Three points in the dying seconds in a relegation battle against Watford, meant that a trip to Bournemouth provided a chance for the Villa to pull away from the bottom three. Previously this season, the Villans have failed to make the most of any opportunities to put some light between themselves and the dreaded drop-zone; most notably when playing Watford and Southampton in December. A win in the League Cup semi-final was sure to have Dean Smith’s men in high spirits, and confident that they could put in a performance against the Cherries.
Smith made one change from the team that won through to Wembley, with Pepe Reina returning in place of Orjan Nyland. Also, Ally Samatta, became the first Tanzanian to play in the Premier League, as he made his League debut up front.
It was a yet another frustrating afternoon for the Villans, and one or two fans were probably saying ‘here we go again’ as they failed to get going early on.
Villa found themselves in the same predicament as they did against Bournemouth at Villa Park, two down after two defensive lapses. Once again, the inability to defend set pieces and crosses into the box was evident. Bournemouth players were gifted space and time to finish twice, as the Villa defence failed to pick up their men. The attack huffed and puffed as it so often has, and long ball after long ball was hoofed up the pitch aimlessly.
In the second half, a soft second yellow card for Jefferson Lerma meant the Cherries were down to ten, and Villa had a chance. The introduction of Keinan Davis made a difference, as the big man’s shot ballooned up in the air for the new boy Samatta to head in. This was as much as the Villa boys would get, failing to grasp a valuable point.
Thankfully, the Villa fans have a late Theo Walcott goal and some Brighton heroics to thank for Villa sitting in 17th, with other results going their way. Despite this, the games are running out, and matches against relegation rivals are really where Dean Smith and his men should be guaranteeing three points.
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Pepe Reina – 6
37-year-old Pepe Reina had a reasonable game. He made some simple saves in the first half, and nearly got enough of a hand on the opener. The Spaniards distribution wasn’t up to the level of his past two appearances however. One time in particular he put the defence under pressure with a very poor clearance straight to Callum Wilson.
Frederic Guilbert – 6
Fred Guilbert was energetic down the right as ever, but failed to deliver on the attack at all. He attempted a total of eight crosses in the ninety minutes, but only one was accurate. If he had managed to deliver more in the final third, perhaps the Villans could have scored another, as Samatta showed he could put away a chance when needed.
The Frenchman killed the Villa attack late on with a foul, followed by an unnecessary handball in the Villa half, breaking any Villa momentum and allowing Bournemouth to kill plenty of time.
Ezri Konsa – 5
Ezri Konsa was hauled off at half-time, due to a muscle injury. The 22-year-old didn’t do himself justice when he was on the pitch. He most notably failed to challenge for the ball into the box that led to the first goal. His passing wasn’t as accurate as fans have come to expect from him either, he had the worst pass completion of any of the defenders.
Tyrone Mings – 5
This will certainly not go down as one of Tyrone Mings better games in a Villa shirt. Mings has performed generally to a high standard so far this season, but he seemed flustered for great swathes of the match against his former club. He made several silly fouls, and missed the ball on one occasion when it was passed to him, nearly allowing Callum Wilson to run through on goal.
The England international’s radar was completely off in terms of his passing. He was easily rushed by the Bournemouth press, and attempted far too many long balls that were overhit. Of the 17 long balls he attempted, seven were accurate.
Kortney Hause – 5
The same issues reared their heads again with Kortney Hause. The centre-back was panicky on the ball, and the Villa attack broke down whenever the ball reached Hause in the first half, as his passing forwards was so poor. In the air he was good, but this is to be expected as Bournemouth aren’t the most imposing side physically. His biggest error however, was failing to close down and block the cross from Simon Francis that created Bournemouth’s first goal.
Matt Targett – 6.5
Matt Targett was once more an outlet for the Villa out of defence, and he looked threatening on the front foot. His passing was accurate, and defensively he didn’t let Harry Wilson get the better of him too often. He was unlucky to have his drilled shot blocked at 2-0, and the 24-year-old looks to be improving gradually week-by-week.
Marvelous Nakamba – 5.5
This isn’t the kind of performance many have come to expect from Marvelous Nakamba. The Zimbabwean failed to make a single tackle in the time he was on. The energy was there, but he failed to screen the defence well enough in the first half, when Bournemouth were attacking. When the team was pressing, having Nakamba on the edge of the box isn’t ideal, as his two attempts were exactly what you’d expect from a defensive midfielder.
Douglas Luiz – 6
Douglas Luiz didn’t do a lot wrong in the centre of the park. He showed more grit than in the past with a couple of tackles, and his passing was accurate. Yet, there was very little spark from the Brazilian, and he failed to create the chances he has done in past performances.
Anwar El Ghazi – 5.5
Though Anwar El Ghazi showed one or two good touches, he really struggled to impact the game at all in the time he was on. He failed to register a shot, and only attempted one cross. When the ball is constantly played down the Villa left towards Jack Grealish, El Ghazi often has trouble making a difference.
Ally Samatta – 7
When Ally Samatta got his chance, he stuck it away. The Tanzanian hero’s performance provided a silver lining on a very underwhelming afternoon. He held up the ball relatively effectively when called upon, and has got into some good positions in the box. He looks like the kind of player Villa have been calling out for, a striker that can take a chance.
Jack Grealish © – 7
Jack Grealish really did provide all the creative impetus for the Villans. His five key passes led the team, and most attacks went through him. He had very little of the ball in the first half, as has been the story for many Villa games, but he looked dangerous.
Once Grealish dropped into midfield late on however, he had less and less impact on the game, as he picked up the ball deep and tried to pull the strings. This meant that Jack wasn’t where he is most effective, in and around the box, committing defenders and creating chances.
Off the Bench
Bjorn Engels (45) – 6.5
For a man who hasn’t played much football of late, Bjorn Engels was as calm and composed as ever. His passing was the most accurate of any of the Villa team, and he was effective in collecting clearances from the Cherries box to get the ball moving again. Engels has definitely put his hat in the ring for a starting place against Spurs.
Kienan Davis (57) – 7
Kienan Davis’ hold up play and strength created the Villa goal. He may not be the most effective player in front of goal, but his physicality adds another dimension to the Villa attack. He draws defenders towards him, and can take on almost any centre half when he gets in a one-on-one situation.
Trezeguet (79) – 5.5
Trezeguet was on for over ten minutes against the ten men of Bournemouth, but he was unable to replicate his Semi-Final heroics. The Egyptian touched the ball three times, and made one successful pass. His introduction also led to Jack Grealish going deeper and deeper late on.
Dean Smith – 5.5
Dean Smith described the result as a ‘kick in the stomach,’ and that’s exactly how it felt. Deano failed to ensure a good performance from the Villa boys, when a chance to pull away from the bottom three emerged, on yet another occasion.
There are problems like the terrible defending of set pieces that appear week after week, and despite this, there has been little improvement. If Villa could cut out the goals conceded from corners and free-kicks, or at least minimise them, they’d be much better off.
Smith can just thank Everton and Brighton for pulling something out of the bag late in their respective games. With these results considered, this game provided the best opportunity so far for Villa to climb up the table.
The games are running out, and difficult games are to come, Villa may need to pull something out the bag against one of the top six.