After a well needed week-long break, most fans assumed Aston Villa would come out of the gates refreshed and aggressive.
The reality of the performance was quite the opposite.
A lethargic display from start to finish, which saw Villa carve out no real scoring opportunity, they tallied an expected goals value of just 0.14 xG to Brighton’s 2.36 xG.
This was the lowest recorded since their return back to the Premier League.
Although the performance itself was reminiscent of the 2019/20 season, the result wasn’t.
In these types of games previously, Villa would have come away empty handed.
Coming away with a point feels like somewhat of a victory for Villa when they really did not deserve anything from the game.
Gaining a point from this game would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the world class display from summer signing of the season, Emi Martinez.
With a season and Premier League career high saves tally of nine this game, he looked virtually unbeatable.
Brighton’s xG of 2.36 with specific reference to chances from Danny Welbeck (0.65 xG) and Alexis Mac Allister (0.54 xG) showed Brighton should have got something more from this game, which only emphasizes how fantastic Martinez was in denying them.
What went wrong for Dean Smith’s side this game?
Brighton set up in a 3-5-2 formation with Villa in their usual 4-2-3-1.
The three-man midfield of Mac Allister, Yves Bissouma, and Pascal Groß was Villa’s first issue.
They starved the Villa front four of the ball and overran the holding midfield duo of Doulas Luiz and John McGinn.
When Villa did manage to get the ball, they were wasteful with it, losing possession 61 times in the first half and an overall 130 times.
John McGinn lost possession 17 times, which was a team high.
It is unfair to single out individuals as everyone was below average this game, however, in recent matches Ross Barkley and John McGinn have not been up to speed and possible rotation in the squad is needed from Smith against Leicester if he wishes to see a different performance.
Once again, the issues for Villa stemmed from pressing statistics.
Villa were not allowed time on the ball as Brighton only allowed 8.68 passes per defensive action (PPDA) to Villa’s 11.24.
Villa cannot deal with a team that presses and especially in a packed midfield, which aims to silence captain, Jack Grealish.
In games such as these, it is slightly worrying that there is no plan b to our game plan; if teams have figured us out and we have no other playing style, the wins will be hard to come by.
With an average shot distance of 22.5 metres, which is the largest distance of all season, it was clear that Villa could have stayed for significantly longer than 90 minutes and still not scored.
Rotation is needed in this squad and I would start with new signing, Morgan Sanson, in for Barkley.
There will also be a forced change at right-back as Matty Cash picked up a hamstring injury in the game, a worrying sign for Villa who let last years starting right-back, Frederic Guilbert, leave on loan to Strasbourg only a week or so ago.
A disappointing display from Villa all round; a reaction is needed and expected against a tough Leicester side next week.
You can take nothing away from this Brighton squad as they deserved a win here and were by far the better team.
They are now unbeaten in six in the Premier League, including wins over Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
Graham Potter’s side are quality and are possibly one or two signings away from being a top half team.
Losing to them would not be too disheartening, however, the performance Villa gave was borderline spineless.