Aston Villa looked a lost side in a 2-0 season-opening loss to newly-promoted Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon.
Hopes for a strong start to the 2022/23 Premier League campaign were dashed early doors as Villa looked uninspired, discombobulated, and out of sync and fell behind less than two minutes into the match when Bournemouth’s Jefferson Lerma scored via an early corner.
Despite holding the lion’s share of possession, Villa failed to generate high-quality scoring chances and conceded a second goal in the 80th minute when Kieffer Moore scored with a header in the aftermath of a Bournemouth set-piece.
Late changes couldn’t salvage a point and when all was said and done, Villa generated just 0.61 expected goals (xG) while limiting the Cherries to a 0.51 xG figure.
What went wrong for Aston Villa?
Danny Ings was a surprise inclusion in the starting XI, and although he wasn’t poor per se, he failed to make an impact.
Service to the center forward was undeniably poor, but starting Ollie Watkins over Ings would have given the side more options in wide areas while also creating space for wingers Philippe Coutinho and Leon Bailey to cut inside.
Bailey was decent overall but Coutinho had perhaps his worst game in a Villa shirt. The Brazilian, who completed a permanent move from Barcelona earlier in the summer, was totally anonymous. It was a rough outing for a man who’s meant to be the club’s talisman.
There was a clear disconnect between the defenders and the attackers, and as a result Villa had only 22 touches in the Bournemouth box. John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey struggled to progress the ball through the midfield, so Villa instead relied on wide crosses from the full backs to create chances. But with no clear aerial threats, quality chances never materialized.
Aston Villa lacking identity
It starts at the top: manager Steven Gerrard must establish a clear identity and choose his best squad based on which players are best suited to play in that system.
Recruitment since Gerrard took over as boss suggests he intended to play creative, free-flowing football through the middle of the park with two or three attacking midfielders behind a center forward. On Saturday we watched a side content with conceding the midfield, electing instead to provide service from wide areas to attackers the box.
The problem? Villa don’t have forwards renown for their aerial prowess. If Villa’s tactics on Saturday’s match were planned ahead of time–not the result of an in-match adjustment–then we’re in for a long season. This squad was not built to play that brand of football.
If Saturday display was Gerrard’s idea of in-match tactical adjustment, then, yup, we’re still in for a long season.
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