Aston Villa were once again left without Jack Grealish and he would be joined by right-back, Matty Cash, who was suspended for this game after his second half frustration against Manchester City. Two pillars of the team missing would damage any team’s chances of winning. The performance, however, was promising and the score line doesn’t show this completely.
Firstly, Villa accumulated an expected goals (xG) value of 3.17 xG. This was the first time they had tallied a value above three since the win with ten men against Crystal Palace on boxing day. It was a delight for fans to once again be entertained with attacking, end-to-end football.
Villa took the lead in the ninth minute after Ross Barkley won a penalty for Anwar El Ghazi to step up and slot in. It was also a welcome return for Barkley following this performance; after winning the penalty he also had a 95.3 pass accuracy, three key passes, 100% dribbling success rate, and won four ground duels. This was more of the Barkley Villa thought they had signed.
It was clear that Villa were missing Cash, however, as the graphic shows through the 14 attacks down the right-hand side only 0.08 xG stemmed from it. It is clear that Bertrand Traore struggles without Cash there. Whether this is due to the link-up play or the defensive reliance on him.
It’d be difficult to analyse this game without discussing the joy every fan felt seeing Keinan Davis score his first Premier League goal. He has averaged 25 minutes in the 29 Premier League appearances he has made; his opportunities have been finite and limited. Seeing him finally get the reward we all know his play has promised was a delight to see.
An issue to take from this game would be the Villa defense, which for the most part has been magnificent this season. Ezri Konsa making a rare mistake and giving away a penalty in the first half squandered the early lead. The defense recently has been reminiscent of last season.
In the last four games that Villa have taken the lead in, they have conceded and failed to win the game. This vulnerability when leading is something most fans thought they had seen the back of. This could just be a lack of concentration towards the back end of the season as they have little to play for, but it cannot carry over into next season.
There was also another ‘feel good’ moment for fans. The return of Brazillian striker, Wesley. After being out since January 2020, it was a welcome return for him and it was clear to see how happy all the players were for him. It will be interesting to see what Davis and Wesley offer in the back end of this season as it has been rumored that Villa are shopping for a new striker this summer.
Villa face a tough end to this season with Everton, Manchester United, Tottenham, and Chelsea all to come. With these fixtures looming, every fan should be extremely thankful Villa are now mathematically safe from relegation.