The three moments that defined Aston Villa’s draw with Brighton at the Amex Stadium...
#3: Martinez Masterclass
It’s almost getting boring to say, but it needs to be said – Emi Martinez is a top, top goalkeeper.
It would not be an unreasonable statement to make that he is the best signing any club made last summer.
On current form, he is arguably the best keeper in the league right now.
Of the 26 shots Brighton had, 9 called Martinez into action and he dealt with everything, at times making it look easy.
Most of the saves were fairly routine for a keeper of his quality, but some were world class.
Midway through the first half, Brighton defender, Dan Burn, rose highest to power a header towards goal from one of several corners for the home side and it looked like it was sailing into the top corner, but Martinez showed cat-like levels of agility to somehow get across the goal line and tip the ball behind.
In the second half, he made a smart save with his legs after Alexis Mac Allister’s shot took a deflection and towards the end he made another great reaction save from near point-blank range to deny Danny Welbeck at the near post.
That’s now 12 clean sheets for Martinez this season and with Villa’s record number of Premier League clean sheets standing at 15 – jointly held by Mark Bosnich and Brad Friedel – Martinez must surely have his sites set on beating that record in the remaining 16 games.
#2: Feeble front four
From an attacking point of few, this was probably as poor of a performance as Villa have produced all season.
Even in the defeats to Leeds, Manchester City and West Ham - where Villa were comfortably second best – they created goal scoring chances.
At the Amex Stadium on a cold Saturday night, Villa’s attacking quartet of Bertrand Traore, Ross Barkley, Jack Grealish, and Ollie Watkins were unable to turn the heat up on the home defense as the visitors offered virtually nothing to trouble Robert Sanchez in the home goal, which is not something we’ve been able to say about Villa all season.
Admittedly, they were largely starved of much service as John McGinn and Douglas Luiz spent the majority of the 90 minutes chasing Brighton’s lively midfielders.
On the limited occasions where they did have the ball, they (along with many others) squandered possession time and time again – a fact Dean Smith lamented in his various post-match interviews.
Grealish struggled to make an impact as Brighton, to their credit, did an excellent job in doubling up on him; denying him any space to weave his magic in.
The biggest frustration for a lot of fans, particularly on social media, was the performance of Barkley.
It’s fair to say he didn’t have the best of games, but Martinez aside, who really did in a Villa shirt?
Fans know how good he can be - just think back to his debut performance against Liverpool and how he tore apart Arsenal at the Emirates – so when he falls below these standards, fans get understandably frustrated.
But therein lies the mystery of Barkley; his performances are too inconsistent for his ability, which is probably why at 27 years old he’s on loan at Villa rather than playing regularly at parent club, Chelsea.
#1: Positive post-match chat
Sometimes following a pretty tepid performance, players and managers will come out after the game and try to dress it up a bit in their interviews.
There was no sign of that with the post-match interviews from the lads at Villa.
Martinez was visibly disappointed at the full-time whistle and wasn’t shy in coming forward in his interview on Sky Sports after the game, expressing his annoyance at not having taken the three points and being critical of his team-mate’s performance.
Smith described the performance as not even being bang average, whilst Tyrone Mings among others on Twitter, had also expressed disappointment in the performance.
The club have set themselves very high standards this season and when they don’t meet them, both the players and management are annoyed and are comfortable enough to publicly express such disappointment.
This desire to try and constantly improve is an encouraging sign of a club looking to push themselves further up the table.
The task now is to make sure this was a one off, bad day at the office type of performance.
Back-to-back clean sheets after a poor showing against West Ham gives a good solid base going into a tough looking fixture against Champions League chasing Leicester City, but they will need to pose a lot more of an attacking threat than they did on Saturday night.