Despite their best efforts, Aston Villa could not reduce a four goal deficit and lost back-to-back Premier League games this weekend against Southampton.
Words: Harry Trend | @HazaTrand
Aston Villa did their best to claw back a four-goal Southampton lead but ultimately came up short. Here are five talking points from the game:
Two wrongs don’t make a right
Aston Villa were blitzed in the second half by Leeds United last week, and the Pride looked distinctly second best in the opening half of this game. Che Adam’s bizarre opener was disallowed for an offside, then an Ezri Konsa slip led to Theo Walcott hitting the crossbar.
James Ward-Prowse gave Southampton the lead after 20 minutes and like in the Leeds game, there was no immediate reaction from Dean Smith’s side after going behind. Villa cannot make a habit of this.
First half goals entirely avoidable
James Ward-Prowse is arguably the Premier League’s finest from a set-piece; the 26-year-old showing his quality yesterday with two goals and an assist from dead-ball situations. However, that’s not to say Villa weren’t at fault for conceding.
Jannik Vestergaard made the most of Villa’s zonal marking in scoring the Saints opener, the six-foot-six centre-back occupying the space of five-foot-ten John McGinn and subsequently breaking the deadlock with a header. A simple piece of communication would’ve allowed Tyrone Mings, who was guarding the right-hand corner of the six-yard box, to switch with McGinn and perhaps deny the Saints’ defender a clean header.
All three of Ward-Prowse’s free-kicks were on the money, but the Southampton midfielder shouldn’t have even had these opportunities. Matt Targett and Douglas Luiz both made fouls that didn’t need to be made and Matty Cash’s handball was frankly peculiar.
Super Jack almost drags Villa back
Jack Grealish was the best player in a claret and blue shirt yesterday afternoon. The Villa captain almost dragged the Pride to a point in the second half with a late goal in added time.
However, Grealish was instrumental throughout the second period, with everything good Villa did coming through him. The 25-year old dictated the left flank to the point where the away side found it almost impossible get the ball off him, and when they did it prompted referee Darren England to blow his whistle – case in point being Ibrahima Diallo’s high kick on the midfield talisman resulting in Watkins’ penalty strike.
His cross to set up Tyrone Mings was also exquisite. Boyhood fan Grealish giving that little bit extra is a well-worn narrative but a true one nonetheless.
Alex McCarthy on form
Talking of well-worn narratives, Villa coming up against a keeper having the game of his life isn’t a new one either. Alex McCarthy was tested numerously in the second half.
The Saints keeper did well to keep hold of Trezeguet’s volley prior to tipping over another effort from the Egyptian soon after. The Saints stopper then got a hand to Tyrone Mings’ header late on to delay the potential comeback.
While Emiliano Martinez couldn’t do much about the four he conceded, McCarthy was definitely the standout keeper on the day.
No room for Davis or Hourihane?
Admittedly, Dean Smith was hamstrung early on with Bertrand Traore having to depart with an injury, but Villa’s only second-half substitute came when Ahmed Elmohamady replaced Matty Cash with the Pride 4-1 down.
Bringing on Keinan Davis or Conor Hourihane might have been the smart move, but Smith chose to stick with his attackers who eventually helped pull the deficit back to just one. I
Is the gap Smith’s between starting 12 (if we include Trezeguet) and his substitutes widening?