Aston Villa endured another tough ninety minutes against Burnley, with both sides going toe-to-toe for the match, and enduring a battle with the officials! Here are 11 talking points to consider in the aftermath of the 1-1 draw with Burnley
1. In isolation, it’s not a bad point
To take the match on it’s own - with no context - a hard-won point against Burnley isn’t a bad result, at all.
Judging on their last two performances, where Burnley are able to execute the high-press, and a low-block when it is needed, they are more than capable of staying up and won’t be challenging for the right to stay in the Premier League. They won’t be going down, not based on their current performances. It wasn’t their finest performance against our Villans - but it was a good enough performance to showcase their abilities.
With that in mind, It’s not a bad point for Aston Villa. The performance was sound - and teams do draw games. It’s not unheard of!
2. The context is the killer
When you really start to dive into the nitty-gritty of the match, that’s where the ‘problems’ leap out - and all of the following is correct:
- Aston Villa lost the lead, again
- Aston Villa dropped points from a winning position again
Taking Arsenal and Burnley into account, Villa have now dropped five points in the past two games. For a team that hasn’t won since August, that’s worrying.
Also true - Villa have failed to beat Bournemouth, West Ham and Burnley at home. You’d expect at least three or four points out of those fixtures, but Villa have had to fight for two. That is completely unsustainable.
The performances haven’t been awful - but the results are. Unfortunately it is the latter that will secure Aston Villa’s Premier League status.
3. Villa can create!
The narrative during the start of the season for Aston Villa was that they would struggle to create chances, and score. Over the past few games - Villa have flipped that narrative upon it’s head. In John McGinn, Villa have a increasingly elite finisher from midfield, and in players like Anwar El Ghazi and Trezguet, they certainly have a bit of electricity on the wings.
McGinn and El Ghazi scored three goals between them - with one being disallowed (more on that later). Their timed runs into the box, and neat finishing was the difference once again for Aston Villa.
This is increasingly good to know - and after causing Arsenal and Burnley for hassle, there is room for optimism. If the attack can improve, Villa can do some serious damage. If it doesn’t continue to increase it’s output, Villa are almost definitely getting themselves relegated.
4. Elite players exist to do elite things - V2
At what point do we start to consider both John McGinn and Jack Grealish amongst the elite of this league? While Grealish made a poor decision late on when he opted for a shot instead of playing in Trezeguet - that came after a game where he worried Burnley non-stop and opened up space for every Villa player on the pitch.
McGinn was unstoppable was well. Allowed more room in the centre due to the positioning of Jack Grealish in a ‘free role’ out left, he was able to drive into the box and allow Conor Hourihane and Marvelous Nakamba to pick up the destruction left in his wake.
Villa have two gamechangers and they are both a constant hassle to the opposition. What defines the elite? The players gifted with the ability to do just that.
5. What about the defence?
Through games 1-5 you’d have been fair to rave about Aston Villa’s unbreakable defence. It blocked chances, it stopped goals, and it never looked anything less than commanding.
Over the past few games though, Villa’s defence has been forced into periods of sustained pressure - and has allowed five goals in the past two games.
Worst of it all - most of those goals have came following a Villa lead. Aston Villa need to be better at protecting the lead and the defence is an integral part of that. A lot has been asked of the defence so far, and it feels almost unfair to demand more of Tyrone Mings and Björn Engels because they have given so much to the cause already - but that’s the reality of Villa’s current situation. Everyone on the back four needs to push so, so hard.
6. Improvement is needed
Villa are on pace for 27 points. That’s awful. Villa’s xPTS tally will take them to about 38, and that might see them safe - but it’s a risk. What that means is that even if Villa increase their pace to meet their tally based on expected goals, it still won’t be good enough. Villa need to improve.
These are just the numbers. But they are scary numbers. I expect that they will improve, but it will take some effort from Aston Villa. Some luck will help, but Villa need to be clinical at the front and efficient at the back. Part of me does worry that it might be too much of an ask for Aston Villa.
However, I believe in the talent of this team and I believe in Dean Smith. Aston Villa can stay up and occcupying 20th place at Christmas won’t mean relegation. They just need to create a more sustainable product on the pitch and steal some victories.
7. VAR still sucks!
Last week, VAR failed to intervene when the referee did not award a handball. This week, it failed to intervene when Jack Grealish was taken down by a high challenge. VAR actioned one change - and it was the correct change - denying Villa a goal due to an offside position in the build up.
However, it was a confusing situation for the players and the fans - nobody knew what had happened.
Then, it descended into a bit of chaos. Aston Villa fans demanded that VAR check everything - and it didn’t. It missed plenty. Nobody understands the rules and VAR feels like a change for the worse. You can’t help but feel awful about it.
8. Jack Grealish’s ‘new/old’ position is working
Jack Grealish started out on the wing for Villa, and it worked very well. He linked up well with Matt Targett and showed creativity and a control of pace out wide. It was more of a free-role for the Villa Captain, and he was free to switch around with Conor Hourihane and drift into the middle.
It allowed Aston Villa to bring in an extra midfielder, and allowed for more flexibility than a winger would. Also, it forced one of Villa’s dynamic players onto the bench - offering a game-changing option.
This was a positive change from Dean Smith - more of the same next time. It will keep his squad happy, and allow for more dynamism going forward.
9. Matt Targett should start every game
Unfortunately, left-back Matt Targett had to be taken off due to an injury against Burnley - Villa collapsed after his departure. Neil Taylor stepped in and was out-of-tune with the game for a good few minutes (naturally) and Villa conceded.
Hopefully, his injury is a short-term one as Targett offers plenty for Villa. Similarly to Guilbert, he is a complete full-back and can track back and deliver into the box. Villa’s left-flank is a bit stronger with Targett at left-back.
10. 2019 Aston Villa offer so much more than 2015 Aston Villa
It is far too early to totally condemn Aston Villa. The last Villa side to suffer relegation offered nothing at the back or going forward. It was totally disjointed.
Aston Villa so far have proven they can spar with other Premier League teams and be competitive. They certainly won’t go down without a fight. That is more than we can say for the 2015 version!
11. Villa need to make their advantages count (again)
Leads, red cards. Villa have enjoyed plenty of privilege in the past three games. Unfortunately, it has counted for absolutely nothing. Villa haven’t been able to learn from their mistakes in a tangible way.