After almost three weeks since Aston Villa fans got to debate a dubious penalty for United, they travelled across the city of Manchester to once again be faced with controversy.
Despite the result and regardless of any issues with VAR, the performance put in by the squad after being hit with nine first team players testing positive for Covid plus not being able play for three weeks, was simply astounding. Villa’s first game back is, arguably, the toughest fixture in the league — away to the best Premier League defence so far this season.
The expected goals stat conveys an accurate picture of the game, with 3.34 xG for City and 0.60 xG for Villa. In terms of Villa going forward the figure rings true, Villa lacked a crucial cutting edge in this game but that doesn’t mean they weren’t threatening. Ross Barkley, who missed 8 games with a hamstring injury, was expected to be slightly rusty. The midfielder lost possession 11 times with pass accuracy of 66.7%. He wasn’t the only one, as a whole Villa were wasteful with the ball going forward, most notably Bertrand Traoré (57.1% accuracy) and Ollie Watkins (55.6% accuracy). Villa’s obvious game plan was to sit back in an organised shape and hit City on the counter attack.
The plan isn’t a new one. This season, Villa average 3.61 counterattacks with 40.7% leading to shots. Against City, there were six counterattacks and 50% led to shots with chances for Barkley and Traore being saved. Additionally, there were several misplaced passes preventing potential chances.
The fact the scoreboard read 0-0 approaching the 80th minute was testament to the defensive organisation and players putting their bodies in the way. The back line combined for 22 clearances, 9 blocked shots, 8 interceptions and 7 tackles and deserved to take something from the game.
But it was not to be and nothing is every simple for Aston Villa.
This was the play in question as Rodri was coming back from an offside position when he won the ball off of Tyrone Mings. Eventually he found Bernardo Silva, who scored. Offside? #MCIAVL pic.twitter.com/JzQnRgYF46— Fair Advantage (@FairAdvantageCA) January 20, 2021
Tyrone Mings may take some criticism for the confusion that led to the goal, but before the event Mings had seven clearances, five blocked shots and two interceptions. Without him at the back, City would have been on the scoreboard before the 80th minute. It is just a shame that Villa are again involved in mass controversy surrounding VAR in the football world.
The break, as well as COVID, may have had an impact on the playing style, with only 115 pressures with a 17.4% success rate compared to the usual 124.7 and 30.1% success rate, Villa lacked a level of intensity which we have previously seen. Recoveries were also down to 48 from the season average of 71.42 per game. This is partially due to the team Villa were facing, City did dominate the ball; however, I feel several variables did impact Villa’s playing style here.
As previously stated our passing was also off. Usually in forward passing Villa complete 71.3%, but against City it was only 66.3%. Progressive passes were also less accurate, dropping from 75.6% to 67.31%. These stats aren’t worrying at all in the long run, Villa showed promising signs and arguably should’ve got something from the game due to the defensive display.
An easy way to overcome the anger and frustration VAR provides is knowing in a few days fans get another opportunity to watch this exciting Villa squad.
Manchester City Post Match Analysis
Man of the Match: Matt Targett
- 5 interceptions
- 4 Clearances
- 5 Tackles
- 7 Ground Duels (71.4% won)
In only 74 minutes played after going off with an injury, I thought it was his best game in a Villa shirt. After the match he announced he was one of the positive tests, which makes his effort even more impressive, he was exceptional.