Aston Villa inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Everton on Friday evening, subsequently ending a 1,294 day wait for a Premier League victory.
The most played game in English football league history, tonight’s meeting being number 203, was ultimately decided inside the first quarter of an hour when new boy Wesley broke his Premier League duck. Late substitute Anwar El Ghazi – also scoring his first league goal – would put the result beyond doubt deep into stoppage time.
For Villa supporters, who never stopped making noise, it was a long time coming to see their side victorious in world football’s most watched league. As for Everton, it was a third defeat in their last four games against newly-promoted opposition pouring more doubts on a club hell-bent on unsettling the top-six.
With the first match of this Premier League season’s third gameweek now behind us, here are five things we learned from the encounter.
1. Off the mark
No fewer than half of those participating in the Premier League this season broke their transfer record this summer. Among them were newly-promoted Aston Villa, returning to England’s top-flight after a three-year absence. The powers that be at Villa Park spent big – just over £140m was invested – with Brazilian marksman Wesley Moraes, from Club Brugge for £22m, their most expensive (though with add-ons Tyrone Mings could usurp him).
The moment Wesley opened his tally ❤️️
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) August 23, 2019
He’d feature in the club’s opening two league fixtures, averaging 1.5 shots per game without any reward. His first goal in a Villa shirt came with Friday night’s game just 22 minutes old; a quickly-worked free-kick by Jack Grealish found Jota (also signed this summer), who slid in Wesley to do the rest. If the Villans are to maintain their top-flight status, it’s paramount they keep feeding their new centre-forward.
2. 107-year record still intact
Wesley’s opener had more than just one meaning. Yes, it was the first goal Everton conceded this season, but for them creating a new piece of history went up in smoke. Not exactly renowned for their defensive attributes, 46 goals shipped in last term, Marco Silva’s men started this campaign in resolute manner keeping out Crystal Palace (away) before frustrating Watford (home).
This, naturally, led to some feeling the Merseysiders had turned a corner. Unfortunately, old habits die hard. Such was their brilliant start, in terms of keeping clean sheets, this current Everton team were 90 minutes away from equalling a record set all the way back in 1912/13, which was the last time Everton managed to keep three consecutive shut-outs to start a top-flight season. There is always, of course, next year.
3. Creative full-backs
England’s top division is chock-full of incredible full-back partnerships. Liverpool’s pairing, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, are currently the gold standard, but not far away is Everton duo Séamus Coleman and Lucas Digne, who really showed their attacking worth this evening.
Silva’s men created nine real goalscoring opportunities at Villa Park, with the aforementioned pair combined responsible for all but three of those: Coleman (2) and Digne (4). It was a real illustration of how the Portuguese tactician wants his team set-up; full-backs performing essentially as false wingers, and both love to overlap.
4. Famine over
Heading into this evening’s game, Villa were on a mission. The newcomers, though no stranger to life in the Premier League having been a founding member, had gone 15 matches without registering a win in England’s premier division. Across that run they’d suffer 14 losses, including a humbling 6-0 defeat at home to Liverpool, their only point coming in a goalless draw with fellow relegated side Newcastle United in 2016.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) August 23, 2019
Villa’s last win occurred on February 2, of that same year, a 2-0 triumph against Norwich City. Dean Smith now avoids a third consecutive loss to start his Premier League managerial career – a fate that befell Scott Parker (Fulham) and Jan Siewert (Huddersfield Town) in 2019 – so can now start thinking about establishing Villa as top-flight mainstays.
5. Time for Kean from the start?
Prior to the Premier League getting underway, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who no longer considers himself a prospect, requested to wear Everton’s number nine jersey which in the past was donned by the likes of Andy Gray, Graeme Sharp, Duncan Ferguson, Kevin Campbell and Romelu Lukaku, all of whom were serious goalscorers.
It was a bold statement from a young marksman determined to make this campaign his own. Since joining The Toffees from Sheffield United, he’d go on to bag 11 goals across 78 league outings. It is a modest return, though worth remembering the England under-20 World Cup champion wasn’t a regular starter.
That said, following the arrival of Moise Kean – who looked the real deal at Juventus – Calvert-Lewin is under serious pressure to perform. He’s started this season as Silva’s first choice to lead the line. But as a centre-forward, you are solely judged by the goals you score. If you’re not registering, then expect to come under threat.
After three outings, totalling 231 minutes, ‘DCL’ is yet to open his account. Next up, before the international break, is a visit from Wolverhampton Wanderers. It could very well be the game which sees Kean make his first start in Everton colours, at Calvert-Lewin’s expense if Silva persists with a lone-striker formation.