Verdict: Walsall 1, Villa 5

By Graham Hill

VILLA’S pre-season friendly victory over Walsall gave fans plenty of reasons to be cheerful – but the acid test will come when the Premier League campaign kicks off next month.

It is all very well putting League Two Saddlers to the sword in a 5-1 win, but a strong Villa side did not need to move into top gear.

But some of the individual displays at the Banks’ Stadium on Wednesday night were outstanding nonetheless.

Jota, in particular, showed exactly why Dean Smith wanted to be reunited with the Spaniard after the pair worked together at Brentford.

The former Blues winger was not restricted to a wide role and he scored twice as well as setting up Wesley for his first Villa goal – a remarkably cooly taken penalty kick.

That is spot kick duties sorted for next season then.

And with Jota causing problems, Wesley also showed he could turn provider as the big Brazilian held off the efforts of Walsall’s attempts to stop him before laying on a pinpoint pass for Jack Grealish to make it five.

There should also be honourable mentions for the full-backs Fred Guilbert and Matt Targett.

Both looked accomplished in their roles with Guilbert setting up Jota nicely for the opening goal of the night.

There was a debut for Bjorn Engels who partnered Tyrone Mings at the heart of the Villa defence – but Walsall offered little threat at both players probably be given a greater test in the remainder of this pre-season.

Visa issues kept new Egypt winger Trezeguet out of the Villa line up at Walsall, and with Douglas Luiz and Marvelous Nakamba on their way, there will be more layers to add to Smith’s squad.

The Villa boss also wants a new keeper and a striker of course, so the spending is not over yet and for that reason, it is hard to use the Walsall result as a marker except for individual displays.

But the only question mark lay with keeper Lovre Kalinic who was given a rare game with clubs ready to bid for the now £3millon-rated Croatia stopper. That is the main area for concern with Smith keen to add another proven keeper to his squad before the deadline.


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