Aston Villa claimed a much-needed win at Villa Park this afternoon thanks to a second-half Conor Hourihane goal and some stellar goalkeeping from Tom Heaton. Here are the biggest takeaways from Villa’s huge 1-0 win over Norwich City.
Tom Heaton’s masterclass:
If Villa are to pull themselves out of the relegation then Tom Heaton is going to have to be in top form, with that said, Heaton’s performance today was outstanding.
With Norwich fighting for their own Premier League survival, the Canaries were always going to prove a tricky test for Dean Smith’s side. Villa may have won the game, but Norwich had plenty of chances to get themselves on the scoresheet and would have if not for Heaton.
The 33-year-old put in a man of the match worthy performance as he produced some excellent saves in the second half to keep Villa ahead.
The highlight of Heaton’s performance was a point-blank save from Onel Hernandez with Villa fighting to hold on to their slender 1-0 advantage, and time running out.
There’s no doubt every player on the pitch is going to have to give their all in the coming weeks and even more so over the course of the rest of Villa’s season, Heaton’s performance today is one that will be bookmarked as a prime example of that.
Konsa and Hause are the way forward, for now:
During last weekend’s loss to Southampton, defensively Villa were awful and we were all left wondering how on earth Dean Smith was going to sort it out. Well, today we saw exactly how and it was flawless to watch, even if it was nail biting at times.
Since Tyrone Mings has been sidelined with an hamstring injury, Smith has elected to go with a centre-back partnership of Björn Engels and Kortney Hause which simply hasn’t worked. Today though, that was not the case as Smith decided to make a change which very much paid off.
With Engels dropping to the bench, it was the turn of Ezri Konsa to come in and partner Hause at the heart of the defence and between the two, they dealt with everything that Norwich threw at them.
Konsa won 75% of his aerial battles with an 83% pass success rate, while Hause won all eight of his aerial battles and won every single one of his five tackles. Kortney also had nine clearances in the game.
As mentioned with Heaton, Villa need players to stand up and be counted, and Jack Grealish as he always does, absolutely showed it today. Grealish was at the heart of everything Villa did all afternoon and caused a lot of problems for Norwich.
Only one player (Ahmed Elmohamady – 67), who was also excellent on the day) had more touches of than Grealish (64) against Norwich, and arguably his best touches were those that created the opportunity for Hourihane to fire Villa into the lead.
Finishing with a pass success rate of 83%, the 24-year-old year old successfully completed 40 of his 73 attempts. Once again, Grealish was excellent and he fully deserved his assist, and could have even scored if not for a smart save from Krul.
Starting Luiz and Nakamba didn’t work:
Without being too critical of what was a huge win and let’s be honest, who cares how the team win, as long as they do. However, if there is one grumble to be had then it’s the fact that starting Douglas Luiz and Marvelous Nakamba just didn’t work.
While Luiz was excellent on the day, the same cannot be said for Nakamba. The Zimbabwean once again failed to have any real positive impact on the game, and almost handed Norwich the lead after failing to deal with the ball inside his own box – AGAIN!
Ultimately, Nakamba was replace by the eventual match winner Hourihane and in truth, not many could argue with Smith’s decision to make the change. As for Luiz, he is the man that Marvelous should be thanking, as he cleared Tettey’s shot off the line after his mistake which could have cost Villa dearly.
With the absence of John McGinn, Villa need assurances in the middle of the park, unfortunately it doesn’t seem like Nakamba is in the type of form to provide that right now. That said, with another huge game coming up against Watford, it will be interesting to see whether Smith hands another stat to Nakamba or whether he chooses to give Hourihane a starting role.
This win could be the one that gets Villa on track and as mentioned, Watford are the next opponents that they will go head to head with. The win was not the prettiest but at the end of the day, you take the three points and run with them! It was a much better effort overall from Dean Smith’s men and a win in the last game of 2019 is exactly what they needed.
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