A penalty from Anwar El Ghazi and a Danny Ings bicycle kick secured the win for Villa. The hosts recovered from a slow start and put in a fine second half performance to condemn former Villa boss Steve Bruce to a third consecutive 2-0 defeat at Villa Park.
However, the performance was far from perfect and will surely give Dean Smith some food for thought going into their next match.
Jacob Ramsey is coming good in more ways than one
As usual with Villa, the starting line-up threw up some surprises. The most notable of all of these was Jacob Ramsey’s inclusion. Certain sections of the club’s support had been demanding that the youngster be sent out on loan this summer, so seeing Smith place so much faith in him undoubtedly confused some.
However, he went on to prove the doubters completely wrong. His positioning just in front of Douglas Luiz let him receive the ball from the Brazilian and charge at the Newcastle midfield. It was undoubtedly the best display of his career so far and saw him nominated for Man of the Match by his club.
Ramsey also added a level of dynamism and energy that was rarely seen from Villa last season. Previously, the two central midfielders held their position and distributed the ball out wide or to a player just behind the central striker to link the play. However, the midfielders now have the freedom to run with the ball, pull defenders out of position and find space for the strikers.
This performance from Ramsey is the first spark of life post-Jack Grealish for Villa. The tactical shift to give the midfield players more attacking freedom takes some pressure away from the wide players, while also stopping the gameplan from being one-dimensional. Shifting their attacking emphasis shows that Villa can cut it at a Premier Leaguelevel without their former captain.
Smith will be particularly pleased that Ramsey was the first to highlight this change, however. He has nurtured the young midfielder throughout his time at the club. Smith gave Ramsey his first professional contract, his Villa debut and a pathway into the first team. He threw him in to Premier League football for the first time last season and Villa fans are starting to see why Smith placed so much faith in him.
However, there was one glaring flaw with Villa’s display. Their defence was unable to deal with pace.
It took just four minutes for Tyrone Mings to be spun by Callum Wilson. Even though the striker missed a seemingly easy chance to spare Mings’ blushes, it was only the first time of many that a Villa defender got spun. Ezri Konsa was left on the floor by Allan Saint-Maximin in the second half, while both Matty Cash and Ashley Young also struggled with the Magpies forward line.
The same issue was exposed in their previous match against Watford. Ismaila Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis ran riot against a slower Villa defence and both managed to score. Numerous players also exposed this issue last season. While they were not punished for this against Newcastle, they surely will be when facing a team higher on confidence and clinical finishing.
Villa have added to their defensive ranks this summer with the addition of Axel Tuanzebe, while also being boosted by the return of Douglas Luiz. Both players may prove vital in dealing with the issue, but action will have to be quick and decisive from Smith.