Villa 4-1 Wigan
For now, we can park the fact that the League Cup has sold its soul to a drinks company nobody has heard of.
Hell, you can hold the draw in Pyongyang for all I care.
What matters in the here and now is that Villa have took a very pleasing uplift over the last 180 minutes of football.
Following on from the excellent result and performance against Norwich, Villa made wholesale changes which brought in many young faces.
What was most pleasing was quite how sharp, direct and eye-catching some of the emerging talent looks.
For too long we’ve under-achieved from the academy, but maybe now we are beginning to see the early signs of something very promising indeed.
Whilst it’s important to not get carried away, the likes of Davis, O’Hare, Doyle-Hayes & Clark are welcome to put pressure on any senior players feeling comfortable in their selection.
Wigan looked limited going forward and were even arguably disinterested during some passages of play. Regardless, Villa controlled the game from the outset. It was a strong, single minded performance.
The ball was move quickly, the goals were good and despite conceding, the response came immediately.
Scott Hogan enjoyed repeated success with his movement and showed the type of finishing we know he has in him. His second goal, a sharp turn and shot beyond the keeper from the edge of the box was a fine strike.
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Adomah, a strangely Marmite figure amongst sections of the Villa support terrorised the visitors all night.
Whilst his crossing can be inconsistent, he is relentless in his attempts to deliver into dangerous areas. The assist for Hogan’s first was smart and his own volleyed finish into the top corner, sublime.
The star of the show was debutant Doyle-Hayes; he really stood out.
The youngster put in the type of showing which must surely give Bruce a welcome head-ache. Smart passing, determined chasing and first touch were excellent.
Now for some controversy. I came in for some stick for suggesting that Gardner didn’t particularly play well. And – broadly speaking I’ll stand by this.
Gardner’s pass to release Adomah to create the first goal is great. Really good.
However, I think that this ultimately sums up his Villa career. A smattering of singular moments.
Nobody wants promising players to fail or not develop as we would want, but Gardner simply hasn’t. Be this as a result of injuries (2x ACL’s) or simply not developing (plenty of game time & loans), whatever, the overall quality just isn’t there.
This stood out against Wigan, as Doyle-Hayes cut a mature, composed figure, Gardner (at 25 years of age) struggled to impose himself or got into trouble on the ball (particularly in the 2nd half). Is he the standard by which any promotion push will be benchmarked? It’s hard to see that being the case.
GOALS GOALS GOALS
It’s certainly good news that the pressure on Bruce has subsided after a clamour following a worrying start – and this is largely down to an enforced change in tact on the manager’s part.
Has a combination of unshackled, fearless players been stumbled upon? Probably, but who cares? The challenge now is for Bruce to be brave enough to persist with a style of play and blend of players that has reaped such reward over 2 games.
Whilst the anger simmering against Bruce was [in my view] over the top so early into the season – the team was under-performing. As the manager, he is accountable to for that. Only he will know whether he would have persisted with Gabby haplessly leading the line had it not been for injury.
But back to Wigan…
O’Hare, whilst not as show stealing as against Colchester, drifted dangerously amongst the attack and the midfield. He’s also unafraid to look up, a great attribute to have when you sniff a defences willingness to stand off. O’Hare looks a really, really good footballer, and if nurtured right could be utilised to devastating effect.
And finally, Bjarnason got a well deserved goal.
The Icelandic midfielder has been constructively criticised on these pages and his early performances scrutinised on the Podcast. Suffice to say he’s been a worry, but there were positive signs against Wigan.
Whilst Bjarnason struggled initially to get going with some poor passing [again], he covered some serious ground against Wigan.
Across the 90 minutes Thor supported the fullback, broke up play in the middle and repeatedly carried the ball out. He also had his obligatory missed chances, but crucially was in the right place to at least threaten. He got the reward for his efforts late on scoring the 4th at the back post.
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Whilst the Villa Jury is undoubtedly out on Bjarnason overall, he’s a player whose position has changed like the wind during his short career in B6. Whether he’ll “come good”, who knows, but it won’t be for the lack of him trying.
Other notable positives were De Laet & Bree looking incredibly comfortable either at fullback or centre-half (they swapped after half-time). There was also a brief cameo from McCormack, who whilst looking rather comfy in his kit, made some good movement and linked play nicely [contrary to what you might have read in the Birmingham Fail].
Villa march on to the third round in what could yet develop into an interesting Cup run. Whilst very much early doors, a winning momentum could serve a league campaign well, whilst also putting the club back on the radar as the rounds progress.
The draw for the next round takes place at 4:15am [GMT] on 24th August from Beijing.
7 Premier League teams exempt from Round 2 will now join the competition, including Man Utd.
The draw is not being televised anywhere and the only place you can get live updates is via the official EFL Cup twitter feed. It will be interesting to see the make up of the fixtures given that proceedings are behind closed doors…
Is this move a heap of needless extra commercialisation? Yes – and the reasoning provided on the EFL’s own website oozes nonsensical marketing jibberish. Consideration for actual fans & supporters of the clubs are once more bottom of the pile.
Villa must negotiate an incredibly close fixture at Bristol City this Friday. Thanks $ky.
Whilst Bruce heavily rotated the squad for the Wigan game, Villa must contend with an important away fixture before the international break.
All eyes will once again be back on the team and expectations have risen (rightly) once again. With the investment and squad, we have to put our away day hoodoo to bed and make a genuine, sustained push up the table.
A win could see Villa reach as high as 9th – which would represent another step in the right direction.