Aston Villa 0 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur
One win in the last six, and three goals in that time, something had to change for Aston Villa. This season started so brightly, but the attacking wheels seem to have fallen off. Nine games have past with Villa failing to score more than one goal. Would Dean Smith be able to turn things round to prevent a dismal end to the campaign?
Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham side have had some poor runs of form in a very stop-start season. Just when things seemed to be on the up for Spurs, a loss in the north London derby followed by a humiliating Europa League exit to Dinamo Zagreb in extra time. Both sides would be coming into this match, looking to recapture some of their previous good form.
Smith made two changes to the XI that started the monotonous affair against Newcastle. Ahmed Elmohamady and Jacob Ramsey made way for a fit-again Matty Cash and Morgan Sanson. The visitors made a swathe of changes after a week that saw poor results and key injuries. Star man Heung Min Son picked up a hamstring problem against Arsenal. The last minute of football Villa fans saw in the stands of Villa Park, involved the South Korean bearing in on goal and slotting past Pepe Reina. The Villans would be hoping for a less infuriating ending to this encounter.
While Spurs came out in the first half an hour and played a lethargic and error-filled game, Villa could do nothing to generate any quality in the final third. As those in claret and blue spurned great positions, Jose Mourinho counted his lucky stars.
All it took to breach Villa’s defence was a direct ball. Emi Martinez charged out and made an uncharacteristic error, then three passes and the ball was in the back of the net. Spurs showed more quality in one attack than Villa have in the past six games. Despite one brief move forward, with Matty Cash finding the legs of the first man with his cross, the life was sucked out of the Villans. The half ended with Villa failing to register a single shot in the first half (for the first time since 2014).
In a bad run of form? Need some points for your relegation battle? Need to score your first league goal for your club?
The team you want to play at the moment is Aston Villa. Villa played into Spurs hands, and allowed them to gain in confidence by through their errors. Dean Smith’s men had their first shot in the 57th minute, and didn’t look like they believed they could score.
Matty Cash made matters worse by diving in on Harry Kane when the ball was rolling out of play. Spurs’ number 10 tucked away the penalty, and the game was well and truly out of Villa’s grasp. It would be nice to say Villa gave it a good go late on to snatch a goal, but they didn’t, and the visitors looked the more likely to add another to the score sheet.
It can’t really be said that the international break has come at the right or wrong time for Villa. With an attack this woeful, there are bigger issues than those that can be sorted in a couple of weeks. That being said, Jack Grealish being back could make a huge difference. However the Villa skipper will know what a huge task he has on his hands to drag his club, kicking and screaming, out of a dreadful spell in front of goal.
Emiliano Martinez – 5
Emi Martinez did make a couple of reasonable claims, and one particularly good save in the second half. In spite of this his evening was spoiled by a poor clearance that gave Spurs the opportunity to open the scoring. An uncharacteristic error from Villa’s ‘keeper, and something that could have been made an irrelevance by showing some teeth in the final third.
Matty Cash – 5
Early on in his first game back since injury, Matty Cash looked lively, and was linking up impressively with Bertrand Traore. His bombing runs in behind from deep were causing all kinds of problems for the Tottenham back line. When he got the ball after making these runs, his delivery was abysmal. Cut backs couldn’t find their man and crosses were wasted from fantastic positions. He topped off his performance with an unthinking slide in, to block a Harry Kane cross that wasn’t coming. Kane out smarted the Villa right-back and won himself a penalty, to take the game further away from the Villans.
Ezri Konsa – 7
The standout performer in claret and blue, Ezri Konsa did what he could to keep things steady at the back. He led the team with nine clearances and four aerial duels won. His ability to be in the right place at the right time often helps Villa get out of tricky situations, as he takes the ball off a forwards toes, or flicks a header out of the box. Even for the opening goal he was trying to do the right thing by diving to block the cross, it was his defensive partner’s positioning that let him down.
Tyrone Mings © – 6
Tyrone Mings had a pretty reasonable game, bar one moment in which he followed the ball instead of his man. For the first goal, he was dragged across to block Lucas’ cross, leaving two Spurs men completely open to finish. Mings could have been a second line of defence to clear any incoming cross. That being said, the rest of his game was on a level with Konsa, his four interceptions led the team, and he even made a couple of important blocks to keep the ball away from Martinez’s goal.
Matt Targett – 5
Eight crosses, one accurate. Villa’s crossing woes continue, and this week’s prime suspect is Matt Targett. It doesn’t seem to matter how much time or space, or how many times Villa have the chance to cross. Most of the time the ball is straight at the legs of the first man, or massively over hit. It’s like watching a full team of Aly Cissokhos. Targett was hard in the tackle, and ended up picking up a yellow card for his trouble, though maybe the earful he gave to Mike Dean made the ref’s decision a little easier.
