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Aston Villa vs Everton - Match preview

Right, shall we try that one again?


              
Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins celebrates
Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins celebrates

For the second year running the Premier League starting gun sounded to find Villa stuck firmly in the blocks, last weekend’s season-opening 2-0 defeat at newly-promoted Bournemouth containing some uncomfortable echoes of the 3-2 loss at newly-promoted Watford 12 months previously.

You can also draw parallels between the opponents they faced in the campaign’s second match. Whereas last August they welcomed to Villa Park a Newcastle team which had battled against relegation the previous season and were tipped to struggle again, this year they host an Everton outfit who struggled against the drop last term and might well find themselves at the wrong end of the table again.

How Steven Gerrard will hope history repeats itself and Villa record a 2-0 win as comfortable as the one they managed against the Magpies to get last season up and running.

One match into a campaign is far too early to get worried. Opening day results tend to be only slightly more relevant, when it comes to determining where a team might be heading, than the pre-season ones before them.

By the same token, Gerrard will no he cannot afford too many performances so insipid as the one served up on the south coast.

Perhaps most troubling, for a manager who during the drawn-out close to last season had the air of knowing precisely what needed fixing, is how quickly his starting XI has been subjected to so many questions?

With the exception of goalkeeper and the full-back positions, there isn’t a position on the pitch which doesn’t already appear up for grabs, though you would suspect new signings Boubacar Kamara and Diego Carlos, together with captain John McGinn, will be given a longer grace period than most.

In truth, it would be a surprise if Gerrard veered too drastically from the XI which started at the Vitality Stadium at this early stage. Carlos and Ezri Konsa are clearly the preferred centre-back pairing for the start of the season, with Tyrone Mings’ groin niggle likely to keep the former skipper on the bench.

Where changes are likely is in attack. Much as Gerrard was frustrated by the manner of the goals conceded against the Cherries, his greater ire was directed toward the lack of finesse and penetration in the final third, with Villa having dominated possession and territory without ever really threatening to score.

Top scorer for the last two seasons, Ollie Watkins, had to settle for a place on the bench at Bournemouth but could be recalled, possibly alongside Danny Ings up front with Villa having been at their most potent during the closing months of last term when they were paired together.

The ongoing question of whether to field Emi Buendia, Philippe Coutinho or both is another for Gerrard to consider. Coutinho was ineffective at Bournemouth, as he was in many of the away matches during his loan spell, but as a “new” signing might well be given another opportunity to impress.

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