Jack Grealish

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Aston Villa smashes Norwich City in 5-star win

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Aston Villa climbed out of the bottom three and sank Norwich City into it during a 5-1 defeat of the Canaries at Carrow Road on Saturday.

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Wesley scored a pair of first half goals, and Jack Grealish, Conor Hourihane, and Douglas Luiz also got on the sheet in the big win.

Josip Drmic‘s stoppage time goal ruined Tom Heaton‘s clean sheet in a game with 44 total shots (22 to Villa).

Norwich has six points and sits 18th. Villa has eight and is up to 14th.


Three things we learned

1. The Villans will feel richly rewarded. Will they roll on? Perhaps no side has been less rewarded for performance this season than Smith’s men, including the remarkably silly officials’ decision at the end of the Crystal Palace match. The only shame is that Villa Park was unable to appreciate the moment.

Now can the Villa team feel a little unshackled, with their points meeting their performance for just a second time this season?

2. Mings the man early: Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings has consistently delivered for the newly-promoted side this season, beginning on Opening Day when he blocked every shot on Earth. He didn’t have a great second half at Carrow Road, but don’t sleep on what he did when the game was still in the balance.

Known before his time at Villa for being a big money buy with as many shocking tackles and injuries as good moments, Dean Smith has turned the center back into an England regular. And he is delivering, making an amazing recovery to stop a deflected effort from leveling the score at 1 shortly after Wesley put Villa in front, and then stopping Buendia’s rip in the 28th.

3. Shades of Benteke from Villa’s new big man: Remember for a moment that the Christian Benteke we saw at Aston Villa was unplayable at at times. Now a big Brazilian is conjuring up memories of the powerful yet deft Belgian, as Wesley scored his third and fourth goals of his Premier League career. The second was nothing special, just a center forward in the right place for a cutback, but the first showed the patience to not launch into a low header.

Man of the Match: 


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Stiepermann’s long dribble looked set for a lay-off to Teemu Pukki, who started the move, but the former Borussia Dortmund man took a shot which deflected onto goal.

He’d take another chance off a corner kick, and end up with three attempts when the sequence ended without a goal. Aston Villa had taken the first three shots, Stiepermann the next three.

Wesley’s chest trap and clever finish of a cross onto the doorstep was a deserved opener for the Brazilian big man, who is recalling the early days of former Villa man Christian Benteke.

In-form Tyrone Mings that made a terrific goal line clearances to keep it 1-0 as Norwich threatened the goal.

Anwar El Ghazi missed a clean bid to make it a two-goal lead with a header off the bar, and John McGinn curled a beauty just wide of the far post after fine work in the 27th minute.

Kenny McLean then caught Conor Hourihane’s run into the box to set up Wesley for a hat trick bid, but McGovern made a pair of saves after a slow run-up from the Brazilian.

The floodgates still opened after that, and Villa rightly deserved the three points.

Should we expect more from Jack Grealish?

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The beautiful game often divides opinion, and Jack Grealish is one of those players who often stirs up plenty of debate.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Aston Villa’s captain is obviously a genius, but after another frustrating result for his hometown team, how has he fared as a regular in the Premier League?

Joe Prince-Wright and Kyle Bonn watched the same game on Monday, as Aston Villa and West Ham drew 0-0, but both of our writers have very different opinions on Grealish. That is why we love this game, and talking about it.

Let’s see what JPW and Bonn thought about the English midfielder.


JPW: So, I want to start by saying Grealish can pretty much do anything with the ball. He is a magician and his clever passes and flicks will win Villa plenty of points this season. But he needs to do more, and fast, to have a big impact this season in the Premier League. Against West Ham he gave the ball away cheaply and his hurried finish late on summed up another off night for Grealish. He isn’t a youngster anymore. He’s 24 and needs to deliver, otherwise Villa will be in trouble at the wrong end of the table this season. Villa play well when Grealish performs and he’s just not doing it for me.

Bonn: Grealish can’t be the sole creative force in this team. He’s a fabulous do-it-all player for Villa, and clearly their most valuable asset, but this team has serious issues up front and that can’t all fall on Jack’s shoulders. He was excellent against West Ham, controlling possession and bringing the ball forward. He got a bit frantic and panicked slightly after the red card, but without a clear presence on the wing and a black hole at striker, Aston Villa needs to get him help rather than heap more attacking pressure on the 24-year-old.

