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.”

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.

Smith: Everton tough nut to crack

By Graham Hill

VILLA boss Dean Smith says his side must ‘solve the equation’ of a cracking a watertight Everton defence on Friday night.

Smith desperately needs goals as Villa search for their first win back in the Premier League.

But while Villa have let in five goals so far, Everton have conceded none and their record is 10 clean sheets from their last 12 games going back to last season.

Smith accepts that he has to find something special to break down Marco Silva’s side.

On paper, it looks as though he will name an unchanged side. Despite two defeats, the performances have been encouraging.

One player who might be looking over his shoulder is Anwar El-Ghazi – with Jota waiting in the wings.

But Smith maintains the performances have been good, while Villa are paying for mistakes.

Smith told reporters ahead of the Everton game: “I think some of the patterns we’ve worked on have been good.

“I was disappointed with the last half-hour at Tottenham, that’s been the biggest disappointment so far.

“We sat off them and stayed in our own half for half-an-hour. Against a quality team, you are going to suffer.

“When we have got on the front foot and pushed the opposition high, been a bit braver on the ball, we have caused teams problems. We caused Bournemouth problems last week and Eddie was very complimentary after.

“We certainly need to eradicate mistakes. Last week we conceded a penalty and a soft goal from 30 yards. Jack Grealish has been caught on the ball deep in his own half against Tottenham, Tom has rushed out and given a penalty away. Douglas has let one run when he shouldn’t. Tyrone has probably turned half his back and deflected one in. If we eradicate those mistakes we have points on the board. It is as simple as that, really.”

And Smith needs no reminding about the task facing them against Everton.

He added: “Their defensive record’s very good. That’s a tactical equation we have to come up with. I believe we have the quality to do that and hopefully we can.”

Smith says the chinks in Everton’s armour are tough to find.

The Villa boss said: “There’ve not been too many, with the clean sheets they’ve been getting. But there’ve been some elements where we believe we can create opportunities. That’lll be down to us to execute.”

Smith: Douglas will Pep up Villa

By Graham Hill

DEAN Smith reckons the Pep Guardiola factor is there for all to see in £15million midfielder Douglas Luiz.

The ex-Manchester City player joined Villa this summer when he could not get a work permit to play under Guardiola.

But once the red tape had been sorted out at Villa Park, Luiz was ready to take his place in Dean Smith’s side.

Despite spending the pre-season in Brazil while his passport details were sorted, Luiz was able to come on as a substitute at Tottenham before making his full debut against Bournemouth.

A glaring error allowed Eddie Howe’s men to go two up, but he then scored one of the goals of the weekend to pull one back.

And Smith has seen enough signs to know Luiz will need little introduction to the top flght.

Smith told reporters: “He was in Brazil for pre-season but in terms of his adaptation? No, I am not surprised.

“If someone like Pep Guardiola really wants you then I think you’re a very good player. We’re very fortunate to have him here.

“He’s played the last two seasons in Spain with Girona and as soon as I saw him in training, I knew he would adapt very quickly.

“I felt that he grew into the game against Bournemouth. He got better as the game went on and moved the ball a lot quicker as well. The thing which I really liked about him is he’ll handle the ball anywhere and he uses his body well. He has a really good rhythm about him which you usually see in Brazilian players.