Smith hails ruthless Villa display

By Phil Jennings

VILLA boss Dean Smith praised his side’s ‘clincial’ display after they beat Crewe 6-1 in their Carabao Cup tie at Gresty Road.

Goals from Conor Hourihane (2), Ezri Konsa, Freddie Guilbert, Jack Grealish and Keinan Davis made sure Villa eased through.

Smith felt the result was not as clear cut as it seemed, but he was happy to see a Villa side with 10 changes make sure of victory.

The Villa head coach told the club’s official website: “We were very clinical and the quality showed through – certainly with our second goal.

“Keinan Davis was great all night.

“After we went 2-0 up I thought we were very good and ran away with it.

“We showed resilience as well, we had 10 changes, Jota kept his place in the team because he didn’t start the first two games and needed to get some minutes.

“There were a lot of players who haven’t been together since pre-season, but everyone knew their jobs. Their application was first class, it was a real team performance.

“We have quality in the squad, there have been a lot of changes but I’ll pick a team I think is going to win a match. There’ll always be a chance to show me what you can do.”

The only blemish on the night was an injury to left back Matt Targett who came off injured in the first half.

Smith added: “He felt his hamstring and we’re hoping it’s not as bad as you can feat with that kind of injury.

“We whipped him off the field as quickly as possible, he did with a pass, not sprinting or running, we’ll have the prognosis on Wednesday.

“The fans backed us in numbers again, I’m even having to fight for tickets myself! It was great to get six goals for them.

“We got into a winning habit last season and we’ve now bounced back after starting the season with two defeats. We have to keep this going now.”

Bent: Doug has energy and power

By Graham Hill

FORMER Villa striker Darren Bent says Douglas Luiz will be ‘massive’ for Villa this season.

Luiz is fast becoming a fixture in Dean Smith’s midfielder after his £15million move from Manchester City this summer.

And now that the Brazil Under23 captain has come through all the red tape needed for him to get a work permit and passport to finally play in this country, the 21-year-old is making the most of his chance.

He made a shaky start on his full debut against Bournemouth only to score a superb first goal in Villa colours.

And he was a key member of the Villa side that recorded their first win of the season against Everton on Friday.

Now Bent believes the player will only grow in stature this season.

Bent told the Football Insider website: “I thought Luiz gives them a real thorn and a real spine in the side, he’s making a big, big difference for them this season.

“He’s that energy and powerhouse in the midfield. Even when he came in against Bournemouth and scored that goal, you could see he was going to be a key ingredient to the way they play. He’s going to be massive for them this season.”

Wesley put doubters in their place

By Graham Hill

LOOKS like the doubters were a little too quick to write off Villa’s record signing Wesley after all.

Former England midfielder Paul Ince was particularly cutting after the Bournemouth defeat when he suggested the £22milllon Brazilian was a ‘moaner’ and ‘at least I could play’.

It is unclear whether Wesley pays much attention to comments like that – and it was not the only one made after the first two games of the season.

But his clever strike against Everton appeared to lift a weight off his shoulders in that it was his first goal on the back of a big money transfer deal.

After what had been said before, it was refreshing to see Ian Wright on Match of the Day highlighting the fact that Wesley had been causing Everton problems all night.

Villa boss Dean Smith admitted on the eve of the Everton game that he could understand why Wesley was being scrutinised so early on in the season.

The reason is directly linked to the amount of money spent when the 22-year-old was signed from Bruges.

But you can see Smith’s point. All of Villa’s signings need time after such a big turnaround. Some settled straight away, some did not and some have yet to play.

One thing is for certain now, there will be no more pundits and critics questioning when Wesley will score his first goal for the club.

He will need to deliver more than that of course, but for now, the spotlight is not glaring so brightly in his direction.

And there was more praise for Wesley from Talksport pundit and former Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan who said:

“One particular player who stood out for me was Wesley. I liked a lot about him.

“He reminded me a lot of John Carew. He had this presence and power. He bossed the centre-halves. I like his shoulders back attitude, I like the fact he attacks the ball.

“I think he’s going to do a good job for Villa.”

And Wesley’s joy at scoring against Everton was playing to see when he spoke to Villa’s official website.

The big striker said: “I am very happy to help my team with the goal.

“In the first two games, I did not score but the supporters, manager and my team-mates know me, they know my quality – and I am very happy now.

“I hope to continue like this – to help my team-mates, to score goals and to play very well.

“The goal, of course, gives me more confidence. Now I have to continue like this.

“The support was incredible. The noise was incredible. The atmosphere was incredible.

“It’s important for this to continue because it helps you do good things on the pitch. The fans definitely help us.”

Engels in line for Belgium call-up

By Graham Hill

VILLA defender Bjorn Engels’ early season performances could be about to earn him his first Belgium cap.

Engels has combined well with Tyrone Mings at the heart of the Villa defence since his £9million arrival from French side Reims this summer.

