Dean Smith had been teasing fans mid-week regarding Jack Grealish’s return to the line-up in the build-up to this match, however, fans would have to wait an additional 72 minutes before they finally saw the return of their captain.
The score line itself probably doesn’t reflect several positives that fans could take from this game. Villa kept their 15th clean sheet of the season, with Emiliano Martinez now equaling Brad Friedel’s club record for a single season.
As well as this accolade, John McGinn looked back to his best in this one. He recorded a pass accuracy of 86.2%, 100% dribble success rate, 12 ground duels, and was fouled twice. He was receiving passes on the half turn, running at the opposition, and squirming out of situations with the ball that looked impossible. It was a joy to watch until he seemingly ran out of steam towards the end of the second half.
Another standout performer would be Douglas Luiz. After receiving heavy criticism after the Manchester United game, this bounce back performance not only outlined his ability, but also his talent.
He led the team in passing accuracy with 92.6%, won five ground duels, had two interceptions, two tackles, and two clearances. He broke play up well and his crisp passing propelled us forward. He was doing everything both fans and Dean Smith could have asked for.
It was a welcome return of a resilient defensive display. After Villa had taken the lead in their last five games and only won once, it was a worry for fans that hold habits from last season had leaked back into this squad.
Martinez earned this clean sheet making five saves - four of which were from shots inside the penalty area. The defense itself tallied 14 clearances, three interceptions, three tackles, and was only dribbled past once. Tyrone Mings was a standout in this one and his commitment to the club even when down injured must be recognized and applauded after he experiences regular criticism so often.
Villa did lack creativity in this one, finishing the game with 0.67 xG compared to Everton’s 1.41 xG. Ross Barkley was substituted again in this one, after promising displays against Everton away and West Brom, it was disappointing to see his performance here.
He completed zero dribbles, zero crosses, and won zero duels. As well as losing the ball 13 times. This was most likely his final appearance in claret and blue at Villa Park. A sad end to his spell at the club, which started so promisingly at home against Liverpool in the 7-2 win.
The games are coming thick and fast now; Martinez will be eyeing the Crystal Palace game on Sunday to hopefully beat Friedel’s record of 15 clean sheets. Jack Grealish will not be starting, but is rumored to be up for selection for the Tottenham and Chelsea games. For now, it is time for fans to relax and look forward to an exciting summer transfer window.