Aston Villa 0-3 Leeds United
Perfect record still intact, Aston Villa looked to keep the fairytale going against media darlings Leeds United. Flying high in second, even a draw for the Villans would take them to the top of the table. Leeds were coming off the back of the best one-nil loss ever seen (according to Sky) at home to Wolves.
Villa’s last game against Leeds was the mad one one-one draw in 2019. A game in which Albert Adomah was allowed to score unopposed, and Patrick Bamford put in an Oscar-worthy performance to get Anwar El Ghazi sent off.
Dean Smith had no reason to change the starting XI that got Villa the fourth win in four games. Ollie Watkins would look to get more involved against a makeshift Leeds backline, than he did against the Foxes. There would be no repeat of El Ghazi’s sending off in the Villans last encounter against Leeds, as the Dutchman was replaced on the bench by Keinan Davis.
An end-to-end first half was probably edged by the visitors. Villa struggled when Leeds turned up the tempo in the final third, and Jack Grealish and Trezguet weren’t back enough to help out their full-backs. Leeds had some good chances, with Patrick Bamford failing to hit the target with two golden opportunities. The best chance of the half fell to Villa skipper Jack Grealish, with a shot drilled low past the keeper, but cleared off the line by Luke Ayling.
The problems out wide continued in the second half. The Villans started to gain a bit of momentum, but this was soon shattered. Rodrigo found some space on the left side of the box, fired a shot, and Patrick Bamford dispatched the rebound. Bamford would score two more (with decent finishes) after a spell of play-acting in the Villa Box. All of the Leeds attacks came from balls out wide.
Frustratingly, there was no change in formation or personnel to stop the tidal wave of attacks created from space on the wings.
This is a wake up call for Villa, as they were outworked and outsmarted. Once the first goal went in, there was little fight, and chances only seemed to emerge once the game was out of sight.
That being said, Villa are still second in the table.
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Emiliano Martinez – 7
Emi Martinez was faced with a high volume of shots, and he dealt with the majority of them well. He claimed high balls into the box confidently, and was unlucky to have a good save turned into a rebound goal for Patrick Bamford. While others could be blamed for the defeat, Martinez wasn’t the culprit.
Matty Cash – 6.5
Matty Cash tried his best to stop the torrent of attacks down the Leeds left. The full-back was woefully exposed however, and couldn’t do much to stop Jack Harrison tearing past him time and time again. His work rate was exceptional as he fighting a losing battle, with Alioski and Harrison creating overload after overload down the Villa right.
Ezri Konsa – 6.5
Ezri Konsa was there to sweep up crosses from the left on several occasions. The young centre-back made nine clearances, highlighting just how active he was in the Villa box. These clearances very often came straight back at the Villa defence, as after the opening goal, long balls wouldn’t stick up front.
Tyrone Mings – 5
Tyrone Mings over committed himself trying to cover for Emi Martinez for the first goals, and was therefore out of position. He then failed to close Bamford for the second goal, which resulted in a deflection off the centre-back. There were some of the same problems that fans observed in Mings’ game last season, which is an issue that will have to be corrected next time round.
Matt Targett – 5.5
Matt Targett quite often found himself charging up the pitch when Villa attacked. However, he found it much harder to get back and defend. Even when he got forward, Targett couldn’t create enough, with crosses blocked by the first man. On top of this he has the worst passing accuracy of the Villa back four.
Douglas Luiz – 5.5
This wasn’t the Douglas Luiz’s best game. Having looked a little off the pace against Leicester, this continued. He did make some good tackles, including two in quick succession in the first half, but there was something missing. His pressing for the Leeds third was far to easy to break past for the attacker, and he was generally dominated in the middle of the park by the Leeds midfielders.
John McGinn – 5.5
John McGinn attempted to assert himself in the midfield, but ultimately failed. One lung-bursting run forward was the high point of the Scotsman’s evening. It is a sign of how hard Leeds worked in the centre of the pitch, that McGiin went mostly unnoticed. With players like Douglas, McGinn and Barkley in midfield, Villa should be able to dominate, but this just didn’t happen.
Ross Barkley – 6
When Ross Barkley was able to get some space in the midfield, he looked like he could create something and do some damage. Unfortunately for the Villa faithful, these occasions were few and far between. Barkley did have more shots, and played more key passes than any other Villa player, but he was generally harried and pressed into submission by the Leeds midfield.
Trezeguet – 5
After putting in an incredible shift against Leicester, Trezeguet looked a different player. He wasn’t as active up and down the flank, and allowed overload after overload down the Villa right. It could have been a change in instructions for the Egyptian, stay wider and higher, but it simply didn’t work.
Ollie Watkins – 5.5
Once or twice, Ollie Watkins had the ball in great positions in the box. However, the ex-Brentford man seemed unwilling to shoot at times, and opted to pass when a shot was on. There was a lot of long ball play up to Watkins, which really didn’t work, and certainly didn’t bring the best out of Villa’s record signing.
Jack Grealish © – 6
There were some flashes of brilliance from Jack Grealish. A sensational run from his own box to the opposition box would have been a goal of the season contender, had Jack been able to finish it (or lay it off to Watkins). Leeds pressed and pressed Super Jack, and uncharacteristically he gave the ball away numerous times. He was visibly frustrated by the time Villa were three down, and picked himself up a booking.
Off The Bench
Bertrand Traore (65) – 5.5
The problem of Trezeguet not tracking back wasn’t fixed by bringing on Bertrand Traore. The winger didn’t add much on the attack either, mainly passing backwards when presented with the ball in the Leeds half.
Dean Smith – 5.5
There were some big tactical changes that needed to be made at half-time, as Leeds were getting far too much joy down the flanks. Villa turned up and tried to play their game, and when that didn’t work, they kept trying. Sometimes you need to swallow your pride and make a change.
While Bielsa subbed the yellow carded Struijk off, after just 21 minutes, sensing the player was destined for an early bath, such was the frantic nature of the game, Deano didn’t make the big decisions to change the course of the game.
Even with this disappointing performance and loss, Villa have four wins in five games, and twelve points on the board. Most Villa fans would have taken that at the start of the season. Time to prove this is just a blip in the next one.
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