a potential administration scare for Villa.

Selections Thus Far

Villa’s Premier League return at Spurs, saw Dean Smith’s selection offering up some surprises, with the Villa Head Coach looking to keep a air of continuity in the face of  the 13 new players being introduced into the squad this season.

Only four new faces from last season started – Tom Heaton, Bjorn Engels, Trézéguet and Wesley. Douglas Luiz then came off the bench and would start the next game against Bournemouth.

Interestingly, Smith has elected to go with both Ahmed Elmohamady and Neil Taylor at full-back, so far this season. Against Spurs, you can understand continuing with them, as along with Mings, they made up three of the back-four that ended last season. Familiarity and organisation would be important against a Spurs team, who would more than likely dominate the game for long periods.

No doubt, Smith was impressed with his full-backs against Spurs, to such an extent that he kept them in against Bournemouth, but their lack of threat and penetration down the flanks at Villa Park at the weekend, may have the Head Coach rethinking his approach.

Villa’s counter attack was precise and dangerous in the first half against Spurs, but since then Villa’s attack has largely become one-paced and toothless.

Wesley dropping deep and holding the ball up drew out the Spurs defence and created openings and channels for McGinn and Trezequet to exploit, but against the Cherries he failed to cause much concern for the away defence within their penalty box.

So far, Villa seemed to have gassed in the later stages of both their opening games, so Smith will have to look at his in-game management in terms of his midfield and wide men. Also, it’ll be interesting to see how his midfield pans out. At the moment, it’s a shoot out between Conor Hourihane and Douglas Luiz for the third spot, behind John McGinn and Jack Grealish, while the wide men have blown hot and cold.

While Villa supporters got their first taste of Luiz, who apart from a woeful mistake, looked very composed on the ball and scored a cracker, they’ll be suggestions that he needs to perhaps speed his game up to make him more effective.

Hourihane’s set play delivery was no doubt missed in the Bournemouth game, but where does he fit in now, with Marvelous Nakamba nearing fitness?

While there are a lot of question marks about Villa’s new Premier League team, one department that deserves gilt-edged praise is Villa’s centre-back pairing of Tyronne Mings and Brett Engels. They’ve tended to head and block every threat that’s come Villa’s way.

Both have impressed by being cool under pressure too, when in possession of the ball in heavy traffic.

Despite the rush of blood he suffered in the opening seconds against Bournemouth, Villa also know they have a proper defensive insurance policy in the form of Tom Heaton.

If the trio of Heaton, Mings and Engels stay fit for the majority of the season, then it’s unlikely Villa will have to even consider the threat of relegation, once the rest of the team find their feet.

In episode 81 of the My Old Man Said podcast we look at the new team’s start at Tottenham Hotspur’s brand new stadium. The Villa Park opener against Bournemouth is taken cared of in the now released episode 82, where the team’s teething problems are further looked at.

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Back Down to Earth From Spurs’ Spaceship

Aston Villa marked their return to the Premier League with a tough trip to the brand new Tottenham Hotspur stadium to take on the Champions’ League runners-up Spurs in the season opener. Despite tasting a 3-1 defeat, having led the home side for the majority of the game, Villa’s players responded well to their baptism of fire.

David Michael is joined by Max Stokes and podcast new signing Jim Gough to discuss the fallout from the game – from Wesley bashers and Conor Hourihane haters to the birth of Villa’s new nuclear defensive core in Tyrone Mings, Bjorn Engels and Tom Heaton.

We share our thoughts on the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium – is it the best in the UK?

There’s also talk about football vegans, undercover texting security at football games and experiences of first game Premier League VAR.

And of course, the first Scott Hogan Touch Count of the season.



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David Michael – @oldmansaid 

Max Stokes – @villaontour_

Jim Gough – @jimbgough

Producer/Editor – David Michael

My Old Man Said – https://myoldmansaid.com

Villa on Tour – Villa on Tour You Channel

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