And that has brought him to the attention of Belgium manager Roberto Martinez as he prepares to name his squad for the Euro2020 qualifiers against San Marino and Scotland.
The ex-Everton boss has selection worries in defence as Vincent Kompany is injured, Jan Vertonghen is out of sorts at Tottenham while Dedryck Boyata has yet to play for Hertha Berlin.

According to HLN in Belgium, Martinez is considering handing a first cap to a new player.

And while Koln youngster Sebastiaan Bornauw is in contention, Engels, 24, is emerging as a favourite.

Martinez now feels that Engels’ displays, now that he is playing in the Premier League, are giving him more credibility when it comes to being considered for international football.

HITC reports the Belgium boss as saying: “Engels is doing very well in his first matches in the Premier League.

“As a central defender you will be tested more there, and he always received good reports. His coach is also very enthusiastic. He was calm and confident.”

All change at Crewe for Villa?

By Graham Hill

EXPECT Dean Smith to ring the changes at Crewe Alexandra when Villa begin their Carabao Cup campaign.

It is possible the Villa boss could make wholesale changes for the game with players keen to get game time after the club’s summer spending spree.

In goal, it is likely that Jed Steer will replace Tom Heaton – and although Lovre Kalinic is still at Villa Park, Smith will hope to have moved the Croatian on by the end of the week.

At the back, Matt Targett will be pushing for a call up at left-back while, at right back, Ahmed Elmohamady could get a recall.

The two centre backs Tyrone Mings and Bjorn Engels have teamed up superbly so far, but Ezri Konsa and Kortney Hause will be looking to play.

In midfield, Marvelous Nakamba could get a first start with Conor Hourihane land Henri Lansbury looking to come back in.

Out wide, Smith has a choice of Jota, Anwar El Ghazi and Trezeguet although Elmohamady could be pushed further forwards and Konza could play at right back.

Up front, Smith will be tempted to rest Wesley but with Jonathan Kodjia ruled out of the Everton game through injury, there could be a first start of the season for striker Keinan Davis.

Either way, the Carabao Cup is a competition Villa can go far in this season and supporters will be hoping there is no banana skin waiting for them at Gresty Road.

Smith: No Blues stigma for Jota

By Phil Jennings

VILLA boss Dean Smith says Jota can cope with the fact that is one of the few players to cross the city from Blues.

When Smith signed the Spaniard from Birmingham this summer, it raised eyebrow.

Jota was the first player to move from St Andrew’s to Villa Park since Alan Curbishley did it in the early 1980s.

But Smith knew the winger from Brentford and was convinced he could do a job for him in the Premier League.

And he was proved right as Jota starred on his full Villa debut against Everton – making the opening goal for record signing Wesley.

Smith told reporters after the game: “Friday was the first start that he’s had but him and Frederic Guilbert have been excellent in pre-season – but I also wanted the players who had got us promoted got a fair chance as well.

“Neil Taylor is keeping Matt Targett out of the team at the moment. Ahmed Elmohamady was good against Tottenham and was okay against Bournemouth and with the squad we have built up I think you have to be better than okay to keep the shirt.

“Jota can handle it and he can handle the city divide. The Spanish in him probably doesn’t realise how big that divide is but he is a super person and a wonderful technical footballer as well.”

Smith: I ‘scoffed’ at Mings price

By Phil Jennings

DEAN Smith believes Tyrone Mings is ready to be called up by Gareth Southgate for England’s next squad.

Southgate was at Villa Park on Friday to see an outstanding display by Mings in the 2-0 win over Everton.

Now the England boss has to consider who he will select for
the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo.

And Smith says Mings and Jack Grealsh could be in his thoughts now.

But in an era when defenders are being bought for £80million – the £20million it cost to take Mings to Villa from Bournemouth looks a bargain.

The Villa boss told reporters after the Everton game: “I scoffed at the price for Tyrone, to be honest, at the time.

“I took a deep breath. Bournemouth were driving a hard bargain. They knew that we wanted the player because he had done so well for us last season.

“It was a very tough one for me to take but he was a player that I believed we needed, so we ended up spending the £20 million. And I have no regrets about that.

“We did our business early and when you look later on in the window it looks a snip.

“He’s a cult hero here. The fans have taken to his wholehearted performances but it certainly helps that he can work day-to-day on the training ground with John Terry as well.”

Smith will not tell Southgate who he should pick – but says that Mings, 26, has all the credentials he needs.

The Villa boss added: “I’ve said before that I don’t think, as a country, we’re blessed with too many left-sided, left-footed centre-backs and I’m fortunate in that I have two in Mings and Kortney Hause.

“Mings’ first three games in the Premier League have been very good.

“He’s been a Premier League player for three years but unfortunately his time at Bournemouth was blighted with injuries.

