Any concerns that Aston Villa had ‘done a Fulham’ were blown away by the performance turned in on opening weekend. Dean Smith’s side didn’t claim anything from their visit to North London to take on Tottenham, but for a long time it seemed they would.
Indeed, it took last season’s Champions League finalists 86 minutes to truly break down Villa and even then Harry Kane’s goal, which put Spurs ahead for the first time in the match, came as the consequence of a Jack Grealish error on the edge of his own box. Nobody wants to start their season with defeat, but this was an impressive return to the Premier League for Aston Villa.
A number of players caught the eye. John McGinn was perhaps the standout, not just scoring Aston Villa’s opener on the rapid breakaway, but making a real impression in the face of a Champions League-level midfield. New summer signing Trezeguet was also relatively effective in his drifting role in the final third.
Tyrone Mings was the most impressive of the lot, though, more than playing his part in giving Villa a chance of snatching a point or more. To some the £20 million fee paid for the centre back this summer seemed excessive. Over time, though, this could prove to be a shrewd piece of business for Aston Villa.
Now 26 years old, Mings is making up for lost time. Much was expected of the centre back earlier in his career, making an £8 million move to Bournemouth from Ipswich Town in the summer of 2015. At the time, that was a significant fee for someone who had only played in the Championship up until that point.
At Bournemouth, though, Mings failed to make the step up. Opportunities were few and far between, when they came he was error prone. In truth, Mings looked out of his depth in the Premier League and so it was unsurprising when the Cherries took the decision to loan out the defender for the season half of last season.
It was during this loan spell at Aston Villa that Mings really found himself. He was key to the club’s late promotion charge and so it was of little surprise that Smith prioritised the permanent signing of the defender ahead of Villa’s return to the top flight.
Mings made a massive 17 clearances in the opening weekend game against Spurs, more than double the number registered by anyone else on the pitch. He also made more than double the number of blocks than anyone else and yet didn’t make a single tackle or commit a single foul. Mings got involved he had to, when he was the last line of defence, but there was an assurance to his display.
Positionally, Mings is exceptionally strong and even demonstrated his capacity for making a pass forward, contributing the assist that led to McGinn’s opener. The Premier League certainly isn’t short of top quality centre backs right now – Virgil Van Dijk, Aymeric Laporte, Harry Maguire, Nathan Ake, James Tarkowski, Lewis Dunk – and Mings looks set to join those ranks this season.
The performance of Bjorn Engels alongside Mings also warrants recognition.
The Belgian summer signing looks to have settled quickly in his new surroundings, giving Aston Villa a solid basis on which to build this season. But it is undoubtedly Mings who stands out at the back for the Villains, underlined by his commanding display against Spurs.
Mings will never get back the years he wasted earlier in his career. The move to Bournemouth set him back considerably. But on the flip side, joining Aston Villa has given him back what he surely feared was gone. It might have taken him a bit longer than predicted, but Mings is finally where many thought he would end up all along.