The three moments that defined Aston Villa’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park...
#3: Absent Creativity
Let’s just state the obvious straight away and get it out of the way; Villa miss Jack Grealish and they miss him badly.
For the first time at Villa Park since 2014, Villa failed to register a shot on goal in the first half against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
For the opening half an hour, Villa were comfortably the better team, controlling good possession of the ball and playing high up the pitch. Spurs’ back four didn’t look up to all that much, with left-back, Sergio Reguilon, looking particularly vulnerable.
It was a game that was crying out for someone with the guile and class Grealish possesses and you feel like he would have torn them to pieces.
As Dean Smith said afterwards though, the players “have to step up and can’t just wait for Jack to back”. Fingers crossed he’ll be back for the remaining games this season, but it’s an issue that needs to be and no doubt will be addressed in the summer transfer window – we need better quality players in the final third in order to keep progressing to where we want to get to.
#2: Silly Costly Errors
As lackluster as Villa were, their opponents were not much better. Spurs came into the game on the back of a difficult week, losing to their North London rivals, Arsenal, followed by an embarrassing exit from the Europa League in which drew some stinging words from Jose Mourinho and captain, Hugo Lloris.
Spurs offered very little and left Villa Park with all three points courtesy of Villa gifting them two goals.
Considering how good Villa have been defensively this season – they have the third best defensive record in the league so far – the first goal was a really poor one to concede as Reguilon played a long ball over the top for Carlos Vinicius to chase.
Emi Martinez came rushing out to meet it, but instead of just lumping it into the safety of the stands, his poor kick found Lucas Moura. It was an uncharacteristic, but costly mistake from Martinez.
The Brazilian resisted the temptation to try a shot with Martinez scrambling back to his line, instead interchanging passes with Harry Kane, before squaring for Vinicius to tap home from close range.
The second came from the penalty spot. Kane received a ball from Moura and as he approached the by-line, the returning Matty Cash slid in to block an expected cross from the England skipper.
There was no cross as Kane had failed to controlled the ball and Cash’s momentum took him into Kane. The penalty was given and Kane made no mistake; the goal making him joint top scorer in the league as things currently stand.
Some fans online questioned the decision (personally I thought it was an absolute stone-wall penalty), but as Cash has since admitted himself on Twitter, he should have stayed on his feet, as going to ground in the penalty area invites trouble.
Spurs had the points in the bag, finding themselves 2-0 up having had both goals served up to them on a platter.
#1: What Next?
Sitting 10th in the league table, Villa now have only 10 more games to play.
After an excellent first half the season, the last thing the management and players will want is for the recent poor run to continue into the final run of games and for the season to completely fizzle out.
The Covid outbreak has clearly had an affect as Villa just aren’t playing with the same zip and energy displayed in the first half of the season and losing one of the best players in the league for a number of games certainly hasn’t helped.
A number of fans now feel like the season is over and there’s nothing left to play for, but that simply isn’t the case. Villa are still only five points behind 7th placed Liverpool with a game in hand and still to play them again, as well as being five points off Everton with two games to play against them.
We can all argue whether we’re capable of a top 7 or 8 finish; on recent form definitely not, but based on the first 19 games, we most definitely are.
The players have to maintain the belief that it’s an achievable target, understanding that to do so will require greatly improved performances on the pitch and quickly.
Going into the international break, Villa will need to regroup and maybe find some game time for Wesley in the shape of some behind closed doors games to build up his match fitness so that he and a (hopefully!) fully fit Grealish can rejuvenate Villa for the final 10 games of the season.