The football is coming at us fast now. If it’s not the domestic season at hand, for fans of footy in England and abroad, and it’s not European competitions, it’s domestic cups.
The Everton will look to move onto the next round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, but Aston Villa will have a good deal to say about that themselves. Since the Blues lost to Villa in the second game of the season, both sides have been trending in the right direction to be fair.
While the Toffees just won their first league match of the season against Brentford last weekend, underlying metrics and what is often referred to as “the eye test,” show a much tougher, more resilient side that has just missed too many opportunities to score; to this end, they have the second biggest discrepancy across the entire Premier League.
Against a tough Villa side, they will have their work cut out for them, even against a side that will, in all likelihood, start their backups across most positions on the field. Can Sean Dyche and company take out the King of the Europa League in the Carabao Cup? We shall see soon enough.
RBM: First off, what is the mood around Villa Park and amongst supporters right now? I know we only just spoke after the Newcastle match, but how have things progressed since?
PV: Clearly, the two big losses away to Newcastle and Liverpool were not good... but there aren’t too many more difficult trips over the year, and they are out of the way now. Four wins from six is a good start. Fans are positive, at least the sensible ones. Villa have not hit the top gear and are clearly working through some growing pains with new players and missing players. Watkins scoring over the weekend is a huge relief because that man gives everything in terms of pressing and running... but he seems to only score in bunches when confidence is high.
RBM: Has everyone bedded in according to plan so far? How is the team coping with the losses they sustained earlier in the campaign to Mings, Buendia, et al.?
PV: Unai Emery has done an excellent job moving pieces around to make the team work... especially given Mings, and Buendia being out. Alex Moreno is on his way back, and Jacob Ramsey has now made two sub appearances — those boost the squad and allow for some different options. The big variable has been Pau Torres. He has made some errors that have led to goals, but he also made some class passes that have created goals from the back line. He will continue to adjust, and in the current set up, he is a huge focal point.
RBM: How is this side dealing with a European schedule and competition too? Is the side deep enough for Unai Emery’s liking?
PV: Warsaw was rough. It was a nice wake-up call that football is different in Europe. There are some depth issues, and a few injuries could make it worse. Jhon Duran has had a flying start to the season, and now I feel comfortable with him as the alternative option to Watkins. But still, an injury to Watkins would really hurt Villa (also, he needs to sign a new contract).
If you look at the bench against Chelsea — Youri Tielemans, Calum Chambers, Clement Lenglet, Jhon Duran, Robin Olsen, Leon Bailey, Leander Dendoncker, Jacob Ramsey, Omari Kellyman — that is a talented group to call on. Most of those players are going to play against Everton either a start or the bench. Not many people know how to balance competitions like Emery...so I trust in him.
RBM: How do you expect Villa to set up on Wednesday, and which of those names do you think could cause Everton the most trouble?
PV: I think it will be mostly the team that started in Poland. Give them some playing time and a chance to redeem themselves. But I think Martinez will sit for Olsen and Jacob Ramsey will get his first start to help build his fitness. I’ll be hoping for 18-year-old Omari Kellyman to start because I love seeing a kid playing in the cup.
Olsen, Chambers, Konsa, Lenglet, Digne; Kamara, Tielemans, McGinn, Ramsey, Bailey, Duran.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Wednesday’s league match?
PV: I’ll say 2-0 to the Villa.
Our thanks to Phil, as always, for his time.