Gestede thrives with service
Nobody ever really doubted Rudy Gestede’s scoring ability – at least in the second tier anyway – but the question going into this season was could Villa provide him with enough service to replicate the form he showed with Blackburn Rovers?
On Saturday afternoon, his teammates finally delivered. The resurgent Aly Cissokho served up a delicious cross for the towering front man to head home the 21st-minute opener, while he almost added another just eight minutes later after getting onto the end of a perfect ball from Leandro Bacuna.
He eventually snatched his second on the stroke of half-time thanks to some perfect link-up play between Jordan Ayew and Ross McCormack, before turning provider six minutes from time with a clever flick-on to set up Jack Grealish for the third.
The Benin international may have struggled to deliver the goods in his first season at Villa Park, but his latest display certainly proves just how key he could be to the club’s promotion hopes this term if everything clicks around him.
Grealish turns on the class
This has been billed as a make-or-break season for Grealish after seeing his star fade so dramatically last term, but his performance against Rotherham United went a long way towards reminding everyone of his enormous talent. As well as helping set up Gestede’s opener, the 20-year-old midfielder caused constant problems for the visitors with his trickery and vision in the final third, while he also capped off his display with his first goal at Villa Park to earn a standing ovation upon his late substitution.
With more similar showings, it shouldn’t be long before the homegrown playmaker is back to being considered one of the nation’s top talents.
Bacuna’s redemption begins
Bacuna faced a daunting task to rebuild his Villa career after being booed throughout the closing stages of last season for ill-advisedly voicing his desire to play Champions League, but Saturday’s performance suggests that there could yet be a chance for him to win back the support of the claret and blues faithful.
Handed the start over Alan Hutton at right-back, the Dutch utility man looked like a significant upgrade over his Scottish counterpart defensively and also delivered a handful of dangerous crosses into the box over the course of the match as he worked diligently up and down the flank.
It remains to be seen whether there is a long-term place for him in the line-up given the reports linking Ritchie de Laet with a move to B6 but, if he can go on to reproduce the form that helped Villa retain their Premier League status two seasons ago, it will be hard for Roberto Di Matteo to leave him out.
Chester and Elphick hit it off from the go
Only 24 hours after completing his move from West Bromwich Albion, James Chester was thrust straight into the Villa line-up and immediately struck up an encouraging rapport with skipper Tommy Elphick in the heart of defence. The pair may not have had a huge amount to deal with on the afternoon, but both showed great strength and positional sense whenever called into action and deserved their clean sheet when all was said and done.
Tougher tests will inevitably come, but the early signs look promising.
Just what the doctor ordered
While anyone who follows Dr Tony Xia on Twitter would have already known just how different he is to predecessor Randy Lerner, his first home game as owner only served to further emphasise the point. After rousing the Holte End during a lap of appreciation before kick-off, the Chinese chairman proceeded to take countless pictures with supporters during the match and was then seen celebrating wildly in the director’s box at the final whistle, shortly after responding to chants of “Tony, give us a wave!"
That’s the kind of refreshing and open approach the club have been desperately missing over recent years, and it’s sure to win him plenty of admirers going forward.