“When I brought him in last season he performed outstandingly well for me. That player is the player we are all seeing now and he was excellent again on Friday night.”

How Mings shook off injury scare

By Graham Hill

TYRONE Mings admitted he ‘felt a million dollars’ despite an injury scare in the warm up ahead of the win over Everton.

The Villa defender worked tirelessly in defence as Marco Silva’s side threatened to get back into the game with Villa a goal up thanks to Wesley’s opener.

But Mings suffered a groin injury before the game and had to be treated before he could be confirmed in the starting line-up.

Interviewed by Sky Sports after the game, Mings said: “I went to sprint for the first time and had a sharp pain in my groin so I had an injection and now I feel a million dollars!”

And he praised Wesley who answered his critics in style with a coolly taken opening goal in the first half.

Mings added: “It was important for Wes – he’s not that sort of player who pays attention to what people say, he’s strong minded.

“As a striker you like to silence your critics and get goals as quickly as possible and it will do him the world of good.

“Wes does that to me all the time. He’s a great player. I know sometimes he’s been frustrated in his performances but here, everything came together and he’s a real handful.”

Mings knew Villa could not afford to record a third successive defeat after returning to the Premier League on the back of a summer spending spree.

He added: “It’s never easy the longer a winless run goes on. It’s a big feeling of relief.”

McGinn: Rivals wanted us to lose

By Phil Jennings

JOHN McGinn admitted the pressure was growing for Villa to get their first Premier League win.

And the Scot says that he felt teams who have not spent as much this summer were ‘desperate’ for Dean Smith’s side to carry on losing.

Friday’s 2-0 victory against a strong Everton side was a huge boost for Villa.

But it also banished the memories of that terrible 2016 season when a splintered Villa team were relegated.

This was their first top flight win in three and a half years with goals coming from Wesley – his first for Villa – and substitute Anwar El Ghazi.

But McGinn admitted it was a result that needed to come after opening the season with two successive defeats.

Interviewed live on Sky Sports, McGinn said: “We were shattered out there and it’s a bit of a relief.

“When you spend the money we have there’s always pressure to get off the mark.

“All the teams that didn’t spend much were desperate for us to carry on losing. It was good for Big Wes to score and silence the critics.

“You have to use all that criticism. We knew in the dressing room the kind of players we signed and we had that belief that we can do something this season. One win doesn’t make a massive difference but it lifts morale.”

VERDICT: Villa 2, Everton 0

By Graham Hill

THIS was the moment that Villa showed they belong back in the top flight.

A win over Everton said so much more than the 2-0 scoreline – although there were a few scares near the end.

Marco Silva’s side arrived with a fearsome reputation for giving nothing away at the back.

Only Manchester City had recorded more clean sheets than Everton in this calendar year.

So to break them down after only 21 minutes was huge. And, even better, it was fitting that Wesley was the man to do it.

Anyone who had doubts about the big striker only had to look at the way he took his goal to realise Villa’s record signing has the potential Dean Smith spoke about before the game.

The intelligence of the delayed pass from Jota and the perfect timing of Wesley’s run saw Villa outfox a supposedly tight Everton defensive unit.

From then on, Villa looked far from being a newly-promoted team – and one that was newly-formed in terms of personnel.

Jota’s introduction was a masterstroke and clearly Everton did not know how to handle him at times. It does make you wonder why an other Premier League team has not take a chance on him before now.

It also brought out the best in Anwar El Ghazi who was dropped to the bench only to come on and seal the points late on.

At the back, Villa looked solid although cracks did appear as Everton stepped it up near the end after Silva sent on Alex Iwobi and Moise Kean.

Tyrone Mings even shook off a groin injury suffered in the warm up to produce another inspired display – and his central defensive partner Bjorn Engels was again on top form.

But Smith’s decision to replace Ahmed Elmohamady with French full-back Freddie Guilbert also paid off.

The midfield three again looked accomplished with Douglas Luiz now warming to his place in the side.

But the only worrying aspect was the fact that there is no competition for Wesley’s place up front.

Smith has players pushing for selection in every other department but if Wesley had been taken off last night, the replacement would have been Keinan Davis with Jonathan Kodjia inured.

That is something Smith clearly needs to address in the January window and would have done before the deadline had Villa’s approaches come off.

It means £22million man Wesley is going to have to spearhead the attack for the first half of the season, but while he is still not quite the finished article, his confidence will grow after that goal.

But the other factor was the crowd – and the noise!

There is a fervour among the supporters about Villa right now – something that emerged towards the end of last season when Jack Grealish returned to the side and steered them to promotion.

Villa’s return to the Premier League has been like an unexpected gift for fans. Even as recently as last March, a chance to get back among the elite seemed only a faint possibility.

The momentum has been building since then and what you have now is a deafening cacophony at Villa Park.

That sort of support is going to affect the oppostion all season as long as results like this keep coming.