Aston Villa’s 3-0 victory at Derby County was a statement victory heading into the international break. Dean Smith’s team has a lot to build on in the following weeks and months.
ICYMI: Player ratings were posted shortly after the whistle.
The November FIFA international window comes at a less-than-ideal time for Dean Smith and Aston Villa. A full week off, with many starters joining their respective national teams, cuts away time from a club building momentum from its most recent results. Villa return after the window to an intense Second City Derby match-up.
Below, my three thoughts:
1. Remaining contending clubs have losses too
Norwich City remain top of the EFL Championship table after an exhilarating 4-3 victory over Millwall. But, it took the Canaries two goals in stoppage time to earn three points. On the season, they have four losses and a goal differential that’s only twice as large as Villa’s, at +8.
The theme here is that there is not a Wolverhampton Wanderers of last season or an early 2018 version of Fulham in the league this season. Realistically, as many as 13 or 14 clubs have a shot at winning England’s second division and promotion back to the Premier League. This past weekend’s results were kind to the middle of the table. West Brom hammered Leeds 4-1, Sheffield United played out to a scoreless draw with Sheffield Wednesday, Villa beat Derby, and Nottingham Forest could not beat Stoke.
2. Maybe Conor Hourihane can make this position work
I wasn’t overly impressed with Conor Hourihane in the No. 6 position vs. Bolton just a week ago. And while I have my reservations about how Aston Villa can cope against certain teams in a midfield three of Grealish, McGinn, Hourihane; there’s no denying the talent the trio possesses.
Villa have been linked to new midfielders, notably ex-Villan Barry Bannan, but perhaps Conor Hourihane can make deep-lying defensive midfielder his new position.
He’s one of the 5 best players at the club…..he just happens to play the same position as both Jack Grealish and John McGinn, the two best.
3. Left-back should be the #1 priority during the January transfer window
Neil Taylor has had a resurgent return to Villa’s starting XI under Dean Smith with two excellent starts and two poor ones. He was substituted at half-time vs. Derby County with a muscle injury, but it didn’t look to serious as he played for 20 minutes after treatment.
Still, with no recognizable alternative (Alan Hutton shifted to left-back after HT), the position needs a fresh face. Taylor will turn 30 in February and honestly hasn’t been the same ever since the start of the 2016/2017 season with Swansea.