Aston Villa returned to winning ways in some style on Wednesday night as they muscled past Spurs 2-1 in the Premier League.
Dean Smith’s side have hit a bit of a rocky road in recent weeks without Jack Grealish in their starting line-up, but the return of the club captain and talisman seemed to re-energise them on a day when fans were allowed back into the grounds across the country.
And, despite going behind to a thunderous effort from Steven Bergwijn in the opening minutes of the game, Villa turned things around thanks to a spectacular own goal from Sergio Reguilon, and then a smart finish by Ollie Watkins.
But while the likes of Watkins and Grealish brought that bit of attacking intensity and flair, it was John McGinn’s performance in the middle of the park that really set the tone for Villa.
As per Sofascore, he won six of his ten duels and made two tackles as well as he looked to hustle and harry the Spurs midfield into making mistakes, and giving Dele Alli a rough time of it.
The Scotland international also completed all three of his attempted dribbles, including one piece of magical trickery that was reminiscent of a certain Zinedine Zidane in the second half when he pirouetted away from a couple of Spurs players.
It was no surprise that Chris Coleman, the former Wales manager working on punditry duty for Sky Sports yesterday, said the £60k-a-week earning McGinn was the “heartbeat” of the Villa side.
And, writing in his post-match player ratings for The Birmingham Mail, Ashley Preece gave him a nine, saying: “Another gutsy display. McGinn loves this stadium having scored on his Premier League debut in 2019 while, tonight, he was relentless with his pressing which the likes of Eric Dier and Harry Winks couldn’t deal with. McGinn tried his luck from range a few times as it was clear he fancied himself to score.
“McGinn put in a lovely lofted ball over to El Ghazi just after the break with the winger seeing an effort blocked behind. We also seen the return of the John McGinn spin here at Tottenham with the Scot morphing into Zinedine Zidane to dance past Tottenham’s bamboozled midfield. There was no fading from McGinn on this occasion who was charged up from start to finish. This was the McGinn of old, it was William Wallace-esque.”
So while Grealish’s return to the starting line-up may be the talk of the town given his importance to this side, it was McGinn’s dynamic display in the engine room that really lit a fire under Villa on Wednesday night.
It was no wonder Villa’s own official Twitter account simply dubbed him “exceptional”.