The three moments that defined Aston Villa’s win over Fulham at Villa Park...
#3: Another Defensive Error
In Villa’s last game before the international break, they lost to Tottenham Hotspur in a game that was void of any real quality from either team. Spurs’ two goals were gifts following individual defensive mistakes.
Sunday’s game against relegation threatened Fulham looked to be following the same pattern. Neither side looked like they were likely to score, with a lack of quality in the final third at both ends of the pitch severely lacking.
The only way a goal looked forthcoming would be through a mistake and it came from Tyrone Mings. What should have been a routine pass back to Emi Martinez was scuffed, allowing Aleksandar Mitrovic to score his first Premier League goal since September to put the visitors ahead.
The anti-Mings brigade on Twitter had a field day as apparently this is what Mings always does. The fact that Villa have the third best defensive record in the league this season with the second most amount of clean sheets would suggest that isn’t the case, but facts are often overlooked when they don’t fit a certain agenda.
Lesser players would have crumbled, but Mings showed real leadership and strength of character in going about atoning for his error.
#2: Quick-Fire Trez Double
Dean Smith has on numerous occasions been criticized this season for his use – or lack thereof – of his substitutes. Immediately after falling behind, he replaced the ineffective Anwar El Ghazi with Trezeguet in what just looked to be the obligatory ‘replace the poorest performing winger around the 60 minute mark’ change.
At the back end of last season, Trezeguet burst into life, scoring vital goals in Villa’s survival push. Thus far, this has not been a fruitful season in front of goal for the Egyptian winger. His work rate is never in question, but in terms of quality there is a general feeling that it’s just not quite there.
However, perhaps it’s just that he really enjoys the business end of the season. In the space of three minutes he scored two goals of real quality. The first was a lovely left-footed strike from just inside the box as he got onto Tyrone Mings’ cross – the Villa skipper having made a great burst forward to make amends for his earlier mistake.
The second was even better, a well-controlled first time volley from Keinan Davis’ fine cross – more on him later. Out of nowhere, Villa now found themselves ahead and looking likely to increase the lead, which they did with three minutes remaining when Ollie Watkins ended his recent goal drought in a Villa shirt, finishing at the far post after some fine work from Bertrand Traore.
#1: Davis Impresses
Most of Davis’ appearances from the bench this season have come fairly late in games, leaving him little chance to settle into the game and make an impression. Against Fulham, he came on with a good 25 minutes left and was played through the middle, alongside Watkins rather than being shunted out onto the wing – and it worked.
Whilst Trezeguet’s finish for the second was top class, it all came about thanks to Davis. As Tosin Adarabioyo dallied onto the ball for too long, Davis pounced, winning the ball and flattening the defender in one movement. Advancing towards goal, he had the composure to pick Trezeguet out at the back post, rather than just smash an aimless cross low and hard into the box and hope for the best.
Davis is never going to be a prolific goal scorer, but he does have qualities to offer this Villa side. He has good pace and great strength, holds the ball up well, and his link up play in bringing others into the game is also impressive.
His lack of finishing prowess suggests playing him on his own through the middle is not really a viable option, but as part of a duo with Watkins, it could be effective and provides Villa with a real ‘Plan B’. This just needs to be done with enough time for him to make an impact, rather than just chucking him on for five or ten minutes at the end of a game.
Villa face a tough trip away to Liverpool next, but with them now just five points off sixth in the table and with games in hand still against most teams around them, there is still plenty to play for this season.