Brighton and Hove Albion 0 – 0 Aston Villa
It was Aston Villa’s first VAR controversy of the season, that denied Villa a home point against Brighton. A game at the AMEX stadium would be a different prospect however, as the Seagulls last three home wins have come in three different years. In spite of this Brighton are in a remarkably good period of form, beating Tottenham and Liverpool in recent times. This even came with injuries to Tariq Lamptey, Solly March and a handful of others.
Dean Smith made one change to the XI that beat Arsenal last time out. Despite having a good game against the Gunners, Marvelous Nakamba dropped out for Douglas Luiz. This doesn’t bode well for those on the bench looking to push into the team, as even a good performance can’t guarantee a place in the next starting line-up. Trezeguet, who nearly had enough chances against the Seagulls earlier in the season to make him the Premier League’s top scorer, would be available off the bench. Brighton would be without yet another key man, as centre-back Adam Webster picked up an injury.
It was all Brighton in a very poor first-half for the visitors. The Villans couldn’t make it past Brighton’s initial press, and when they did, passes were inaccurate and over-hit. Brighton had 12 attempts, as they continuously looked to threaten the Villa goal. Emi Martinez was made to work hard, as Trossard and Burn had strikes on goal turned away. Villa’s attacking moves on the other hand broke down before they started. One outside of the area Douglas Luiz shot off target, was all Dean Smith’s men could muster.
The high press of Brighton, whilst not being as energetic as the likes of West Ham and Leeds, meant Villa were rushed, and forced into mistakes. Ezri Konsa, Ross Barkley and Bertrand Traore all had moments to forget as passes resulted in Brighton attacks.
Villa did have a shot within the first few minutes of the second-half, but there was really hardly any improvement from those in claret and blue. Chances came and went for the hosts, Danny Welbeck and Neal Maupay had the pick of the bunch.
As the final whistle went, it was definitely a point gained for Dean Smith’s side, who while being defensively sound, were toothless in attack. The pattern of the game meant that many Villa fans may have wanted to have an unconventional Saturday evening nap. It was a ninety minutes which won’t be remembered by Sunday morning, let alone in weeks and months to come.
Emiliano Martinez – 8.5
In a game where Villa weren’t anywhere near their best, they needed Emi Martinez. The Argentinian was by far Villa’s best player as he was called into action several times in both halves. It didn’t matter how the shots were hit, if they took deflections or not, Martinez adjusted himself, or athletically dived across goal to divert them away. With a lesser goalkeeper, it would have been no points for the visitors.
Matty Cash – 6.5
A Fairly innocuous challenge resulted in Matty Cash going off with what looked like a hamstring injury. The full-back did his job well enough in the 60 or so minutes he was on the field. There was little of the attacking side of his game, as Villa couldn’t get going for any of the first 60 minutes. Cash did play a couple of nice cross-field passes, but as was the theme, nothing actually came from them.
Ezri Konsa – 7
When Brighton tried to unleash shots from the edge of the area, more often than not, Ezri Konsa was in position to block. The centre-half wasn’t dragged out of position, or made to over commit, even when he was one-on-one with a forward. There was one occasion when he was caught out playing an inaccurate pass, but the resulting attack thankfully didn’t bare fruit for Brighton.
Tyrone Mings – 8
Tyrone Mings was the clearance king, as Brighton tried to put balls in behind or into the box. The England international made 11 clearances, as he was in the right positions to intercept Brighton’s forward passes and crosses. The organisational skills of mings were needed greatly as Brighton piled on the pressure, and without it they may have been able to find a gap and grab a goal. Once again there was no risk in Mings’ passing which was pleasing to see, against a pressing side, trying to play overly complicated passes can cause all kinds of problems.
Matt Targett – 7
Leading up to Danny Welbeck’s chance in the second-half, Matt Targett looked all at sea. The left-back watched the ball as it made its way past him without making a single effort to intercept. Otherwise, the 25-year-old put in a good shift while Brighton dominated the ball. Joel Veltman was the home side’s primary attacker down the right, but Targett dealt with the Dutchman well, and prevented him from doing any serious damage from out wide.
