Aston Villa 0 – 0 Everton
You don’t have to cast your mind back far to remember Aston Villa’s last game against Everton. Less than two weeks ago, Villa put in their best performance of 2021 to beat the Toffees. Since then, an inevitably frustrating encounter with Manchester United has put a dampener on Claret and Blue spirits. The loss of Ollie Watkins, the key man in the last victory against Everton, through a suspension against United, was always going to compromise how Villa could play this time round.
With Watkins out, Keinan Davis was given a rare start and a real opportunity to prove himself in an extended period of game time. The big news though, was Villa started the game with Jack Grealish up their sleeve from the bench, as Villa’s captain finally returned back from injury to the match day squad.
The first-half was about as uneventful as first-halves come. Tyrone Mings had the pick of the chances after 17 minutes. Douglas Luiz showed nifty feet to skip away from his man, and put the ball on the head of Mings. He should have at least got it on target. A teasing Digne cross, just away from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, was the best the visitors could muster. There would have to be improvement from both sides in the second half, otherwise it would be a dull bore draw.
There wasn’t a great deal of improvement in the second 45. There were some half chances for either side, but nothing really to get fans off their seats. Everton edged proceedings with a chance from Ben Godfrey well saved by Martinez. There was a return for Jack Grealish though, with the Villa captain reclaiming his armband from Tyrone Mings on the 72nd minute. He showed a few decent enough touches, but wasn’t able to turn the tide in Villa’s favour.
It’s another point, if an uninspiring one for Dean Smith. A clean sheet is a positive, but there wasn’t a lot to get excited about at the front end of the pitch. The return of Ollie Watkins will definitely give a lift for next time out against Crystal Palace. It was obvious that the team was missing some energy up top.
Emiliano Martinez – 8 MOTM
Emi Martinez picked up his record equaling fifteenth clean sheet of the season. He had to be sharp, and pulled off some great saves off Godfrey and Calvert-Lewin attempts. The Argentinian’s work has made clean sheets a lot easier to come by at Villa Park this season.
Matty Cash – 6
Matty Cash’s season looks like it is over, with less than a fortnight left of the season to go, his hamstring injury is unlikely to clear up time. His delivery was a tad off in this game, either over hit, or at the first man. Defensively however, he was relatively solid, even with Traore offering little in terms of support. The full-back made an interception and a clearance, as well as committing a foul on Richarlison without even touching the opposition forward.
Ezri Konsa – 7
Apart from one looped clearance into orbit, Ezri Konsa was solid as ever in defence. He made five clearances, and was generally able to deal with the threat of Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison. Konsa picked the ball up in some relatively hairy situations while playing out from the back, but was composed. As a result he had the second highest passing accuracy of Villa’s starters.
Tyrone Mings © – 7
Tyrone Mings missed Villa’s best chance of the game, but more than made up for his miss with some very good defensive work. A couple of tackles, aerial duels, and five clearances show how hard he worked to maintain the clean sheet. His diving clearance and desperate sprint to get ahead of Calvert-Lewin was the pick of his defensive contributions. Hopefully he’ll still be available for the final three games, in spite of the limp he had as the final whistle sounded.
Matt Targett – 7
In the first-half, Matt Targett was Villa’s primary creative influence. His link-up with Anwar El Ghazi caused problems for the Everton defence, and his runs in behind towards the byline highlighted his ability on the front foot. Defensively the left-back was sturdy, though he wasn’t tested as much by Seamus Coleman as Cash and Elmohamady were by Lucas Digne.
Douglas Luiz – 7
Douglas Luiz was an effective screening presence in front of the defence. He made two tackles, two interceptions and two clearances in a busy display. The Brazilian was rarely rash, only committing one foul, and filled in well when the full-backs pushed up. This was a lot more composed and measured from Luiz after being drawn in by Pogba in the last game.
John McGinn – 7
John McGinn had a real battle on his hands in midfield, up against Allan. The Scot absolutely dominated the Everton man for large periods of the game. His holding up of the ball, dribbling, and passing were all on display. Occasionally the touch of the player receiving his passes spoiled what could have been good moves.
Bertrand Traore – 5
There were some nice pieces of skill from Bertrand Traore. Unfortunately these were interspersed with some poor passes, overly intricate moves and poor shots. The winger was dispossessed or had an unsuccessful touch three times. He also threw a rather woeful dive into the mix, and was rightly booked.
Ross Barkley – 5
Ross Barkley looked up for it after a lively first couple of minutes. However, much like Traore, his game was plagued with bad passes and sloppy touches. This will likely be Barkley’s final Villa Park game in a Villa shirt. His loan spell had such a promising start, but injury, and some would argue work ethic, have held him back somewhat.
Anwar El Ghazi – 5
Anwar El Ghazi looked lively in the opening stages, and set up a Traore shot with a fizzed cross-field pass. The winger also stung the fists of Jordan Pickford with a free-kick. His influence certainly dwindled though as the second half went on though. The Dutchman had the fewest touches of any of Villa’s starters, with 32.
Keinan Davis – 6
There was some good hold up play from Keinan Davis, and sometimes he worked the ball into good positions. The problem was the players receiving the ball fluffing their touches or passes. Davis is clearly a supporting striker, and needs someone along side him to finish off the chances he sets up.
Off the Bench
Ahmed Elmohamady (46) – 6
Ahmed Elmohamady was solid, if unspectacular after replacing Matty Cash. He clearly doesn’t have a lot of pace left, so didn’t over commit himself too often. One poor defensive header nearly cost Villa a point, but Elmo can thank Mings for sprinting across to cover.
Jacob Ramsey (64) – 6
Jacob Ramsey didn’t do anything wrong after coming onto the pitch, he didn’t exactly light up the game either. His defensive work was a bit lax, as he lost his man a couple of times. One time in particular, he allowed Andre Gomez all the time in the work to control the ball on the edge of the box.
Jack Grealish (72) – 6
It wasn’t the dream return for Jack Grealish. There were some nice touches here and there, and he didn’t misplace a pass, but it’s clear he was a little off the pace after an extended period out. It’ll be good for Jack to get some game time under his belt before the Euros, and hopefully propel his Villa to at least one more win.
Dean Smith – 6
A point against Everton isn’t a bad result for Dean Smith, but on the front foot the performance left a lot to be desired. From a team that pressed like madmen against United, to a team that was giving the ball away too easily and failed to threaten the opposition ‘keeper. The games have been close together, and the loss of Watkins was big, but the drop off was quite drastic.
Deano has said several times about his strong finishes. It’s fair to say that this season’s end hasn’t been as strong as he may have liked.