JPW: I think one of the biggest issues is that Grealish is doing a lot of his work 50 yards from goal. Marvelous Nakamba and Douglas Luiz aren’t offering much in central midfield and a trio of McGinn, Hourihane and Grealish seems better balanced to me. Grealish just took too much time on the ball, was too predictable and Mark Noble and Declan Rice easily won the midfield battle. I think Villa can get the best out of Grealish by starting him just off Wesley in a much more advanced role. What is Grealish’s ceiling, though? Maybe a decent PL midfielder and a very good Championship player is his level. If that’s it, there’s nothing wrong with that. I just think Villa want more from him.

Bonn: If he’s a decent Premier League midfielder, that’s perfectly acceptable at this point for Aston Villa, and they need to support him. He was the team’s most creative presence against West Ham, and while you’re right that he wasn’t able to control the midfield battle with Rice and Noble, he still provided far more contribution forward than Jota in front of him, or even Anwar El Ghazi on the opposite flank. Who was the one making runs in behind the defense to deliver crosses? Grealish. Who was the one charging at defenders with purpose? Grealish. I know he missed that chance towards the end against West Ham, but he was the only one even pushing for that ball. The rest of this team needs a kick in the tail, and Jack is the one to provide that. While he’s still not a finished product – something we’ve admittedly been saying about him for years now – that fire and spark has value and it’s slowly producing results on the pitch, at least far more than anyone else in this squad. I’m not saying he should start for England, but he’s the most consistent presence Villa has at the moment, and that’s saying something. Get him some help, and he can be a consistently dangerous presence against most Premier League sides.

JPW: There’s a reason Grealish hasn’t broken into the England national team yet. His consistency in the final third just isn’t there. I asked Dean Smith about Grealish after the game, and he said the quality on his final pass wasn’t there, but pointed to the cross for Wesley’s early header. That is the most annoying thing about Grealish. The quality, like he showed on that cross, is there. But he’s made the same mistakes over and over again early this season and I want to seem him learn from that and develop. Remember, this is a player Tottenham Hotspur wanted to replace Christian Eriksen last summer. Is he on that level? Maybe in a top six team he’d be better around top quality players, but I’m not sure he’d play on a regular basis. I’ve seen him twice in the flesh this season and on both occasions I’ve walked away very disappointed.

Bonn: I absolutely agree he wouldn’t play much on a Top 6 side. I don’t think that’s a fair barometer for him at this point, though. Villa doesn’t need a Christian Eriksen. With Marvelous playing well, I thought, at DM and McGinn somewhat positive on the other side, Grealish is in a good spot. He just needs better support up front so he doesn’t receive the bulk of attention. I like where his trajectory is pointed, given what I saw against West Ham, and I hope Villa gives him the tools he needs moving forward.

JPW: I would loved to be proved wrong, but I don’t see Grealish hitting double figures in goals or assists this season. If you’re going to be the main playmaker on a Premier League team, you need to hit those numbers as well as the fancy flicks. Quick final question: Who else can play in Grealish’s position for Aston Villa?

Bonn: You mean of the players currently in the squad?

JPW: Yep. Who comes in for him?

Bonn: Nobody.

JPW: And that is the problem. Villa have no back-up plan. If Grealish doesn’t rip it up, they are going to be in a relegation struggle. At the moment he is not, and they play Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United in five of their next 10 games.

Bonn: We saw the same last season with Fulham. Tom Cairney is a similar player in a similar position. He didn’t have the season the Whites needed from the main midfield playmaker after destroying the Championship, and that was a death sentence.

JPW: We both agree Grealish is crucial to Villa’s success then. But we disagree about his current play. And that, right there, is why we love this game. Nobody is wrong, but I’m right Kyle, I’m right…

Bonn: We shall see!

JPW: Indeed. Enjoyed this. I’m off into the Birmingham night to dodge some Villa fans who have no doubt read this by now. Wish me luck.

Aston Villa, West Ham finish scoreless after Masuaku red

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Arthur Masuaku was sent off in the 67th minute, but that couldn’t save a scoreless dud at Villa Park as Aston Villa and West Ham shared the points.

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The two sides combined for just five shots on target as the two played a spotty match with few real chances. According to Opta statistics, there was just one “big chance” created between the two sides through the 90 minutes.

