This game somewhat resembled the entire season for Dean Smith’s men - a tale of two halves. Aston Villa faced the oldest squad in the league in this midday fixture and with nothing to play for on either side, a five-goal thriller was not expected.
Captain for the day, John McGinn, opened the scoring. A strike with an expected goals value of just 0.03 xG was as delightful as it sounds. Even after conceding to a heart-breaking goal from former fan favorite, Christian Benteke, Villa bounced back quickly as Anwar El Ghazi netted his ninth goal of the season.
Villa finished the half with an xG of 0.72 to Palace’s 0.63. However, the second half was a different story. The passing accuracy from Villa dropped from 87% to 74%. They came out sluggish and lacked the level of intensity and concentration needed to maintain a lead at the highest level.
As well as this, they sat back and invited pressure. Palace had in total 23 shots on Martinez’s goal. This occurred as a result of their mediocre effort levels. The pressing intensity dropped as a whole as the graphic shows. From allowing six passes per defensive action in the first half, to 29 just before Wilfried Zaha scored the equalizer.
Palace finished with 1.84 xG. An increase of 1.21 for the half; outlining their dominance. Defensive performances like this where Villa were seemingly just holding on by a thread are painfully reminiscent of last season and must be a thing of the past if the club wants to seriously challenge for European football next season.
Villa lacked leaders in this game; the absence in defense of Matty Cash and Tyrone Mings was felt massively. Kourtney Hause, as expected after a lengthy break, struggled. With a pass accuracy of 62%, 3three fouls, possession lost 12 times, and only a 20% success rate in ground duels - it was a return to forget for him.
Jack Grealish registered 27 more minutes in this game, although his contributions since his return haven’t been obvious, there are promising statistics to back up the fact the he will return to his previous form.
In the 46 minutes he has registered in two games, he has had five shot creating actions, eight progressive carries, and a pass accuracy of 89.2%. Given a full 90 minutes of play, he will be able to make the same impact that we were seeing throughout the first half of the season.
The games remaining for Emiliano Martinez to break the clubs clean sheet record are quickly diminishing. Crystal Palace are 19th in the league in terms of creativity when analyzing shot creating actions and xG. This was a golden opportunity for him and a lackluster Villa performance squandered this chance.
Two games remain for him to obtain this record in Tottenham and Chelsea. Jack Grealish could be in line to return to the starting line up in these games, providing Villa with the necessary boost that they need.