Douglas Luiz – 5
For every tackle Douglas Luiz made, he made a foul. Lucas Moura ran the Villa midfield ragged, the Brazilian was fantastic as he burst past players with ease. There was nothing Luiz could do to counter this. There wasn’t much more he could have done on the front foot either, maybe releasing the ball quicker and getting it moving up the pitch would have helped, but you can’t expect much attacking impetus to come from your defensive midfielder.
John McGinn – 5
John McGinn was taught a lesson in how to control a midfield, and sh*thousery, by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Super John tried to do his quick turns and back into the opposition midfielders, but it just didn’t work. Hojbjerg was there to make a tackle, and get the game back under Spurs control. McGinn’s passing was all over the place too. Too many times a simple pass would go wrong, or he’d try to put the ball through the eye of a needle.
Morgan Sanson – 6
Just as Morgan Sanson looked to be causing the Spurs defence some issues with his runs down the left… he was taken off. There were some more ragged elements to the Frenchman’s game, he gave the ball away four times. However, he was the only player to consistently get himself into dangerous positions. The concern is he couldn’t find the right ball when he got into those positions, but what Villa player can at the moment?
Bertrand Traore – 5
There were brief moments when it looked like, just maybe, that Bertrand Traore was going to come up with a moment of brilliance. The Burkinabe winger for some reason looked scared to shoot though, and often tried to overplay instead of releasing the ball. After the opening half an hour, he faded into obscurity, and offered little down the right. He did play one sublime pass across to Matt Targett though, which was probably the best moment of the game for anyone wearing a Villa shirt.
Ollie Watkins – 5
There was plenty of graft from Ollie Watkins, and the term ‘thankless task’ will be in the vocabulary of many pundits. This being said, other than when he drifted out wide or tried to hold the ball up, he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. The delivery into the box has been so poor, it’s easy to forget that there’s even a player standing there waiting for the cross. As we saw last season with Brentford, give him chances and he’ll score. Sometimes less is more in terms of the work rate he’s having to put in, better wide players would allow him to focus on his main job, finishing.
Trezeguet – 4
The ever willing runner, but what did he do to actually earn his wages? Sloppy at times in possession and you’d be surprised if he actually scored from his two shots. There needs to be more than just token gesture performances from him, if he starts.
Off the Bench
Anwar El Ghazi (59) – 4
Anwar El Ghazi came onto the field with Villa needing shots, and if there’s one thing the Dutchman can do, it’s put a shot somewhere near the goal. He did just that, as he powered a shot in the side netting… and then didn’t do much else. Apparently he had 14 touches, none of them were of an consequence.
Ross Barkley – 4
If Ross Barkley got on a 50 man shortlist for the England squad for the Euros, it’d be a miracle. Deano’s promise to get the Chelsea loanee in the squad for the European Championships seems to have misfired. He know only gets into Villa’s match day squad due to lack of squad depth. There’s little evidence when he comes on of a desire to turnaround his poor spell. He needs to make things happen, but judging by his reluctance to take the chance that came his way first time, there seems to be a lack of both confidence and conviction.
Keinan Davis – 6
Keinan Davis played well in his cameo. His hard work helped him to turn Davinson Sanchez and play a pass into Ross Barkley, and he created a shooting opportunity for himself from a corner, that was blocked, but there were good signs. Certainly more than many others showed. Even in the final second, Davis powered past a Spurs midfielder and ran with the ball. Villa need to try something else from minute one in the next game, and maybe Davis and Watkins up front together if worth a go.
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Dean Smith – 5
Dean Smith isn’t at fault for the individual errors that actually cost Villa the game. He is at fault for the complete lack of ideas and quality in the final third, and any ways to change up the formation or personnel. It’s three goals in seven games, and Villa haven’t scored two goals in a game since January, and that was in the loss to Burnley.
There needs to be something new, and Deano has a couple of weeks to work on it. A change in tactics, formation, personnel, anything would surely be an improvement (or at least less dull to watch). Though he’ll have his main striker, Ollie Watkins, away from the club on international duty, so he won’t be able to work with him.
This period without Jack Grealish has done nothing to help the ‘one man team’ tag. The question is, will having Jack back make the the team so much better they’ll start playing good football again? Or even be a shadow of what they were earlier in the season? Fans will be hoping so, because currently it doesn’t look like Villa will be picking up many points for the rest of the season.
With Fulham up next, who have Premier League survival to play for, unless there’s dramatic improvement, it’s going to be another tough one to watch.