Brentford vs Aston Villa – Pre-game Assessment

Sunday, Dec 17th, 14.00 – GTech Community Stadium

Referee: David Coote

What will happen after the high of beating Spurs, Manchester City, and Arsenal in a span of three weeks?  Will our Villans take Brentford for granted?  Like Bournemouth, also fairly recent arrivals in the Premier League, Brentford have had to create their own talent being unable to pay the multi-million transfer fees to attract superstars.  In fact, it was under Dean Smith’s tutelage at Brentford that Ollie Watkins developed to a quality striker and then followed his old boss to AVFC.  The rest is, as they say, history.

By dint of disciplined play and enthusiastic fan support, Thomas Frank’s team makes a visit to GTech Community Stadium always challenging.  Typical was our visit last April.  Then, after a win at Leicester and two shut out wins at home against Newcastle and Nottingham Forest, we struggled to the 87th minute to score the goal that gave us a tie.  That was mostly thanks to Luiz’s persistence.

So how much difference is there between the teams that started that fixture and the likely starters this weekend?  Well, the Bees have suffered quite a daunting combination of injuries (Rico Henry, Aaron Hickey, and Bryan Mbeumo), suspension (Ivan Toney), and transfer (David Raya).  That certainly did not help them last week at Sheffield United where they were beaten 1-0.

While we will surely miss Douglas Luiz (five yellow card one-game suspension), our Villans, at least, have quality options as replacements.  Tielemans can slip back into Luiz’s role while either Zaniolo or Ramsey can start as the linkman to Watkins. 

As for Digne (also on a five yellow card one-game suspension), Moreno is the natural replacement though he struggled in our Thursday Europa game and was replaced by Emery at the 58th minute with Digne.  Hopefully, Alex’s uncharacteristically poor performance will not be repeated as we have very few good fullback options.

Regarding the tie that we achieved against Zrinjski in Bosnia, that gave us top position and lets our team bypass the knock-out round and go straight into the finals round in March.  This will allow us to, in the interim, focus on the Premier League and, secondarily, on the F. A. Cup.  Emery is delighted. 

What he, and the team, has benefitted from is being able to, over the last few months, give players who needed it game-time at a good level.  That could be to recover from injuries or to get to Premier League match level fitness.  Ideally, Zaniolo will have benefited from his start against Zrinjski to show his true potential (especially having scored the all-important goal).

Emery’s good fortune is surely envied by the Spurs manager, Angelos Postecoglou, who rued the lack of European games in a recent interview. 

Overall, I believe that our players who were rested from playing in Bosnia (Martínez, Carlos, Tielemans, Watkins, and Kamara), will be well enough rested to get back to their Arsenal performance.   Meanwhile, Konsa, Torres, and McGinn should all be reliably sound.  That leaves Emery to apply his skill to figure out how to complete the line-up between the balance of the squad (Cash, Moreno, Ramsey, Diaby et al).

It won’t be easy, but there is no reason that we cannot win on the road at Brentford, and I expect Ollie to score.

Result Prediction:

I believe we will improve our away record.  Prediction:  Brentford 1, Aston Villa 2.

Predicted Villa Line-Up:

Aston Villa: Martínez, Konsa, Carlos, Torres, Moreno, Bailey, Kamara, McGinn, Tielemans, Ramsey, Watkins.

Subs: Marschall, Cash, Lenglet, Diaby, Digne, Duran, Zaniolo, Dendoncker.

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