We’ve picked out five key talking points from yesterday’s game to discuss as Aston Villa head into the International Break.
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Friend Leaves the Pride Fuming
It’s the only place to start. So Jack Grealish drives into the Crystal Palace penalty area, shrugging off Wilfred Zaha. He then pops the ball off to Henri Lansbury, Lansbury finishes into the far corner with his right. In the process of laying it off Grealish gets clattered by Gary Cahill and Friend blows up – bizarrely penalising Villa’s number ten for diving.
The blame shouldn’t be on VAR for this incident, VAR isn’t there to undermine the decision of referees. Instead it should solely be on Friend. Firstly, it isn’t a dive, Grealish is trying to manoeuvre the ball into the path of Lansbury, he doesn’t even claim he’s fouled and gets straight back up. Secondly, it’s a foul by Cahill if anything, who kicks Grealish in the ankle. To summarise Friend makes two mistakes – blowing up early and then giving the decision the wrong way. If that isn’t enough for some kind of retribution then I don’t know what is.
As previously mentioned, it wasn’t Kevin Friends finest hour and a half, but the Pride were still committing sloppy fouls and giving the man in black decisions to make. By the break Villa had four players on a booking, with three of those being defensive, you already had the feeling that someone could get sent off.
And nine minutes into the second half that someone was Trezeguet, the Egyptian collecting his second yellow after diving in late on Zaha. In his post-match press conference Smith said, “I thought the officials got the decision right with Trez (Trézéguet). It was a silly challenge and he’ll learn from that.”
Mistakes, Mistakes, Mistakes
Poor refereeing decisions aside, Villa must take some ownership over a performance which included a multitude of defensive errors. The amount of times Villa gave the ball away in defence will be a worry for Dean Smith, an example being when Frederic Guilbert gave the ball straight to Jeffrey Schlupp – luckily for Villa James Mcarthur blazed over Schlupp’s square ball.
Jordan Ayew’s goal was avoidable too. Tyrone Mings and Grealish got too tight to the Palace striker and Grealish would’ve done better to make a standard tackle rather than trying to clear the ball. The goal was unfortunate, but it could’ve certainly been prevented.
Keinan Davis Continues to Impress
Despite his side going down to ten men, Smith took a gamble and brought on Keinan Davis for Jota with 59 minutes gone thus changing Villa’s shape to a 4-3-2. By all accounts Davis had earned some Premier League minutes after impressing against Crewe in midweek, and he impressed at Selhurst Park too. The 6-foot-3 inch striker held up the ball well allowing Villa to progress up the pitch – of the nine passes he made Davis misplaced just one. There was also a maze-y dribble in his own half which meant Villa could reset for an attack.
Moreover Wesley and Grealish saw more of the ball with Davis on the pitch. There was a moment where Davis chested a long ball down prior to laying the ball off to Wesley who found Grealish – the Solihull-born midfielder proceeded to get forward and win a foul. Playing two up top is certainly something Smith should consider deploying again going forward – especially late on when games are stretched.
A Welcome Break
The upcoming international break means Villa won’t play again until they welcome West Ham to Villa Park on September 16th, but I can almost guarantee that this doesn’t mean that Smith will be flying off to Europe to stay in his holiday home (we’re looking at you Steve Bruce).
Instead, it gives Smith more time to assess the campaign so far and alter any tactical failings. If anything, it’ll allow some time for fans and players alike to cool down after being robbed of that point!