While Aston Villa have been far from impressive in their overall play in the opening two games of the season, it’s a good habit to pick up maximum points while you get your house in order. Steve Bruce gave starts to three of his new men, Orjan Nyland, Axel Zuanzebe and John McGinn, so some disjointed play was to be expected. McGinn in particular impressed and gave Villa much more of a cutting edge in midfield.
After going 1-0 up, it looked like it would be a routine win for the home team, before supposed Steve Bruce transfer target Nick Powell equalised, after a mix-up between Jedinak and Nyland. Then ten minutes into the second half, Villa were in danger of throwing the game away after going 2-1 down due to poor marking, before Wigan’s defence gifted Villa an equaliser out of nothing with an own goal.
After that, Wigan could have easily have won it with better finishing, before Birkir Bjarnason’s injury-time winner gave Villa their first back-to-back opening game wins this century.
Villa Player Ratings vs Wigan Home
Orjan Nyland – 5
Nyland picked the ball out of the net more times than he had to make a save. The Norwegian won’t be too happy about Wigan’s first goal and was also found flapping in the second half when he should have comfortably claimed a cross. Still, keepers always need a bedding down period. Supporters will probably get a better insight into him when he should be under more pressure away to Ipswich.
Axel Tuanzebe – 7
Defensively Tuanzebe is sound, but does he have enough cutting edge going forward at right-back to add anything to Villa’s attack? He got in some vital interceptions, cut out a cross or two and kept it simple in possession (Wigan had two free headers on goal from his side, after he was subbed). But should he be alongside James Chester at centre-back, instead? I’d give him a run out there against Yeovil to see how he fares.
Alan Hutton – 6.5
At times last season, Hutton played better at left-back than he did on his more natural flank, but I’m not totally convinced it gives Villa the balance they need on the left. Also, he tends to get forward with more conviction on the right. I’d still be looking for a left-back on loan this month, if I was Bruce. Hutton and Jedinak could have perhaps communicated better in terms of their marking leading up to Wigan’s second goal.
Mile Jedinak – 4
How many times do I have to say it? DO NOT PLAY JEDINAK AT CENTRE-BACK WHEN YOU HAVE ACTUAL REAL LIFE CENTRE-BACKS FIT IN THE SQUAD. Jedinak plays centre-back as if he’s Glenn Hoddle, too casually. This is not the first time playing centre-back he has under hit a back pass to the keeper. He also was a bit sluggish defending the move that turned out to be Wigan’s second. Jedinak may have his role to play against better Championship teams, but against teams we should be beating at Villa Park, he’s best off on the bench.
James Chester – 7
Chester will need to get vocal and marshal his defense as a unit, as they inspired little confidence at times. To be fair, Wigan missed two or three good chances to win the game at 2-2. Chester read McGinn’s free kick well to score Villa’s opener though. Chester will benefit from Bruce deciding on his centre-back partner ASAP.
Birkir Bjarnason – 7
Okay, here’s the thing… I was standing at last season’s Play-off Final at Wembley in May, wondering why the hell Birkir Bjarnason had not come on for Mile Jedinak, when Villa were chasing the game. The Icelandic midfielder is a player who can be more mobile playing DM, yet as the game got more desperate, he had the potential to get into good goalscoring positions to maybe snatch something. You want evidence of this? His injury-time winner today against Wigan.
Admittedly, Bjarnason wasn’t completely convincing during the rest of the game, which suggests he needs a run in the team to get his mojo going. It’s MOMS belief that with Bjarnason alongside Grealish and McGinn, Villa potentially have a dynamic and energetic midfield that will be hard to handle in this division. Will Bruce break from his cautious impulse though?
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6
Elmohamady has done ok playing further forward on the right flank this season, but it would be great to see him hit the byline a bit more and directly attack the opposition left-back. A header off the line in the first half was a notable contribution. He should be more inspired now there’s an Egyptian flag flying above Villa Park!
Jack Grealish – 7.5
Grealish, who received a loud welcome at Villa Park before the game, was a marked man for most of the match with little room to operate (when he wasn’t being kicked). Still, he had the most touches of any Villa player in his role as the fulcrum of Villa’s endeavour. He could have used McGinn a bit more at times to build possession, as opposed to going longer, but that understanding will come and hopefully blossom into something special.
John McGinn – 8 MOTM
Slow to get into the game, but McGinn soon produced a promising display that more than hinted at good things to come. McGinn demonstrated a very decent left-footed delivery throughout the game, including an assist for Chester’s opening goal. Overall, the ex-Hibs man showed great commitment, tenacity and willing running. Considering some of the money Villa have wasted on players in recent seasons, this could be a rare bargain. He also could be the man who unlocks more of the potential of Grealish.
I like this guy…
John McGinn’s already Villa’s best player…that didn’t take long! ???? #AVFC
— My Old Man Said (@oldmansaid) August 11, 2018
Jonathan Kodjia – 5
On a different wavelength from his teammates in the first half and then in the second half cut a frustrated figure as he missed a good headed chance and then couldn’t get anything to work for him. Kodjia constantly struggled to get any purchase against both Wigan centre-backs Cheyenne Dunkley and Cedric Kipre.
There currently seems to be zero swagger in his step. I’d play him against Yeovil to give him a chance to relight his fire.
Andre Green – 6
Looked tidy on the ball, but didn’t really get a chance to run at Wigan, due to them sitting deep for most of the game. He should benefit soon though from playing with the guile of both McGinn and Grealish, who like to operate on his left-hand side.
Off the Bench
Albert Adomah (64) – 6
Tried to get thinks going on the right, although ultimately didn’t see too much of the ball.
Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (73) – 6
Attempted to get in behind Kipre a couple of times, but the Wigan centre-back had the strength and pace to keep him at bay.
Conor Hourihane (86) – N/A
Hourihane only had three touches in the few minutes he was on, but still managed to set up Villa’s last-gasp winner. He would have certainly have had a wake-up call in terms of watching McGinn’s contribution to the team.