Aston Villa supporters expecting a dramatic revolution on the pitch against Swansea City under Dean Smith were perhaps forgetting that the new Villa boss Dean Smith had just a week of the international break to work with his new squad (many players were also away with their national teams). So, at this stage, it was really a matter of introducing some transitional baby steps.
He got his selection right, playing players in their right positions, most notably in the backline, to give it a straight-forward balance to the backline.
Further forward, wide players Ahmed Elmohamady and Albert Adomah were noticeably pushed higher up the pitch, almost as if they were playing as a three with Tammy Abraham. This allowed Villa to press Swansea higher up the pitch, occasionally win the ball back in good positions and create more overloads (something that Villa struggled to do previously).
The advanced wide men also offered Abraham more support and afforded Jack Grealish more options when bursting forward with the ball.
Ultimately though, the game resembled the Reading home fixture where Villa comfortably dominated the first half, creating numberous chances but only converting the once. In the second half, they faded, allowing Swansea chances to get back in the game. Luckily this time though, Villa hung on for the clean sheet, aided by a handful of saves by Nyland.
The main thing on the day was to get the three-points to allow the feel good factor of Smith’s appointment to continue into what is a tricky week, with two away fixtures within the space of four days.
— My Old Man Said (@oldmansaid) October 21, 2018
Aston Villa Player Ratings
Orjan Nyland – 7
After a nervous start giving away a needless corner, Nyland was well shielded for the first half, but came into his own in the second half with several smart saves. Swansea didn’t really question his command of his area, but it was a performance that will help breed confidence, as will the clean sheet.
Alan Hutton – 7
Looked solid enough and at times gave Villa bite when winning a couple of tackles that won favour with the Holte End.
Neil Taylor – 7
Got caught out a couple of times early doors, but recovered well. Made a goal-saving block and grew into the game. Taylor at the moment is the key to a balanced back line, with the personnel Villa currently have. He will benefit from a run at left-back.
James Chester – 8
His best game for a while, after a disappointing start to the season due to the unsettled backline. Chester was tidy on the ball (96% pass completion) and had the most touches of any Villa player with plenty of important clearances.
Axel Tuanzebe – 7
A sound no fuss display by Tuanzebe who looks like he’ll finally get a run at centre back. It’s hardly rocket science is it?
Birkir Bjarnason – 7
MOMS thought Smith may go with Bjarnason over Jedinak and Whelan in the midfield, despite being on international duty recently. He read the game well in the first half to make a vital cut out of a dangerous cross. Overall, he did the basics well, and although a routine performance from Thor, it suggested he should see more action than last season.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 7
Was pushed up higher up the flank than under Bruce and it paid dividends, especially in the first half. It kept Swansea under the kosh and he got an assist.
Jack Grealish – 7
While at times his delivery was a little disappointing, it was good to see him finally taking more responsibility. Also, went close couple of times. Grealish will probably thrive more with the wide players pushing on more, as it should give him more options when he bursts forward.
John McGinn – 8 MOTM
Gave away the ball away a couple of times in the middle of the park with the odd sloppy pass, but often won it back within seconds. Was tireless in closing Swansea down and frustrating their midfield. Showed excellent commitment throughout the game, particularly the first half. Picked up a yellow card and will be a miss when he is suspended against Norwich.
Albert Adomah – 6.5
Made more key passes than any other Villa player (3) and was reasonably tidy on the ball. Could have been a bit more direct at times with his running and dribbling.
Tammy Abraham – 7
Got the winner, but on another day could have bagged a hat-trick. Despite some poor finishing, at least Abraham is getting in the positions and as Smith develops Villa’s forward play, he should get amongst the goals big time this season.
Off The Bench
Yannick Bolasie (64) – 6
Jonathan Kodjia (74) – 6
Didn’t really do anything definitive going forward when he came on. Swansea were having the best of the game at that point.
Conor Hourihane (83) – N/A
Only had five touches after he replace Grealish, but the right substitution.