After a disappointing collapse against Crystal Palace, fans were skeptical about what could unfold against Tottenham. The recent news that Harry Kane had requested to leave the club cast a dark shadow over this fixture for any Spurs fan - one that Dean Smith and his side capitalized on.
An early Marvelous Nakamba error resulted in Aston Villa falling behind early on. However, the resurgence and belief that followed this goal was something fans had been crying out for in recent weeks.
Spurs left-back, Sergio Reguilon, fired Villa back into contention in the 20th minute with a wonder-own goal. Although this goal was a gift, the performance and effort shown from the players here meant this stroke of luck was nothing but deserved.
It was this hounding effort that led to the second goal. Bertrand Traore refused to let the left side of the Spurs defense rest, leading to errors that the prolific, Ollie Watkins, then pounced on.
Traore was fantastic in this one and may not get the plaudits he deserves. He completed seven dribbles (most in the squad), 10 ground duels won, one block, two interceptions, four key passes, and a pass accuracy of 87.5%. His defensive effort and ease of giving the ball away has been criticized before, but in this game, he was outstanding.
After the Palace game, it was fair to question Dean Smith tactically in how he dealt with the game. However, where criticism is needed, praise is needed even more so. Tactically, he got this game spot on. Villa had 10 counter attacks with six of them resulting in shots; they suffocated anything Spurs threw at them and then attacked with pace on the counter.
The pace on the counter was vital as Villa averaged 14.47 passes per minute of pure possession. Other games averaging a similar match tempo to this include both wins against Arsenal, 1-0 against Wolverhampton, and the win away at Leicester. With 39% possession, this tempo was crucial in any attempt in posing a threat to Spurs.
There was a return to the starting line-up for Jack Grealish, and as expected, it was a joy to watch. He had 70 touches, three tackles, five times fouled and four key passes. He was the architect behind several Villa attacks and dictated play throughout his 72 minutes. It is a joy for everyone involved to see him back playing.
A key talking point may be the debuts of Carney Chukwuemeka and Jaden Philogene-Bidace. Their involvement outlines the impact and impression they’ve had on Smith and they both looked right at home at this level. Chukwuemeka struck the post from an effort with an expected goals value of 0.03 xG; outlining his talent and skill, his involvement, and pressuring on the coach for a starting spot could save Villa some money in the future.
This game has left a feel-good factor in the hearts of all fans once again. Ollie Watkins grabbing his 14th league goal of the season and becoming the leading English goal scorer for Villa in a single season added to this. Let’s hope we finish the season feeling the same way on Sunday!