Aston Villa were fresh off an 11-day break prior to this game at Villa Par and the quick start with a goal coming within the first 20 seconds indicated it had benefited them. Sadly, the rest of the game did not follow this example.
What exactly went wrong for Dean Smith’s side in this clash?
After scoring early through John McGinn, Villa sat back massively and it was only a matter of time before a team of Manchester City’s quality final made a breakthrough. Villa allowed 36 passes per defensive action (PPDA) immediately after scoring and this rose to 59 PPDA as the game reached the half hour mark.
For reference, the youthful Villa side fielded against a full-strength Liverpool side allowed 52.29 PPDA. You cannot expect to hold on to a 1-0 lead against an opponent of this quality when you sit back that much.
The game turned on its head, however, after a rash challenge by John Stones on Jacob Ramsey on the stroke of half-time. It’s unfortunate that Villa had just conceded to Rodri’s header before this.
Regardless, Villa grew into this game more as City sat back (52 PPDA) and Villa mounted more attacks at 0.33 per minute up from 0.07.
They struggled to create any meaningful attacks though and this was made even more difficult by Matty Cash’s challenge on Phil Foden in the 57th minute. This challenge led to City once again controlling the game, which was relatively dead after this.
Villa finished with an expected goals (xG) value of 0.71; this is the sixth time out of nine games without Jack Grealish that Villa have recorded an xG below one in a game. It is safe to say they are desperate for him to get back out on the field as the team seriously lacks a spark of creativity without him.
Fans shouldn’t be too disheartened as this Manchester City side, although self-proclaimed recently and quite controversial, are ‘Super’. Even without Kevin De Bruyne, they have the depth and quality for others to step up and that is exactly what Phil Foden did in this game. He was extraordinary. He recorded one goal, 58 passes with an accuracy of 92.1%, three key passes, as well as winning 87.5% of his ground duels (seven won).
It was also a delight to see McGinn back on the score sheet. In recent times, due to the team under performing, fans may have overlooked his contributions to this team. Goals have been hard to come by for him this season with his deeper role, but he has been much more prominent as the number 10 in the past few games.
He recorded one goal and a pass accuracy of 83.3% in which included 100% on four long balls attempted and battled hard in midfield. He also got shoe-horned into the left side of midfield after Cash’s red card, further outlining Villa’s need for investment into depth for this squad. McGinn is a real asset and should be treasured by this club.
It is another performance that failed to light any fires for fans of the club, but after the week the footballing world has had, it was a joy to watch a game of football knowing this controversy is now over.