Aston Villa 3-4 Southampton
Despite no longer being invincible, Aston Villa have had a very promising start to the season. The manner of the defeat to Leeds was worrying to many, but a win against an in-form Southampton would quieten any doubters. Southampton came into the game with three wins in four games, and beat high fliers Everton last time out. The Villans would have to be much sturdier in defence, than against Leeds, to rebuff the Saints energetic front pairing of Adams and Ings.
Villa would have to be at their best to defeat a team that has a good recent record against them. Villa’s last win at Villa Park against the Saints had come in 2004.
Dean Smith named the same matchday 18, but made one change to the starting XI to face Southampton. Bertrand Traore would make his first Premier League start in a claret and blue shirt, replacing Trezeguet on the right-hand side.
A truly awful first half saw Villa’s naivety ruthlessly punished. Giving free kicks away needlessly at the edge of the box is bad against most teams, but against Southampton with James Ward-Prowse, it is almost like giving away penalties. A shot wide from Bertrand Traore was the Villans best chance of the half. The team looked a shadow of that which won the opening four league games. A complete lack of common sense plagued the Villa boys, as they went in at half time 3-0 down.
Villa looked improved in the second half, but a Danny Ings wonder strike saw Villa 4-0 down. The tide then turned as Villa got one back through Tyrone Mings, and banged on the door throughout the rest of the half. Trezeguet, Mings and Grealish had several attempts, but Alex McCarthy was up to the task of keeping the score at 4-1. A late penalty and a superb hit from Jack Grealish made the score more respectable, but the Villans only really turned up the heat after they were out of the game.
Emiliano Martinez – 6
Emi Martinez didn’t make a single save all game. The only action the Argentine stopper saw was watching the ball fly past him into the net. He passed the ball well, even when pressured by Adams and Ings. He couldn’t do a lot to stop the Villa going four down.
Matty Cash – 5
It was a poor performance from Matty Cash. The low point was giving away the free kick, which allowed Saints to go three up. Why he felt the need to thrust his arm out to give away said free kick we will never know. The full-back also failed to close down Danny Ings for Southampton’s fourth. All of Villa’s attacking play came down the left also, emphasising the fact that Cash had little influence going forward.
Ezri Konsa – 5.5
Ezri Konsa was lucky to have not conceded an own goal early on, with VAR sparing the young centre-half’s blushes. There were times when Konsa looked erratic, where his positioning was suspect. Konsa has been impressive so far this season, so this may be just one bad game.
Tyrone Mings – 6
Against the intense press of Southampton, Tyrone Mings’ ball playing style was always going to produce some interesting moments. In general, the 27-year-old passed the ball well, but there were a handful of moments where he caused the Villa some issues. Mings did make some good tackles, which prevented the Saints from doing more damage. He also provided some much needed threat in the final third, notching his second goal of the season.
Matt Targett – 6.5
Former Southampton man Matt Targett, was improved from his dodgy display against Leeds. Yes, he did give away the free-kick that led to the first goal, but he overall helped the Villa cause. All of Villa’s attacking play came down the left, and Targett linked up with Jack Grealish to create chances.
Douglas Luiz – 5
This was Douglas Luiz’s worst game in recent times. The Brazilian couldn’t make an impact in the centre of the park, giving away possession and badly weighting passes. The most idiotic moment of the game came from the Brazilian as he chopped down Theo Walcott to give James Ward-Prowse a chance to make it 2-0 from a free-kick.
John McGinn – 5
John McGinn must have been celebrating Halloween late, as he did a great impression of the Invisible man in the first half (just eight touches). Though maybe he was more like big foot, as there were rumoured sightings of the Scotsman marking Jannik Vestergaard before the first goal. Though the towering centre-half had a free header on goal, so it can’t be true.
McGinn’s combative style was non-existent against a Saints side that pressed and pressed and pressed. The two men of Southampton’s centre-midfield out-worked Villa’s three.
Ross Barkley – 5.5
Ross Barkley was too often caught trying to do too much himself, and attempting to take on players when a pass was available. The Chelsea loanee lost the ball five times in the middle of the park, which damaged Villa’s ability to control the midfield battle. On top of this, Barkley left his shooting boots back on the training ground, as both of his shots sailed high over the bar.
Bertrand Traore – 6
Bertrand Traore showed a few decent touches before going off injured in the 29th minute. he did give the ball away poorly early on, resulting in a Southampton chance, but he had some better moments. His shot from the edge of the box represented Villa’s best attempt during his time on the pitch. His injury looked fairly innocuous, so the Villa faithful will hope it isn’t serious.
Ollie Watkins – 7
There wasn’t a lot for Ollie Watkins to do in the first half, but in the second, there were some promising signs from the striker. His link up play and control on the ball was impressive, and his work before Grealish won Villa’s penalty was fantastic. The way he dispatched the penalty was encouraging, as Villa had trouble converting from the spot last season.
Jack Grealish © – 7.5
Jack Grealish had some moments that were reminiscent of games last season. It looked as if the Villa skipper was sulking and clearly frustrated as they went four down. He did however, spark into life as Villa clawed their way back into proceedings. His goal with the final kick of the game was a brilliant finish into the bottom corner. If Jack had turned it on earlier in the game, perhaps things would have turned out differently.
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Off the Bench
Trezeguet (29) – 6.5
Egyptian Winger Trezeguet could have and should have had at least one goal. He constantly found himself in his infamous position at the back post, but for once he was unable deliver when he was needed most. Alex McCarthy proved a wall between the sticks, and surely on another day Trez would have pulled Villa back from the brink.
Ahmed Elmohamady (67) – 6
Experienced full-back Ahmed Elmohamady came on as Villa tried to force their way back into the game. He failed to deliver one of his trademark crosses, as those that he did deliver were straight into the arms of Alex McCarthy. Though Southampton weren’t attacking as much when he was on the pitch, he didn’t look as ragged as Matty Cash.
Dean Smith – 5.5
One thing that a team can’t afford to do against Southampton is give away free-kicks just outside the box, and the Villa boys naively did just that. This is especially galling when all three free-kicks given away were so avoidable. The fourth goal was a worldie, and there wasn’t much, other than a bit of pressing, that Villa could do about it.
A familiar problem also reared it’s ugly head for the boys in claret and blue once again, poor marking. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Jannik Vestergaard is going to beat John McGinn in the air. The fight back was pleasing at least, and fans will have to hope that they take this and lessons learned from this game into the Arsenal game next Sunday. There is a realistic posibilty of three losses in three after the good start, but we can hope.