Roberto Di Matteo's men picked up their second clean sheet of the season as they drew 0-0 with the Rams at the iPro Stadium on Saturday evening.
Gollini can handle the pressure
Pierluigi Gollini was understandably facing some scrutiny going into Saturday’s game after committing a couple of goal-costing errors in his first three Championship appearances, but the Italian shot-stopper showed few signs of crumpling under the pressure at the iPro Stadium.
While he only had one save to make, the 21-year-old looked perfectly composed whenever Derby threatened in the final third and commanded his area with confidence throughout the 90 minutes.
It may still be early days, but the highly-rated keeper seems to have the mentality needed to bounce back from any adversity.
Elphick and Chester shine again
Tommy Elphick and James Chester may have only played three games together, but the pair certainly seem to have already struck up a superb rapport in the heart of the defence. Neither centre-back ever really looked troubled by Derby’s attack and dealt seamlessly with any danger thrown their way to help preserve the club’s second clean sheet of the season.
It’s been a good few years since Villa had an established centre-back pairing they could rely on, but the problem finally seems to have been solved.
While Roberto Di Matteo had been optimistic about Mile Jedinak’s chances of making his Villa debut on Saturday, visa complications ultimately meant that the £4 million signing from Crystal Palace had to sit out the match along with the injured Aaron Tshibola.
Ashley Westwood and Gary Gardner consequently started the game and, while the former played fairly well, it was clear that the team were missing some bite and industry in the centre of the park to help them take control of proceedings.
Once the tough-tackling Australian comes into the midfield, though, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Lack of super subs needs addressing
Villa may have a fairly formidable front four in Rudy Gestede, Ross McCormack, Jordan Ayew and Jack Grealish, but the cupboard is worryingly bare beyond them. That issue was made abundantly clear on Saturday when Gestede was forced off midway through the first half with a hamstring injury and his replacement, the fit-again Libor Kozak, struggled to offer anything positive over the rest of the match.
With Di Matteo’s only other attacking option on the bench being 18-year-old winger Andre Green now Adama Traore is in the doghouse along with Gabby Agbonlahor, the Italian seemingly has a bit more work to do in the transfer market before he can say he’s truly happy with his squad.
A commendable result
Villa fans were probably hoping for more than five points from the first four games of the season when they saw the club’s fixture list earlier this summer, but a draw at Derby is certainly nothing to sniff at. The visitors could have easily left the iPro Stadium with a win on another day after hitting the woodwork twice and seeing a Tommy Elphick header cleared off the line, while their sturdy defence also meant that Nigel Pearson’s side only really looked like threatening for a brief spell after half time.
Ultimately, you can’t have many complaints about a draw against a supposed promotion rival – especially when the team are still gelling at this early stage of the season.
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