On 21st July 2019, Aston Villa beat Shrewsbury Town 1-0 in a pre-season friendly courtesy of a Scott Hogan goal.
It was a game of two halves – A different lineup for each – with Grealish, Jota and Wesley standing out as the creative attacking sparks in the side. But at times in the first half, Villa looked vulnerable and at one point should have been a goal down.
Steer (6 – Flapped at a couple of crosses)
Guilbert (6.5 – Poor start but looked lively)
Konsa (7 – Won a couple of headers, good on the ball)
Mings (6 – Did nothing to stand out)
Taylor (5.5 – Poor going forward)
Grealish (7.5, MOTH – Menacing, quick, creative)
Bjarnason (6 – Not what we need but slotted in well)
McGinn (6.5 – Grew into the half and looked lively)
Jota (7 – A menace on the right. Bags of quality, great vision)
Green & Davis (6 – Huffed and puffed. No quality or clinical edge)
Upon seeing the first-half lineup, I felt optimistic. Smith was trying to build the chemistry between Guilbert and Jota, the two stand-out players against Minnesota, as well as the potential centre-back pairing for next season Konsa and Mings. Seeing Grealish and McGinn together again was also enticing. The prospect of seeing Keinan Davis have a run-out against lower league opposition in a game he should be scoring a goal to prove his worth was also interesting.
Villa were poor at the beginning and end of the half, with Shrewsbury having a header from Ebanks-Landell that should have gone in near the end of it. The menace on the right from Guilbert who grew into the game and Jota was clear, but the same cannot be said from the left flank. Green, Taylor and Davis huffed and puffed but they lack the quality and the clinical edge to be useful. They put themselves about well, but Villa need players who can produce in their positions – And if they can’t do it against Shrewsbury, they can’t do it in a proper match in the Premier League.
John McGinn started quietly, but as he grew into the game we improved. Bjarnason recovered well but we need a Douglas Luiz in the midfield – To carry the ball forward so Grealish and McGinn can push up further. Ezri Konsa looks comfortable passing out from the back, he looks like a player with a lot of potential. Grealish was excellent, a creative hallmark who moved the ball well looked sharp on the break and showed how we need him to be next season.
Overall, we had a few shots on target but lacked the clinical edge up front that Green and Davis did not possess. The defence looked sloppy at times – Mings the once, but he was decent overall – so Villa should not be proud of that half.
Steer (5 – Rash, got himself booked. Poor)
Bree (5.5 – Slotted in, did his job but empty going forward)
Chester (6.5 – Solid defensive display)
Hause (7 – Good playing forward and at the back. Solid)
Targett (6.5 – Looks a useful left-back, decent cross on him)
Lansbury (6 – Solid, a good ball to O’Hare who should’ve scored)
Hourihane (6.5 – Good defensive contributions, decent in attack)
O’Hare (6 – Grew into the half but lacks physicality)
Hogan (6 – Got his goal but besides that poor)
Wesley (7, MOTH – Excellent link-up play, great assist)
Hepburn-Murphy (6.5 – Lightning quick but selfish)
The second half lineup filled the gaps left by the mixture of first and youth team in the opening half. I was excited to see the contributions of Targett, Wesley and Hepburn-Murphy and interested to see what O’Hare could achieve in midfield. Sad Engels missed out with a knock though. This lineup, Wesley in particular hopefully, should be netting against Shrewsbury.
Villa was more consistent throughout the half, staying in control for the majority of the half apart from a couple of heart-in-mouth moments courtesy of Jed Steer. Matt Targett looked useful on the left, Bree decent defensively but offered nothing going forward. Hepburn-Murphy showed bursts of pace but missed an easy chance and looked selfish on the ball, at one point earning a shouting-at from Wesley. Hogan got his goal but besides that pulled a standard Hogan performance – Running around but not getting too much done.
In the centre of the park, Chester had a solid performance before walking off in the 90th minute through injury, and his partner Kortney Hause made a vital block and was excellent at moving the ball forward. Conor Hourihane contributed well defensively but did not stand out bar the odd good pass, and the same goes for Henri Lansbury, whose beautiful ball to Callum O’Hare should have ended in a goal. The aforementioned youngster looked better as the half wore on but missed two easy chances. He lacks the physicality and clinical edge required for senior football – A few more protein shakes and a bit more time in the gym alongside a Championship loan would help out O’Hare hugely. Being the first time I saw Wesley play, I was highly impressed. His quality on the ball, his first touch, and speed on the turn are all very good. The Brazilian’s link-up play is exemplary, as shown by his sublime assist for Scott Hogan’s finish, chesting the ball down before turning and half-volleying it over the defensive line for Hogan to finish.
Overall, the second half performance was decent. We controlled the majority of the play, got our goal, and looked solid throughout. The main weakness was Steer’s reckless performance, and he should be displaced as the first-choice goalkeeper come the start of the season.
Looking at the game as a whole, it was another useful run-out for Aston Villa before the season. Grealish, Wesley, Jota, Guilbert, and Targett were all players Dean Smith will be relieved to see play well. Even without the injured men Engels and El Ghazi, Villa have a good foundation to tweak the team before Walsall and negatives to improve on – And hopefully add to the squad with Douglas Luiz and Trezeguet.