All eyes were firmly fixed upon a refreshed Villa line-up and formation ahead of Brentford’s visit to B6. Caretaker boss Aaron Danks made some brave but necessary decisions, benching captain John McGinn, handing a full debut to Leander Dendoncker, and reshuffling our shape to accommodate the under-utilised Emi Buendia.
Thomas Franks’ side arrived as no mugs having held Champions League chasers Chelsea and defeating a decent Brighton side last time out. Few could have predicted that Brentford would see any prospect of points from the encounter extinguished in less than 15 minutes.
A well-worked corner after barely a minute was coolly swept home by Leon Bailey. The big-money Jamaican international looked like a weight had been lifted as he wheeled away in celebration.
Bailey was the provider just 5 minutes later, feeding a smart pass into the feet of Danny Ings who made no mistake from close range to make it 2.
It was game over on 14 minutes, with Ings slotting home a penalty after Mings was fouled in the box by Ajer.
DANNY INGS PENALTY
Villa were truly rampant, and it could have been a whole lot worse for the visitors, who likely couldn’t believe their luck at finding their hosts in such unexpected form.
Ollie Watkins wrapped matters up, scoring on the third attempt having first been thwarted by a save by Raya and then the upright. Overall, it capped a fine and much-needed Premier League win that lifts Villa to 14th and 12 points.
If we needed a reset, this was it, with Villa unrecognisable compared to the meandering malaise endured under Gerrard. The difference in energy levels and intent were stark.
Naturally, there will be questions about how this same group of individual players can suddenly lift their performances, but perhaps that’s too simplistic a way of looking through the prism of just one victory.
Danks has shown courage in immediately dispensing with a formation, eleven and style which the Gerrard regime became unable to correct. The 37-year-old also applied straightforward footballing logic in selecting a formation that suited the players at his disposal and not being sentimental either, sitting the likes of Ramsey, Coutinho and McGinn behind him in the dugout.
Up next, a real test awaits against a 4th-placed Newcastle side high on confidence after victory at Spurs. Danks could not have hoped for a better managerial debut, but it remains to be seen where Villa’s intent lies with regard to appointing a permanent replacement before the trip to St. James Park.Embed from Getty Images