Sunday’s victory was a landmark moment in the Claret and Blues’ season. Not only because it was the team’s seventh straight victory, and yet another win over their bitter rivals, but also because it marks the first time Aston Villa have made it into the automatics this campaign.
An incredible run has seen the squad take 52 points from their last 24 games and finally overtake Derby after their 1-1 draw with Norwich on Saturday. Villa are in superb form and can take a multitude of positives from the past couple of months, but here’s a few observations after yesterday’s euphoria.
1. Scott Hogan is the real deal
Despite not making it onto the scoresheet, Scott Hogan put in a mammoth display up top and showcased exactly why he is one of the division’s most in-form players. For the duration of his 80 minutes on the pitch, he chased down every loose ball and didn’t give Blues’ defence a moments’ rest, pressurizing opposition ‘keeper David Stockdale into multiple kicking errors.
His work ethic was phenomenal and he deserved every bit of the rapturous applause he received upon his substitution with 10 minutes to go. Indeed, Scotty was unlucky to leave the field without a goal as his superb dipping effort in the first-half was inches from giving Villa an early lead. If a striker can have that much influence on a game without scoring, it is clear they are a player of genuine quality. Hogan’s continuing form will be vital in getting Villa back to England’s top division.
2. Mile Jedinak’s inclusion a stroke of tactical genius
One of the big talking points in the week leading up to the game was whether Bruce should stick with the same starting eleven that had won six on the bounce, or alter the midfield makeup to deal with Birmingham’s physicality. In the end he opted for the latter, and it was a gamble that certainly paid off.
Jedinak was brought into the team at the expense of Birkir Bjarnason and put in an imperious display. He dominated the midfield, winning virtually every header he challenged for and thwarted the beginnings many a Birmingham offensive. His efforts relieved the pressure on Terry and Chester, allowing them to calmly play the ball forward and build Villa’s attacks, whilst helping limit Small Heath to just two shots on target all game.
It was a textbook performance and more than anything showed the incredible depth now present in the squad. For a man of Jedinak’s caliber to be available from the bench emphasizes how far Villa have come since their final days in the Premier League, when a threadbare selection of subs was an all too familiar sight. We finally have options that allow more tactically adept displays, utilizing different players in different contexts.
More from Claret Villans
- Aston Villa dismiss Everton for first win of Premier League season
- Tyrone Mings injured in Aston Villa’s season-opening 5-1 defeat
- Aston Villa draw Hibernian or FC Luzern for Europa Conference League play-off
- Aston Villa sign winger Moussa Diaby from Bayer Leverkusen
- Aston Villa close in on deal to sign Pau Torres from Villareal
3. Conor Hourihane is the unsung hero
Not since James Milner have the club had a proper goal scorer from the middle of the park, but Conor Hourihane looks to be the man who changes that.
With 8 goals in the Championship thus far, he has already surpassed his tally from last season and looks to be in the hunt for many more. Hourihane cuts an unassuming figure in Villa’s midfield, but always offers a threat going forward and controls play to suit the team’s contemporary needs. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves and has been the squad’s dark horse; hopefully, Sunday’s wonder goal will elevate him even further.
4. The squad has finally become a team
When the referee’s final whistle sounded, what pleased me the most aside from the three points, was seeing how all of the players flooded towards the Holte End to celebrate with the fans. There were embraces all around and every single man on the pitch knew how important that performance had been. We now have a group of players who are fully committed to the cause and understand what it means to be a footballer at Aston Villa, something that bodes well for the season’s run-in and fills me with a confidence I haven’t felt for years.
Bring on Fulham!