While the focus of attention has understandably been on the role being played by Romelu Lukaku in Everton's splendid start to the season, the influence of Gareth Barry should not be underestimated, according to Roberto Martínez.
"His performances have been a joy to watch," said the Everton manager of the 32-year-old midfielder after a win that briefly lifted his side into third.
Having praised Barry's temperament and application, Martínez got down to specifics. "To be able to see a pass and execute it in the way he does is a talent which you either have or you haven't but he has developed an incredible awareness – the way he sits in for other players, the way he drives forward when he has to, the way he takes decisions. That's so impressive and comes through experience, focus and learning from every challenge he has had in his career."
It is possible to place too much emphasis on statistics but the fact that Everton have won all five of the Premier league games Barry has started for them this season, and none of four he has not, is unlikely to be coincidental.
With the England manager, Roy Hodgson, watching, Barry certainly did the case for his inclusion in the squad for Brazil no harm, although his joining Everton team-mates Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley on the plane to the World Cup remains a long shot. As far as the club is concerned Barry's acquisition on a season-long loan from Manchester City, along with that of Lukaku from Chelsea, looks to have been two of the smartest pieces of business done last summer, and keeping both fit will be among Martínez's highest priorities, particularly Lukaku. The powerful young Belgian international scored his fifth goal in as many games and comfortably outshone his compatriot Christian Benteke, who saw his early penalty for Villa brilliantly saved by Tim Howard, and hit another opportunity too close to the Americaninternational goalkeeper before fading in the second half.
Benteke at least had the excuse of playing his first full game since returning from injury. Gabriel Agbonlahor, whose World Cup hopes appear to be fading, could only hold up his hands after wasting an outstanding opportunity to cancel out Lukaku's crisply taken second-half opener by shooting straight at Howard.
Andreas Weimann, yards offside but not flagged, was another to be thwarted by Howard before Leon Osman, brought on by Martínez for the disappointing Barkley after an hour, created Lukaku's goal. Osman then scored himself, slotting home Barry's intelligent pull-back to make the game safe. With Villa's American goalkeeper Brad Guzan almost as hard to beat as Howard, Hodgson must envy both the USA coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, and Belgium's Marc Wilmots.
Martínez admitted he finds it surprising that Wilmots appears to have decided Lukaku and Benteke are too similar to play in the same team .
"I think it is great to see a country like Belgium having the options they have, they're very lucky. Both Romelu and Benteke play in the No9 position but they are very different and I don't think it should be one or the other. Good players can fit in any team but what's important for Romelu now is playing 90 minutes, week in, week out. Then when it comes to a major tournament he can be of use to Belgium."
While bemoaning their failure to take any of their myriad of chances, the Villa manager, Paul Lambert, was similarly happy with the efforts of Benteke and all of his players.
"We can't afford to miss chances like we did but I'm not worried [about the possibility of being dragged into a second consecutive relegation struggle]," he said. "It feels different to last season."
Man of the match Tim Howard (Everton)