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VAR to the rescue? A statistical review of Southampton 0-1 Aston Villa

Aston Villa grounded out a 1-0 win at St Mary’s. Take a look at the heroics of Emiliano Martinez and Villa’s back four.

Southampton v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

This game was reminiscent of previous seasons for Aston Villa, walking away feeling somewhat lucky to have gotten a result. After the disappointment against Burnley in midweek, there was pressure to bounce back and get a result against a side that in recent years, have beaten them consistently. Villa needed a win here, and they defended like they wanted a win just as much as the fans did.

Lucky?

Villa won this game 1-0, but was it a true reflection of the full 90 minutes? Southampton had an expected goals value of 2.51 xG, whilst Villa’s was significantly less at 0.86 xG. They have rarely had to grind out a win in a game they perhaps shouldn’t have come away with all three points in, with the only other occasion coming in the first game of the season against Sheffield United (0.81 xG to their 0.85 xG). With 5 games in 12 days, it wasn’t expected that they would dominate every game. Therefore, it was promising for Villa fans that regardless of playing the free flowing, possession dominating football they have previously exhibited, this squad is also capable of digging in and grinding out results when needed.

Southampton v Aston Villa - Premier League - St Mary’s Stadium
England teammates Danny Ings (left) and Jack Grealish (right) embrace each other after the game
Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

Man of the Match

Southampton were unlucky not to get something from this game, with once again more VAR controversy. However, this time it went in Villa’s favour. The fact Dean Smith’s side did get all three points can be attributed to the outstanding performances of Villa’s defence and shot stopper, Emi Martinez. Jack Stephens (0.52 xG), Stuart Armstrong (0.53 xG) and Che Adams (0.73 xG) will be happy to see the back of Martinez as he denied them all a chance of leveling the score. This isn’t the first time Martinez has kept Villa in a game, further outlining his case for the best signing of the summer. For reference to how vital Martinez’s saves were yesterday, Che Adams’ xG value for his chance had nearly the exact same xG as a penalty (0.73 xG to 0.76 xG). Villa owe a big thank you to Martinez and for me was Man of the Match.

Southampton v Aston Villa - Premier League
Aston Villa Keeper Emiliano Martinez springs to deny Southampton a certain goal
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Defensive Unit

He would have had a lot more to do if it wasn’t for the defensive displays of the back four last night also. Matt Targett recorded 9 tackles, which is more than any Villa player this season and the third most of any player for any team (@VillaAnalytics). The Villa defence as a whole recorded 12 clearances (1 off the line), 6 blocked shots, 9 interceptions and 13 tackles. Recording their 10th clean sheet of the season, they are without a doubt the most improved defence in the league this season. Without them, results like this simply wouldn’t be possible.

Southampton v Aston Villa - Premier League
Danny Ings (right) scoring a goal in the dying embers of the game, however it is disallowed for offside to Villa’s delight
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Captain Fantastic

You will struggle to analyse a Villa win where Jack Grealish isn’t instrumental in contributing to it. It was his stroke of genius with a perfectly delivered weak footed cross to his close friend, Ross Barkley, to guide in with his head, that meant Villa came away with all three points. This was Grealish’s 9th assist, which is the 3rd most in the League this season, behind only Harry Kane (11) and Kevin De Bruyne (10). Whilst also adding 6 goals, myself and many others are running out of superlatives to describe Grealish. A problem I am not too stressed with having, and long may it continue.

Southampton v Aston Villa - Premier League
Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish drives forward with the ball
Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images