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Aston Villa shipped 3 goals, but Pepe Reina is still our top-ranked player against Spurs

A pair of blunders overshadow an otherwise bright performance

Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

After a relaxing winter holiday abroad, the Aston Villa squad was able to come back to the flooded streets of Birmingham and welcome Tottenham to Villa Park. The short break provided relaxation from a grueling relegation fight and upon return to their duties the squad looked refreshed. Except for Tyrone Mings, who was unfortunately held back due illness.

Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur: A quick summary

The opening minutes against Spurs were fantastic, and Villa’s efforts were rewarded courtesy of a lovely goal from Toby Alderweireld. However, as the first half closed, Alderweireld scored an unlikely goal in the correct net, while VAR gave a penalty to Son Heung-min, which Pepe Reina managed to save, but the struggling defense couldn’t come to the rescue and the ball ended up in the net. Villa looked seriously unlucky until the clouds parted and Björn Engels headed in the equalizer. Yet Engels fell from grace in the final seconds, with Son capitalizing on a crucial error from the defender. But aside from the late game blunder, the performance deserves applause, as the players gave it an incredible effort until the end.

So now that Villa fans have had a bit of time to recover from the pain of the loss, it’s time to rate the players, using a 1–10 scale with 5 being about average.

Starting XI: GK: Pepe Reina, LWB: Matt Targett, CB: Kourtney Hause, CB: Björn Engels, CB: Ezri Konsa, RWB: Frederic Guilbert, CM: Danny Drinkwater, CM: Douglas Luiz, LW: Jack Grealish, ST: Mbwana Samatta, RW: Anwar El Ghazi

Pepe Reina

When Pepe Reina was initially signed, many in the Aston Villa community called Suso out for scooping Reina up before signing a striker. However, the sporting director has been vindicated by Pepe Reina’s performance in this game, among others. Although the veteran let in three goals, each was a bit of an anomaly. The first was an absolute screamer, the second was a rebound off of a saved penalty, and the third was due to a defensive error in a poor position. Reina single-handedly kept the game close and made seven saves in the process, including a penalty save. This, along with his superb distribution and commanding presence in the box, showed that while Reina may be aging out, his time’s not up yet; he’s certainly still valuable between the sticks. Rating: 8 (Man of the Match)

Matt Targett

Targett is possibly one of the more overlooked performers in the Aston Villa squad. The left back creates, defends, and contributes offensively, but because of Jack Grealish’s skill on his side he’s rarely celebrated. Against Spurs, Targett performed well once again, at least in defense. Offensively, Targett had a more timid game than usual and only managed one key pass and a successful dribble. Defensively, he was able to make an impact on the game by shutting down Spurs’ right wing. The wing back made three tackles and five interceptions, most coming during a Tottenham counterattack, making the dispossession more impressive. He may be playing second fiddle on the left, but Targett has been fantastic as of late. Rating: 7

Kourtney Hause

After a shocking showing against Bournemouth before the Villa’s bye week, Hause looked like his old self against Spurs. Hause played a strong no-nonsense game and didn’t fall victim to hapless mistakes like his center-half partners. The defender made two tackles and blocked three shots that, along with his lack of crucial errors, made for the strongest defensive showing of the day. That doesn’t mean it was great, however, as Hause get put himself in a few bad situations including one in his own half where he very nearly gave the ball away when the score was even. Still, performance represents a return to form for Hause just in time for the crucial run in. Rating: 6

Björn Engels

Bjorn Engels made a return to the starting XI with a solid performance marred by two unfortunate mistakes. Engles made three interceptions, five clearances, and blocked a shot, not to mention scoring a headed goal. This stat line would make many defenders happy and by all accounts shows a well-played game. However, Engels two largest contributions to the game were those that gave Tottenham the lead on two separate occasions. The first mistake, the penalty given, can be forgiven, as it was an effort to make a last-ditch challenge in which Engels caught Steven Bergwijn. Engels got away with it before VAR intervened, and almost did again when Reina saved the penalty, but Son knocked it on the rebound. The second mistake is less forgivable, as the Belgian lost focus late in the game, letting the ball and Son pass by him. Surely Engels will learn from his errors and replicate this performance in the weeks to come, while eliminating the mistakes. Rating: 6.5

Ezri Konsa

Of the three center-halves that played against Tottenham, Konsa was easily the least effective. He made but a single tackle and three clearances during the game. He also killed killed momentum many times while attempting to play out the back, misplaced several balls to Frédéric Guilbert, and put in poor long balls. Konsa didn’t make fatal mistakes like Engles did but wasn’t nearly as effective as Hause. Konsa was just . . . average. Rating: 5