Masuaku was sent off with 23 minutes to go for a second yellow card, a somewhat contentious decision by referee Mike Dean for a somewhat innocuous foul in the attacking half that featured little more than slight contact and a small drag. A frantic three minutes of stoppage time still left the scoreline begging and that was about deserved for the match.

[ JPW’s analysis of the match ]

The result feels double-edged for both sides. West Ham will be happy with its performance after falling a man down but will want more against a newly promoted side, while Aston Villa will pull out of the relegation zone with the point but may be disappointed with how they failed to grab the win after earning the man advantage.


3 things we learned

1. Jack Grealish is fearless: Ok, fine, we didn’t “learn” this – we knew it already – but we sure had it reinforced. While his teammates were headbutting each other, Grealish was out there balling, delivering excellent crosses, one of the only bright spots in an otherwise drab first half. He had two chances created from open play, three completed dribbles, and a bright passing map before the halftime break. After halftime he marauded into the penalty area along the end line to create a chance, and while he had a bad miss late, he was the only one to even attempt to reach the ball as the rest of his team relaxed and let it fly by. He’s a Dustin Pedroia-like player who gives 1000%, and while he may rub some the wrong way, it’s all a necessary sacrifice for the 24-year-old captain.

2.  West Ham absolutely misses Marko ArnautovicFelipe Anderson is a good player and Andriy Yarmolenko can be dangerous in moments, but neither can make up for the consistent spark Marko Arnautovic provided West Ham. Without his presence, this Hammers side had little to offer an Aston Villa defense that keyed on Felipe. Yarmolenko was poor and couldn’t relieve the pressure put on his Brazilian teammate. The Hammers have enjoyed a somewhat positive start to the season, but they will struggle to produce consistent winning spells without some kind of change in the creativity department.

3. Mike Dean is a good referee: At one point after the Masuaku red card, the away fans audibly changed “it’s all about you, it’s all about you, Mike Dean it’s all about you.” It’s understandable given the soft sending off, but overall Mike Dean did a solid job. The Premier League has somewhat lacked consistent referees after the retirement of Mark Clattenburg, and nobody has stepped up as the top English referee in his place. While Mike Dean makes plenty of mistakes and isn’t on the level Clattenburg was, he’s still a good referee, and it showed today. He had firm control of a somewhat chippy match and while the sending off was easy to disagree with, his overall performance was fair.

Man of the Match: Jack Grealish


Early on, John McGinn saw the ball in the back of the net with a tidy finish from a tight angle, but the goal was ruled out for an earlier foul on Jack Grealish, who was otherwise bright for Villa throughout the match. Three players were booked in the first half-hour, with referee Mike Dean looking to keep the lid on a chippy match.

The most intense moment of the first half came between teammates as two Aston Villa players got into a heated exchange. Anwar El-Ghazi and Tyrone Mings had a coming together that featured a slight headbutt from the former, but the referee was on hand to break things up before it got any worse, with no punishment dished out.

West Ham held nearly 60% possession through the first half, but could only manage one shot on target in a relatively dull first 45 minutes as the home side defended well. Felipe Anderson was tidy in possession but created little with Arthur Masuaku also popping up in spots going forward.

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In the second half, Aston Villa came out with an attacking intent and nearly found a way in on 53 minutes as Grealish got through down the right and delivered a cross parried by Fabianski, which resulted in a shot from distance by McGinn who just missed wide right.

The moment of change came in the 67th minute when Masuaku brought down Ahmed El Mohamady needlessly in the attacking half. It was a relatively innocuous challenge but one Masuaku didn’t need to make. It produced a second yellow for Masuaku and left West Ham down to 10 men for the final 23 minutes.

The game opened up in the final five minutes but nothing came of it. Issa Diop had the defensive moment of the match as he produced a pinpoint tackle on El Ghazi who was in on the break until Diop blocked off the player but also accurately won the ball as the attacker went head-over-heels. Grealish had a bad miss at the death on an excellent delivery from deep, but on replay he was likely just offside anyways and any potential goal would have possibly been pulled out.

