Aston Villa took on the European Champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the first game following the international break.
With no Emi Buendia or Emi Martinez available due to COVID quarantine rules, Dean Smith opted for a 3-5-2 set up. Jed Steer stepped in for the missing Martinez with Axel Tuenzebe, Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa just in front of him. Matty Cash and Matt Targett played as wingbacks with John McGinn, Jacob Ramsey and Douglas Luiz across the middle. Ollie Watkins returned and played up top alongside Danny Ings.
Steer looked like he would be in for a busy afternoon as Chelsea came out the better side and it took them just 15 minutes to get themselves ahead.
Romalu Lukaku received the ball on the edge of the box following a superb pass that split the Villa back-line from Mateo Kovačić. The Belgian caused twisted Tuanzebe inside out before sweeping past Steer.
Villa created plenty of chances and would rue their missed opportunities. Watkins probably should have scored but was denied on two occasions by Edouard Mendy. Both Mings and Konsa also tested the Chelsea keeper who was the busier of the two keepers in the first half.
Any hopes of a comeback were dashed minutes after the restart when Kovačić jumped on a poor back pass by Mings to make it 2-0.
Chelsea sealed the victory late on when Lukaku scored the second of his two chances on the afternoon in a scoreline that flattered one of the Premier League title favourites.
- The first goal was too easy for Chelsea as they split the defence. Tuanzebe probably should have stayed on his feet but over-committed making it easy for Lukaku who doesn’t need any help as it is.
- The second goal came from another mistake from Mings. I watched an interview with the captain in the summer and he pointed out that it was a weakness in his game that he is aware of and trying to work on. He pointed out that he grew up as a full back and has probably played fewer games in the middle than most centre-halves. It’s clear we are a better team with Mings in but he always seems to have a mistake in him, I just hope he can cut that out of his game sooner rather than later.
- The Referee. Once again this season I am talking about the officials. The referee was quick to bandish yellow cards out to Villa players while letting very similar stuff past from a Chelsea perspective. Although it had no effect on the outcome of the game, it’s still poor from a Premier League perspective.
- As I mentioned, the scoreline flattered and the difference was they took their chances. I guess that’s what you get with a £100m striker. Villa won’t finish on the losing side too many times this season if they perform as they did yesterday.
- The return of Ollie Watkins. The former Brentford striker has become such a crucial part of the Villa side. The high press in our team works better when he plays as it takes some of the pressure off those behind him.
- The midfield three looked very good again yesterday. Ramsey in particular looks better and better the more we see him. The extra time he spent at Bodymoor Heath over the summer is showing.
- It was good to see us have a go. Too many times against the so-called better teams in the division in previous seasons we have sat back. We had a good go and on another day, maybe it could have been a different result. Despite the scoreline, Chelsea would have known they had been in a game come to the final whistle last night.
Saturday, 18th September – Kick-off: 17.30.
Villa will welcome back the two Argentinan internationals while those who have missed the season so far are getting fitter and fitter. Everton are a much more organised side under Rafa Benitez and we will need to be at our best if we are to see a repeat of last season’s win over the Merseyside Blues.