Looking at a preview for this game, it was labelled as a battle for European places for next season, however, with Dean Smith’s side currently in a rut of lifeless football, European qualification seems a million miles away.
Aston Villa have lost to Tottenham in 11 of their last 12 meetings in all competitions. Sadly, Sunday’s game was no different.
Villa started this game brightly and arguably looked like the better team against a nervy Spurs side that was lacking confidence after mid-week embarrassment in the Europa League.
However, at 30 minutes, Martinez rushed out and gifted Spurs an undeserved lead. Martinez has been a revelation in goal this season, so he shouldn’t receive too much criticism, but this error along with many other from the entire team, proved to be fatal for Villa.
Since their return to the Premier League, Villa have conceded first 31 times. They have lost 26 of these games. So far, when conceding first this season, Villa have only salvaged one point. There is a clear mentality issue when we concede first and it is demonstrated in our in-game performance and statistics.
From the 30th to the 45th minute, Villa saw decreases in several statistics. The attacks per minute decreased from 0.67 to 0.38. The lively start Villa made slowly began to fizzle out. Pass accuracy dropped from 84% to 80%, indicating the sharpness and concentration dropped.
As well as the percent of long balls being attempted, increasing from 10% to 13%. Villa panicked and became frustrated, opting for a more direct approach instead of slower build up play.
This type of dip in performance clearly shows why Villa fail to bounce back in games they go behind in.
The first goal for Villa is absolutely vital. This is an issue that ultimately will prevent Villa making the jump to become a top six club this season. This issue spans far greater than just missing Jack Grealish, Villa are susceptible to this even when he plays.
Villa are desperately missing their star man, as any team would. Their half time expected goals (xG) value was zero and ended up being only 0.40 xG. They lack any type of creativity without Grealish. In the six games he has missed, Villa have had an xG below one, four times. When previously it was only 7 times in 22 games.
There was a return to the lineup for Matty Cash last night and it was a return to forget for him. With one penalty committed, losing possession 29 times, a 60% pass accuracy and 41% ground duel success rate. This was not a performance he’ll be wanting to remember any time soon.
The squad as a whole are currently off the pace and it is difficult to find a specific stand out player when Villa perform like this.
This being said, the long-term future for the club is still incredibly exciting. The short-term form should not cause fans to overreact, Villa are a club on the up and regardless of European football, this season has been an immense success.
The international break is currently welcomed for this squad. Jack Grealish can recover and gain fitness, whilst Watkins gets a chance to showcase the traits that have caused the Villa fan-base to become so fond of him.