Aston Villa were left frustrated on Saturday afternoon as Brentford held Dean Smith’s side to a 1-1 draw at Villa Park, but that only tells half the story.
After their pre-season schedule was disrupted by Covid-19 and transfer rumblings throughout, Villa started the new Premier League campaign quite possibly more under prepared than most, and almost a month later, Smith still hasn’t been able to field his strongest side.
Against Brentford, both captain Tyrone Mings and vice-captain John McGinn were unavailable through injury and COVID-19 protocols respectively. The star of Villa’s 2-0 win over Newcastle last weekend, Jacob Ramsey, was also unable to play a part against the Bees after he was notified that he’d have to self-isolate on Friday afternoon.
Quite simply, Villa haven’t had much luck at the start of this season. But without making excuses, they’ve still put up decent performances in their last two home games to take four points from six, and credit to Brentford, a point was a fair result on Saturday afternoon.
In front of 42,000 fans on both occasions, Villa impressed against Newcastle and Brentford, despite missing Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey, Morgan Sanson, Mings, McGinn or Ramsey for at least one of those games.
To come through the start of the season relatively unscathed in terms of points collected, Smith knows he can build on a decent start to the new campaign.
Here, BirminghamLive brings you some of the big talking points from Villa’s 1-1 draw against Brentford…
KONSA IS A KEY COG
In case it wasn’t already known, Ezri Konsa proved that he is a very much vital part of this Aston Villa team. He has partnered Tyrone Mings at centre-back throughout his Villa career, but on Saturday afternoon, 23-year-old Konsa was equally as impressive despite Mings’ absence.
Granted, Villa weren’t able to keep a clean sheet for successive home games, but Konsa was a calming presence in an otherwise frantic game of football.
Brentford boss Thomas Frank labelled Konsa as a Rolls-Royce defender in his pre-match media duties and Villa fans won’t question the Dane’s assessment, however, with Konsa overlooked for England duty yet against this week, it’ll be more consistent displays this season that will no doubt force the hand of Gareth Southagte to give Konsa his maiden senior England call-up.
Ivan Toney might have scored his first Premier League goal on Saturday afternoon, but as Brentford smelt blood early on, Konsa and Axel Tuanzebe grew into the game and didn’t allow last season’s Championship top scorer to add to his tally after scoring inside the first seven minutes of the game.
The only blot on Konsa’s afternoon would have been a knee injury which saw the defender substituted off the pitch in the final minutes of the game.
VERSATILE ASHLEY YOUNG HAS MANY PARTS TO PLAY
Ashley Young had already played as a left-back and left winger in Villa’s first two games of the new season. He can add centre-midfielder to a list which will no doubt lengthen before the end of the campaign too.
As McGinn was ruled out of Brentford’s visit to Villa Park, 17-year-old Carney Chukwuemeka was handed his first Premier League start and so, to balance the midfield, Young was deployed on the right hand of a three-man midfield to offer experience and energy, would you believe.
Now 37 years of age, Young can contribute to a relatively inexperienced Villa squad with so much more than just an offering of knowhow alone. He was playing Champions League football only several months ago and now clearly capable of filling in wherever needed in Villa’s starting XI, Johan Lange’s decision to offer him a contract at the club has already been proven right.
SMITH NOT AFRAID TO GIVE YOUTH A CHANCE
Jacob Ramsey was notified that he had to self isolate because of COVID-19 on Friday afternoon which left Villa with only a few hours to re-plan his team ahead of Brentford’s visit yesterday afternoon.
He was in no doubt that Chukwuemeka could hold his own and perform on a very big stage, and so, the 17-year-old midfielder was handed the opportunity to make a name for himself at Villa Park.
Ending the week in which Smith also handed Cameron Archer the chance to net a hat-trick on his first full debut, Smith has absolutely no qualms with giving responsibility to teenagers. Many Premier League managers simply wouldn’t entertain the idea, but Villa’s gaffer very much trusts his club’s promising youth stars.
Only last weekend had Jacob Ramsey taken the Newcastle game by the scruff of the neck and made his mark on his full Premier League debut. Yesterday, his younger brother, Aaron, made the substitutes bench alongside Archer and Philogene-Bidace.
BUENDIA COMING INTO HIS OWN
In what has been a tricky pre-season and start to the new league season, due to Covid-19 and injury disruptions, club record signing Emi Buendia has only shown glimpses of what he is capable of in claret and blue.
His strike to put Smith’s back on level terms at Villa Park will be one that lives long in the memory of the Argentine, but he’s not going to stop there. He’ll be planning more moments of magic at the club who were determined to land his signature earlier this summer.
Following his goal in the 13th minute, Villa were stifled by the Bees in the second period, but head coach Smith believes the midfielder will continue to catch the eye as the Premier League season unfolds.
“There were really good signs from Emi,” Smith said.
“That’s why we bought him in, he played a delightful ball for Danny too in the second half which he couldn’t quite get on to, he showed glimpses today.
“We know the player we bought and the qualities he gives us, it’s about getting him relationships now and building those relationships.
“He’s not a replacement for Jack (Grealish), he’s a different player to Jack. He’s looking for fluidity and getting that understanding which will take time.”