Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz papers over the cracks after poor first start

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This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith dropped Conor Hourihane in favour of giving new £15m signing Douglas Luiz his first start for the club at the weekend.

His home debut was a tale of two halves after a blunder in the first half allowed Harry Wilson to score his first goal for Bournemouth with a long-range deflected effort before very nearly putting the ball into his own net following a cross from the Cherries’ other Wilson, Callum.

Whilst in the second half, the Brazilian earned some reprieve having thrashed a stunning strike in from well outside the area but it wasn’t enough to claw back any form of result for the Villans as they lose their opening two matches.

Hourihane will surely feel harshly done by after losing his starting spot despite a very good showing against the Champions League runners-up, Tottenham Hotspur, on the opening day. He is currently averaging the third-highest rating of any other Villa player at 7.03.

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On the Chalkboard

The 21-year-old Luiz has unquestionable talent, there’s no doubting that.

None more so then when he put in a midfield clinic against one the best teams in the world in Real Madrid – he recorded a 90.7% passing accuracy rate, made three clearances, one interception and won 100% of his tackles.

Despite that, the change in midfield for the game with Bournemouth was a strange one and it was made more questionable following Luiz’s debut in the anchorman role.

He looked far off the pace of the Premier League against Bournemouth.

This, in one part, could be down to the lack of pre-season he’s had – his work permit was finally allowed just days before the season started, meaning his substitute appearance on the opening weekend was his first minutes in a Villa shirt, including pre-season.

In addition, another factor could be the fact that the Premier League is a more intense league than any of its European rivals, including La Liga where Luiz has been plying his trade for the best part of two seasons for Girona.

In 2016, ESPN described England’s top division, saying: “Intensity in the Premier League takes a more physical form. Games tend to be more box-to-box.”

And that is arguably why Luiz struggled.

The quality of the league has increased since those comments too, as seen last season when both the Champions League and Europa League finals were contested fully by four English teams – something that had never happened before.

Against Bournemouth, Luiz had one sloppy error leading to an opposition goal and he also tied second in the game for loss of possession with five, 75% of which led to a turnover.

The 5 foot 9 midfielder did produce a moment of pure quality with his second-half strike further emphasising that the talent is there, but that merely papered over the cracks.

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