#3: Defensive Disruptions
Aston Villa’s loss to Crystal Palace was not a pleasant watch for the fans; well, from the 15th minute on wards anyway. Villa dominated the opening part of the game and took a well deserved lead through John McGinn’s sublime finish from outside the area.
Having taken the lead, Villa inexplicably stopped doing what had been working for 15-20 minutes and just sat back, letting the home side back into the game through former Villa striker, Christian Benteke.
The exact same pattern occurred after regaining the lead just before the break and the second half was to put it bluntly, awful. One reason for this could be the enforced changes to the defense.
The back four of Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings, and Matt Targett have played the majority of games this season and have in general been a very good, solid unit. If there’s ever a change needed due to injury/suspension it’s normally just been a case of having to replace one player, but Sunday saw both Cash and Mings miss out through injury.
In came Ahmed Elmohamady and Kortney Hause, and whilst they didn’t have particularly terrible games individually, it probably can’t be underestimated how much of a disruption changing half of your back-line can be.
Mings’ vocal presence is particularly hard to replace and he could well have helped Villa get a foothold in that second half with his leadership and organisational skills.
#2: Grealish Recovery Continues
As previously mentioned, there was not a lot of positives to take from the 3-2 defeat at Selhurst Park. One thing that will have put a smile on the faces of Villa fans was the sight of Jack Grealish getting more minutes on the pitch.
After coming on for the final 20 minutes in the previous stalemate against Everton, Grealish got a half an hour run out this time around as he continues to regain full match fitness.
Whilst Villa’s atrocious second half performance made it difficult for Grealish to make too much of an impact, we did see the odd flash of class from the club captain. Within five minutes of being on the pitch, Palace right-back, Joel Ward, wasted no time in clattering into Grealish on a couple of occasions.
Despite missing a third of the season, Grealish is still the most fouled player in the league by some distance and it’s easy to see why; simply put, it’s normally the only way for opposing players to stop him.
Villa have missed their talisman badly over the last few months and will need to address that in the summer transfer window by bringing in better quality players in the final third to:
a) Help share the burden of creativity; and
b) Be able to compensate properly in case of any injuries or suspensions Grealish may have next season.
#1: Anwar El Goalzi
There were little, if any bright spots to come out of Villa’s trip to Palace at the weekend. To twice be in the lead and come away with no points against a pretty average side was hugely frustrating.
However, Anwar El Ghazi’s goal before half time was the Dutchman’s 10th goal of the season in all competitions. Considering he barely featured in the Premier League until December, that is a remarkable return.
El Ghazi is a player of genuine talent; when he’s in form and confident, he is a real threat to any opponents. His biggest problem is inconsistency, something which plagues the majority of wingers.
The numbers he has posted and his form this season has earned him a place in the provisional Dutch squad for this summer’s Euros, which again, speaks highly to the ability he has. I would expect Villa to strengthen the attacking positions in the summer, but El Ghazi should definitely be at the club next season to provide competition for the wide areas.