Aston Villa beat Walsall in preseason opener

Emi Buendia and Ollie Watkins ran rampant in Aston Villa’s 4-0 preseason defeat of Walsall at the Banks’s Stadium on Wednesday, giving supporters a taste of what to expect this season.

Buendia found Watkins twice in his Villa debut, both times with stretching through balls from the midfield to a streaking Watkins who tallied in the 27th and 38th minutes.

The duo played the first half alongside Anwar El Ghazi in a front three, with El Ghazi slotting in on the left side. Jacob Ramsey and Carney Chukwuemeka sat in front of Marvelous Nakamba in a midfield three, though that space became much more fluid in the latter stages of the period as Buendia dropped off much more frequently.

Ashley Young and Matty Cash looked lively at left and right back, respectively, linking up well with the midfield and the wingers in the opening 45 minutes.

Villa changed all 10 outfield players for the second half and went for a front three of Keinan Davis, Jaden Philogene-Bidace, and Wesley. The trio combined in the 51st minute when a quick build-up created space for Philogene-Bidace in behind the Walsall defense. The 19-year-old provided a clean finish to give the guests a 3-0 lead.

Aaron Ramsey populated a midfield three with John McGinn and Connor Hourihane and scored Villa’s fourth goal in the 58th minute with a cool, left-sided finish from outside the box.

Miscellaneous match notes:

  • Buendia was lively on the right but had a much greater impact on the match when he moved into a deeper number 10 role. With increasing talk of Villa signing a winger instead of a number 10, we may see Buendia there full-time
  • Watkins and El Ghazi were typical: Watkins energetic and clinical, El Ghazi inconsistent but threatening
  • The youngsters looked good, especially Chukwuemeka, Philogene-Bidace, and Jacob and Aaron Ramsey. Chukwuemeka is excellent on the ball and Philogene-Bidace offers a lot going forward. Jacob played deeper in midfield and looked good there while Aaron’s finish was clinical
  • It was nice to see McGinn and Hourihane together in midfield for likely the last time
  • Jed Steer and both defensive units that played in front of him were virtually untested. Frédéric Guilbert got forward on the right-sided channels often and looked a threat
  • Wesley looked fairly fit but Davis had more of an impact on the second half. Tough decisions for Dean Smith coming up

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