What the Holte End did to Ashley Young, Aston Villa exits and Unai Emery’s honest Pau Torres verdict

Aston Villa gave the perfect response to losing heavily at Newcastle United last weekend by thrashing Everton 4-0 at Villa Park on Sunday afternoon.

Unai Emery was expecting a reaction from his players, and that’s exactly what he got, as Villa cruised to their first victory of the new campaign. Captain John McGinn broke the deadlock for Villa in the 18th minute, before Douglas Luiz doubled their advantage from the spot six minutes later.

Leon Bailey added a third in the second half, before Jhon Duran came off the bench to bag his first goal for the club and complete the thrashing.

Pau Torres of Aston Villa
Pau Torres of Aston Villa (Image: Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Here are the talking points. How do you replace Tyrone Mings?


Villa carried a threat in attack and were organised in defence, with Everton unable to match them in any department. That’s how Sean Dyche saw the game, as he said: “It was a tough day in the sense they were better than us. Sometimes that happens. They had more edge to their performance.

“We started OK, really soft goals and that changed the feel of the stadium and the feel of our performance. Too many mistakes get punished but overall I won’t make any excuses, they were far better than us today.”

It was a controlled performance from Villa, and one which exposed weaknesses in Everton’s structure. Moussa Diaby and Bailey linked up well from off the right despite struggling to make much happen at St. James’ Park in the opening game of the season.

Both wingers know each other’s games well, and have a connection after two years at Bayer Leverkusen together. They are the quickest players in the Villa squad, so when they lead attacks down the same flank, it causes all sorts of problems for opposition defenders.

Read Also  "One of the better players": BBC pundit can't believe Spurs may sell "sensational" ace with Kane

Villa can be devastating in transition this season, with Diaby, Bailey and Ollie Watkins all capable of running beyond a backline and stretching an opposition. Defenders fear pace.

Bailey recorded an assist and a goal in the win over Everton, while he also helped win Villa’s penalty, by directing the ball towards Watkins inside the box from a set-piece, before the striker was clattered by Jordan Pickford. Bailey’s former Leverkusen teammate, Diaby, nearly scored his second goal in as many Premier League appearances when he slammed the ball towards the top corner with a volley, but Pickford tipped his effort on to the post.

Ashley Young of Everton
Ashley Young of Everton (Image: Photo by Tony McArdle – Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images


The strong performances from Matty Cash, Bailey and Diaby down that right-hand side for Villa meant Ashley Young was in for a long afternoon at left-back. In truth, the 38-year-old was one of Everton’s better players in the game, as he returned to Villa Park for the first time since departing the club for the second time in his career following the expiration of his contract earlier this summer.

Having signed under Dean Smith in 2021, Young then penned a one-year extension last summer to remain part of Steven Gerrard’s squad for 2022/23. The veteran made 29 appearances last term, and only missed five of the 25 Premier League matches which Emery took charge of after he replaced Gerrard in November.

Young was given a brilliant reception from Villa supporters before and even during the match on Sunday. Two minutes after Villa took the lead through McGinn, the Holte End sung a loud rendition of ‘Aye, Aye Ashley, Ashley Young’!

Jhon Duran celebrates scoring for Villa against Everton

Then, in the second half, after Everton won a corner, the Holte End once again gave the former Villan a rapturous applause as he headed over to take the set-piece. His corner nearly led to Everton’s first goal of the season, but Neal Maupay’s effort at the far post was well-saved by Emi Marinez to keep his side’s clean sheet intact.

Read Also  'Loves him’: Alasdair Gold says Ange Postecoglou already absolutely adores £60m Spurs player
Ezri Konsa and Pau Torres of Aston Villa
Ezri Konsa and Pau Torres of Aston Villa (Image: Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)


It was of course the first clean sheet Pau Torres has kept since joining Villa, which will do his confidence the world of good after a difficult evening at Newcastle. He came into the XI in place of Tyrone Mings to make his full debut in front of home fans on Sunday and impressed alongside Ezri Konsa and then Diego Carlos in the second period.

Torres was always looking to move the ball forward and progress possession through the thirds. He does that better than most centre-backs in Europe, but Emery wants him to become stronger in his duels.

“We can help him and we have to be together to try to take a strong structure with the ball, without the ball, offensively and defensively, trying to use each quality to help the team,” Emery said. “He has very big qualities to build up with the ball, but he has to improve being more strong defensively as well in the contact with the duels, but he knows and we are trying to help him, to support him to improve it.”


Emery opted to make a number of changes just after the hour mark which disrupted the flow of the game, but also gave some of his key men a breather ahead of the Europa Conference League play-off against Hibernian at Easter Road on Wednesday.

Luiz, Diaby and Bailey all made way, as Youri Tielemans made his home debut, while Philippe Coutinho and Carlos all came into the action. Later on in the half, Duran and Camaron Archer also featured.

Read Also  Postecoglou ‘to convince’ midfielder to stay after clear message sent to Spurs

Emery is expected to make a number of changes for the match in Edinburgh this week, and he has plenty of options to choose from. He’ll need every member of the squad he settles on come the end of the transfer window, with Villa set for a busy 2023/24 campaign.

Emery wants two players in each position across his squad and has strong depth in various positions. However, a trio of players could yet depart his squad in the final days of the summer window.

Aston Villa's Jaden Philogene
Aston Villa’s Jaden Philogene (Image: Photo: by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


Archer is of interest to a few Premier League clubs this summer, while Lucas Digne is reportedly close to joining Nice on loan. Elsewhere, Villa are said to be in talks with Hull City over the transfer of Jaden Philogene. He wasn’t included in the matchday squad to face Everton on Sunday.

Philogene made a strong impression during pre-season as he featured heavily under Emery across the six friendlies. After winning a penalty in the club’s first pre-season match against Walsall, the winger also impressed against Newcastle on the right wing at the Lincoln Financial Field, before he then scored the opening goal against Fulham.

Philogene started his fourth consecutive game against Brentford, and then played a part in the wins over Lazio and Valencia too. He came off the bench in the 5-1 defeat at Newcastle United last weekend.

What did you make of Villa’s performance? Tell us in the comments section…