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa v. West Ham

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  • West Ham 9th in PL heading into Matchweek 5
  • Aston Villa, 18th in the standings, look to climb out of relegation zone

There was an international break in between to blow off some steam, but Aston Villa, sitting in the relegation zone, remain set on better days following a controversial ending to their last league game against Crystal Palace. For a team whose only win of the season has come at home, it couldn’t get much better than hosting West Ham at Villa Park on a Monday night (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Dean Smith and Co. aren’t necessarily playing bad, if anything their attack-oriented brand of play is as captivating as they get. The lack of finishing, in-game concentration and poor officiating (like against Palace), however, have not done Villa well. That said, their 2-0 victory against Everton weeks back is a testament to what they can really do on a positive night. With revenge on their mind, that can be the case against the Irons.

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On the other side, after a detrimental 5-0 loss to Manchester City to start the season, West Ham have found their groove under a revamped attack. Bundesliga import, Sebastien Haller, has scored three goals in the last two games, which resulted in victories for West Ham. Currently ninth in the table with seven points, with a win at Villa Park, Manuel Pellegrini‘s side can creep right behind the defending champions. It’s a complete 180-degree turn for West Ham, and they know they need to take advantage of the situation.

Injuries/suspensions

Man United: OUT – Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE – None

Leicester: OUT – Jonathan Kodjia (head); QUESTIONABLE – James Chester (thigh), Matt Targett (thigh); SUSPENDED – Trézéguet (one match)


Projected lineups

Aston Villa: Heaton – Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Taylor – McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Grealish – Jota, Wesley, El-Ghazi

West Ham: Fabianski – Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Masuaku – Rice, Noble, Felipe Anderson, Lanzini, Yarmolenko – Haller


What they’re saying

Manuel Pelegrini, on playing Aston Villa: “We need to beat teams like Aston Villa, because last season there were a lot of teams around us that we lost to. Now we will see what happens this season. Villa is a difficult team. Their stadium is very important for them, but we go there as we do in all the other games – to try to win. Villa have had some different results, bought a lot of good players and play an attacking style. I think that they are doing well, they must adapt to the Premier League still, but they have a very good team and a manager in Dean Smith who wants to play in an attacking way.”

Dean Smith, on his player’s urgency to play and perform well: “They’re itching for that next game. There’s a burning desire from them to right the wrongs. I can sense that.The international break has given us an opportunity. For instance, we’ve been able to work a lot on our breakthrough opportunities as all of our forward players have been here.”


Prediction

Both teams don’t need extra motivation heading into Monday. It’s simply a matter of who wants the three points more. Obviously, given their position on the table, Villa could benefit more from a win than West Ham. Couple that with Villa playing in front of their vociferous and passionate crowd, and that might be the secret ingredient for the home side to squeeze out a win against what will be a challenging bout against Pellegrini’s side. Aston Villa, 2-1.

Smith wants ‘competitive’ Aston Villa following loss in PL return

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Despite a 3-1 loss, Aston Villa fought tooth and nail in their return to the Premier League against Tottenham, and manager Dean Smith wasted no time in affirming that that’s the integrity he expects from his team this season.

“We want to be competitive in this league,” Smith told the BBC following the match. “Next week we’ll be walking out at Villa Park – but we’ll be doing so with zero points and that’s something we have to work on.

“The better team won on the day in the second half,” he added. “We were perhaps unfortunate with the goals. Their physicality shone through in the end.”

Up only nine minutes in following John McGinn‘s left-footed strike, Villa defended their lead for more than 60 minutes in front of a vociferous Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, remaining narrow and compact in the back. Summer signing Tom Heaton, who had three saves throughout the 90 minutes, was heavily applauded and cheered by Villa’s traveling faithful for his superlative saves. Tyrone Mings and Björn Engles set a positive tone defensively.

“The first half performance and our defensive organization was very good,” Smith admitted. “They’re not Champions League finalists for nothing – they have a very well coached group of players. We’re always learning lessons, today’s game has set a standard for us.”

At the end, Villa’s defensive solidity and dangerous counter-attacks – powered by McGinn and captain Jack Grealish – weren’t enough to offset one of the league’s best in Harry Kane. Tottenham’s striker recorded a brace in the final minutes to spoil any chances of Villa walking out with points, adding to Tanguy Ndombele‘s memorable debut goal.

The newly-promoted side left North London empty-handed, yes, but with a good lesson learned. And while on the field, they made sure to send a clear message: earning three points against them will not come easy.