The first of many without Grealish?
The majority of the pre-match build up for fans was spent worrying whether or not the rumors spreading violently across all forms of social media regarding a Jack Grealish injury were true.
Grealish had previously started 48 consecutive league games since November 2019, but sadly against Leicester, this run came to an end.
Grealish has missed 15 games through injury in the past two seasons and Villa’s record without him emphasizes how important he is.
With two wins, six draws, and seven losses without their captain, the prospects of winning this game seemed bleak.
However, with the new-found quality that surrounded Grealish, there were some glimmers of hope that Villa could get a result here.
The first half performance they delivered quickly ended this hope.
First half strikes from James Maddison and Harvey Barnes in quick succession after a lethargic opening few minutes for Villa seemingly sealed their fate.
Maddison’s goal had an expected goals (xG) value of 0.06 xG and Barnes’ was 0.47 xG.
Both goals were easily avoidable, with a lack of closing down on Maddison and a lack of alertness from Ahmed Elmohamady for the second.
Villa lacked any sort of bite in any area of the pitch in this first half and other than a blocked shot for Bertrand Traore and a misjudged header from Ezri Konsa, had no real chances to get back into it.
A half-time xG of 0.52 xG to Leicester’s 0.92 xG was flattering, as Brendan Rodgers’ men seemingly went into cruise control towards the end of the half.
The half-time team talk from Smith did light a few fires within the Villa ranks, with Traore’s strike in the 48th minute offering a glimmer of hope to fans.
Villa finished this game with 1.51 xG to Leicester’s 1.19 xG, although they ultimately didn’t deserve to get anything from this game.
Man of the Match
Bertrand Traore was a stand-out performer for me; his goal could’ve fired Villa back into the game here, but he also offered a lot in other areas, with six pressures, two tackles, and two interceptions.
His defensive effort in this game was excellent and is something he will have to keep up as Villa look to be without Matty Cash for several games; he must help Elmohamady out on the right side of the pitch.
The substitution of Jacob Ramsey for Ross Barkley resulted in Villa looking like a different team.
In his 14 minutes of action he recorded 15 passes (100% accuracy), 2 progressive passes, 1 shot creating action, and 2 progressive passes received.
For reference, here are Barkley’s statistics in 76 minutes of action: 48 passes (81.3% accuracy), 1 progressive pass, 2 shot creating actions, and 2 progressive passes received.
Ramsey was a lot more active than Barkley in his short cameo appearance.
Overall, even without Grealish, I don’t think Villa win this game.
Not having Grealish isn’t an excuse for a lack of closing down and tracking.
The second half performance was promising for games to come for fans, however, I do think changes to the line-up must occur, with Barkley for Ramsey being the first one.