After a disappointing loss midweek against a struggling Sheffield United side, Dean Smith’s men had an opportunity to bounce back at home against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
For the majority of the first half it looked like Aston Villa were dominating the game, but what changed in the second half and led to the points being shared?
In the first half, Villa came out firing.
Passes per defensive action (PPDA) indicate pressing intensity; Villa allowed 7.84 PPDA in the first half and Wolves allowed 16.11 PPDA.
It was an intense half for Villa as they pressed Wolves and forced errors.
With 53% possession and Ollie Watkins and Ezri Konsa both hitting the woodwork, they dominated the first half and should have gone into the break being at least 1-0 up.
The second half was completely different.
Villa only had 39% possession this half and allowed 10.91 PPDA.
They sat off Wolves this half and they grew into the game and created several chances that should have been scored.
Romain Saiss’ close range effort had an expected goals value of 0.77 xG, which is higher than a penalty and Conor Coady saw his effort with a value of 0.74 xG saved somehow by Emi Martinez.
The change in performance in the second half could be attributed to the substitution of Morgan Sanson for Ross Barkley in the 60th minute.
This was a forced change as Sanson had picked up a small injury.
His appearance was cut short, but he made an impact; with 43 touches, an 80% success rate in ground duels, three tackles, 17 pressures, six progressive carries, and two blocks.
He was all over the pitch and showed genuine quality and most importantly, something different for Villa in midfield.
Ross Barkley continued to struggle when he came on and failed to make any real impact on the game.
He only had 14 touches, 50% success rate in ground duels, zero tackles, one pressure, one progressive carry, and zero blocks.
His most notable contribution was a miscalculated back pass in Villa’s penalty area, which led to a chance for Wolves.
He is clearly out of form and is struggling, the return of Jack Grealish might be what he needs.
Not only were Villa missing Grealish, but they were once again missing Matty Cash.
Ahmed Elmohamady did a fantastic job defensively with two tackles, two blocks, four interceptions, and three clearances.
As the graphic shows, Wolves had less than 0.01 xG down Villa’s right side, outlining how well Elmohamady did defensively.
The issue with him is going forward.
Matty Cash and Bertrand Traore’s link up play down the right-hand side is an outlet for Villa and in Cash’s absence, Villa are limited going forward.
The graphic emphasizes this.
Villa had 0 xG from nine attacks down the right-hand side.
Although Elmohamady is doing a fairly good job standing in, the sooner Cash is back the better.
Both sides should consider this a point gained rather than two points lost; both teams rode their luck at times.
With Villa now reaching the infamous 40-point mark already this season, the pressure is off and they can begin to plan for the next season in the Premier League, whilst also keeping their European dreams alive if they begin to pick up form again.