Frédéric Guilbert

Guilbert came into the Spurs game with the toughest assignment of his defensive teammates: to control and subdue Son Heung-min. Through no fault of the right back, Son scored two goals, including the winner. Yet Guilbert let the side down in other ways; he was only able to make a single tackle and a pair of clearances during the game. He did manage a key pass during the game and showed promise in his ability to link up with Anwar El Ghazi. However, Guilbert has to do better tracking back and continue his forward progress for a more successful performance in the next outing. Rating: 6

Danny Drinkwater (Subbed 59’)

Every time Drinkwater makes an appearance in the claret and blue, he puts in a strong 20–30 minutes and then should be subbed off immediately. This game was no different as the loanee played well in the opening half hour of the game. Drinkwater made himself known in the midfield and was good at recycling possession on offense and setting a tone on defense. However, after those initial 30 minutes he needed subbing off. Dean Smith couldn’t have made the sub quick enough and Drinkwater was lucky not to get caught out. The Premier League winner simply isn’t fit enough and should stick to substitution appearances for the foreseeable future. Rating: 5.5

Douglas Luiz

After displaying an inconsistency in form during the winter period, Luiz has made a better impression over the last few weeks. Against Spurs he was positive on the ball and made sure to link the play between the wings, forwards, and himself to organize the offense and create chances. He had a passing accuracy of 84.3% and earned a key pass along the way. Further, he managed to keep his composure throughout the match, minimize his own mistakes, and make three successful tackles. More importantly, Luiz was able to transition defense to offense which kept Mbwana Samatta, Jack Grealish, and Anwar El Ghazi from having to drop deep and collect the ball. Douglas Luiz is now looking every bit like they player Villa were expecting to receive from Manchester City. Rating: 7

Jack Grealish

Jack Grealish is one of the most fouled players in the Premier League. This streak continued against Spurs. Grealish was fouled six times during the game, including multiple nasty challenges by Serge Aurier. Unsurprisingly, these constant attacks didn’t shake the Villa talisman as Grealish went on to produce six key passes and an assist for his troubles. The assist came off of a well-placed corner to the head of Björn Engels for the 2–2 equalizer. Grealish looked lively each time he had the ball and was a delight to watch. Rating: 8

Mbwana Samatta (Subbed 82’)

Samatta always looks like he’s trying to score while still playing beautiful football. He’s a thinker; no matter where he is on the pitch his eyes are placed forward. Although in this game Samatta had no goal contributions, he looked deadly on the pitch. The striker linked up play well between himself, Grealish, and especially El Ghazi while holding up the ball. He also stood up to and beat world class center halves like Davinson Sánchez and Toby Alderweireld. Samatta also helped cause the Alderweireld own goal by pressuring the Spurs defender into putting his foot out to deny Samatta the opportunity for a shot. Samatta had quite the impact on this game, even if it didn’t show up on the scoresheet. Rating: 7.5

Anwar El Ghazi (Subbed 69’)

When El Ghazi was subbed out of the game, the Aston Villa attack lost a bit of its bite. Against Tottenham, El Ghazi was fantastic and the only criticism of the player is he didn’t play longer. The Dutch winger was all over the pitch influencing the game. El Ghazi’s cross was the one that forced the hand (foot?) of Alderweireld and lead to the own goal. Further, El Ghazi had three shots on target and challenged Hugo Lloris at every opportunity. It was about this time last year El Ghazi found form and everything started to click, so hopefully this performance is signals more of the same. Rating: 7.5

Substitutions: CM: Marvelous Nakamba (59’), RW: Trezeguet (69’), Borja Baston (82’)

Marvelous Nakamba (Subbed on 59’)

Marvelous came onto the pitch and immediately influenced the defense, making two tackles and multiple interceptions in only 30 minutes of playing time. Further up the pitch, Nakamba created a chance and kept counter attacks at bay. It’s obvious Marvelous needs to start the next game. Rating: 7

Trézéguet (Subbed on 69’)

After coming on for the productive El Ghazi, Trézéguet proceeded to do almost nothing throughout the 20-odd minutes he was on the pitch. The most notable contribution he made was an unsuccessful shot wide of the target. Rating: 4.5

Borja Baston (Subbed on 82’)

Baston came on late for his Villa debut in hopes he’d be useful as a large target man. Although he chased around a few balls, Aston Villa never had the meaningful possession to determine if he could in fact be helpful. Rating: N/A