Douglas Luiz – 7
There was plenty to keep Douglas Luiz busy in front of the Villa defence. The Brazil international filled in at full-back, dived in to make blocks, and whipped the ball away from Brighton attackers, as the home side pressured the Villa goal. He did commit several fouls in dangerous areas, but these all came after mistakes from other members of the team, and so a foul was often the best course of action.
John McGinn – 6
John McGinn’s passing was all over the place. One moment, he would whip a long pass over the top into Ollie Watkins, the next he would fail to pass the ball to the player directly in front of him. These poor passes meant Villa’s attack just couldn’t get going at all. Defensively speaking, Super John performed admirably, It was just as soon as the Scotsman got the ball in his feet, that the issues started to occur.
Bertrand Traore – 5
Bertrand Traore was nowhere to be seen in the first 45 minutes. The left-footed winger found himself passing the ball backwards whenever he got the ball, and couldn’t find any space to run at the Brighton defence or midfield. His best contribution came just second before he was taken off, a curved forward pass finding the feet of Jack Grealish. No shots, no key passes and no dribbles emphasize just how disappointing the Burkina Faso man was.
Ross Barkley – 5
Chelsea loanee Ross Barkley had a truly abysmal first-half. He gave the ball away four times, and put his team mates in awkward situations with either under hit or over hit passes. His second 45 wasn’t much better. Bar a couple of nice link ups, there wasn’t anything that particularly stood out about his performance. Barkley really hasn’t got going after his injury against the Seagulls earlier this term.
Jack Grealish © – 6
There was just nothing from Jack Grealish all game long. Even against West Ham, once the Villa skipper moved position, he sparked into life. This just didn’t happen against the tenacious Joel Veltman, who had the better of Jack all evening. For Jack Grealish to have no key passes in a game is quite something, and his touch seemed off. Giving the ball away six times is unlike him, but something just wasn’t happening for Villa’s star man.
Ollie Watkins – 6
Ollie Watkins tried his best to hold up the ball when it came to him, and give little flicks and passes into Barkley and Grealish. These attempts were always far too deep, and there wasn’t a single time where he managed to get the ball into his feet in the box. It says it all that the ex-Brentford man had two clearances, whilst not having a single shot.
Off the Bench
Ahmed Elmohamady (60) – 6
Ahmed Elmohamady didn’t do anything wrong is his spell on the pitch. It was easy to forget he was on the pitch, which isn’t bad for a full-back in a game where the team is under the cosh.
Trezeguet (65) – 6
Without pulling up any trees, Trezeguet did have somewhat of a positive influence on the Villa team. While Bertrand Traore couldn’t turn and run at the opposition, Trezeguet tried to do just that. He even created one of Villa’s very few forays into the Brighton box with one such run.
Morgan Sanson (75) – 6
New signing Morgan Sanson showed a handful of good touches. His positive forward running got him into a good position at the near post, but the deflected cross simply hit off the Frenchman and went out of play.
Dean Smith – 5.5
Last season, Villa most certainly would have lost this game. The defensive resilience that has formed the base of the team, is the one real positive from what was a very dull game. Dean Smith said his side made far too many errors, and it is hard to disagree. Brighton had Villa ruffled. Passes were all over the place, Watkins looked isolated and most of the game was played in Villa’s final third.
Does Smith have the midfield tweaks to counter such pressure in the middle of the park, that has been Villa’s undoing in several games now? Could this be a sign of tiredness creeping in? It could be, but a better performance and maybe some rotation will be needed for next time out.
That next game will come against Leicester, who have just done the very fashionable thing of beating Liverpool. Having held on and completed a smash and grab against the Foxes earlier in the season, Brendan Rodgers men will be looking to put Villa to the sword like they did in the league last season. With Jamie Vardy fit, unlike earlier this term, they are a much scarier prospect. Villa can’t afford to be quite as lackluster.