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Circumstances aside, WBA draw is an improvement

How did yesterday's game compare with the last time Aston Villa played West Brom?

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In terms of the battle for Premier League survival, a 0-0 draw against a team very much in the bottom half of the table isn't ideal. Especially when you consider that Aston Villa were the better of the two sides on the day, and probably should've won. But if you ignore those circumstances, a 0-0 draw away from home isn't so bad. This is especially true when you compare it to the last time the two sides met.

Note: The purpose of this is to measure progress under Remi Garde. For the benefit of this, I'm not factoring in relegation in terms of measuring success.

Aston Villa 0-1 West Brom: Dull and forgettable

I know that I watched this match, but thinking back, I can't recall a single shining moment. It was a dull affair, that the Albion won 1-0. Notably, Saido Berahino scored on his first start after his "exile" for being a whinging little shit, turning in a James Morrison shot. It was a bit of a lucky goal, and in a game between two sides lacking quality, that was always going to be the difference maker.

Villa played with Gabby Agbonlahor and Scott Sinclair up front, and neither caused West Brom any particular trouble. Predictable, in hindsight. With Jordan Ayew remaining on the bench, Rudy Gestede was brought on in the second half, and he was also unable to do anything of note (though he netted the only goal against Birmingham City later in the week). This, just another in a long list of tactical errors by then-manager Tim Sherwood.

West Brom 0-0 Aston Villa

A different manager, and a different team this time around. Only Joleon Lescott, Ashley Westwood and Carles Gil survived in their same positions, whilst Micah Richards was brought in at right back as opposed to in central defence, unlike earlier in the season. Kozak and Ayew up front offered up more than Gabby and Sinclair, while Idrissa Gana instead of Carlos Sanchez in central midfield gave Villa a more attacking central option.

On paper at least, Villa looked to be a more attacking side than the previous encounter, and that played out on the pitch yesterday. Credit therefore, has to go to Albion's defence, who did a great job in keeping Ayew in particular quiet.

Ashley Westwood had his best Villa game in a while, though solid and unspectacular, he committed no major errors of note. The defence too, was pretty solid for the most part. Credit has to go to Jores Okore, who was dealt the tough task of marking dangerman/thug Salomon Rondon. Despite Rondon's best efforts to grapple with him (the Royal Rumble is tonight Salomon!), Okore held firm and helped Mark Bunn to his third clean sheet in four games.

Finally, it's worth noting that this game would've had a completely different ending, had Villa been given a penalty for a foul on Jordan Ayew by Jonas Olsson in the first half. It was blatant, which apparently isn't enough to sway referee Bobby Madley, who will have better days I'd like to think. In addition, had Rudy Gestede not gotten injured shortly after coming on, his presence would potentially've changed the course of the match. An unfortunate occurrence.

The verdict

Both games were actually fairly similar, scrappy affairs that were low on quality. But more than just the results lead me to believe that yesterday's game was the better performance from Villa. Sure, one point is better than none, but it's more than that.

The first time they played, Villa's defence looked shaky, especially considering that they were but one week removed from that Leicester City game. Yesterday, West Brom were unable to record a single shot on target. Attacking incompetence? Maybe. But there's definite defensive improvements being made too.

Tactically, Villa's lineup was right. Bringing Rudy Gestede on for a poor Libor Kozak was the right move, and may have paid off had he not gotten injured. It was the smart move regardless. Ultimately, no matter how the season ends, Aston Villa are making the right moves and looking better as a result.