Aston Villa’s loss to Burnley came as somewhat of a shock, with the home side coming from behind twice to eventually take all three points.
Words: Harry Trend | @HazaTrand
Burnley three, Aston Villa two. A game many a Villa fan would rather forget.
Here’s five talking points from yesterday evening:
Aston Villa need to find a ruthless streak
In the context of this season, an away defeat against a hardworking Burnley side isn’t anything to panic about. However, if Aston Villa are serious about getting into Europe this season then they need to develop a ruthless streak. Dean Smith’s side created a host of quality chances in the first half that they failed to take; Ollie Watkins’ one on one with Tom Pope being the best of those.
Unsurprisingly, Villa’s expected goals tally (2.55) dwarfed that of Burnley’s (0.67), and these statistics were similar in the Pride’s favour back in December when the two sides played out a nil-nil draw. Villa may have beaten Liverpool, Arsenal and Leicester this campaign, but Smith’s side could have easily taken points off the likes of Brighton and West Ham too had things gone their way.
Watkins back to scoring ways
Ollie Watkins’ showing mirrored Aston Villa’s performance in microcosm. In the first half the former Brentford man was almost unplayable; Watkins’ constant drifting out wide gave the Burnley defence a whole host of problems.
Watkins did well to grab Villa’s opener. The 25-year-old made a smart run behind Burnley’s Ben Mee before getting in front of him to convert Matt Targett’s low cross.
However, Watkins was foiled by Tom Pope one-on-one soon after in a chance where you felt the Villa frontman never truly had the ball under control. That was to be Watkins’ last real sniff of goal in the game, with a deeper Burnley midfield doing well to nullify the Villa striker in the second half.
A couple of Villa players weren’t quite at their best, but Jack Grealish certainly was. Even if a pass to the Villa captain was telegraphed and the Burnley thought they’d sufficient cover around him, Grealish would still manage to slalom his way through.
He didn’t deserve to be on the losing side – he was a level above his peers. The 25-year-old put Villa in front in the second period after concluding a one-two with Douglas Luiz with a predatory finish.
Then there was that run. As if flicking the ball over the head of one Burnley played wasn’t enough, Grealish preceded to lever the ball over two more Clarets players before driving into the penalty area and seeing his off-balance left-footed strike saved by Tom Pope. It would’ve been a goal for the ages.
Admittedly Villa have been relatively secure at set-pieces this term, so it might not be worth reading into this one too much. However, Dean Smith will be annoyed at the way Ben Mee scored Burnley’s equalizer.
Ross Barkley’s ball-watching meant a mismatch at the back post for Douglas Luiz. If Ben Mee hadn’t had scored that header then James Tarkowski, positioned right behind his defensive partner, would’ve. Hopefully Villa learn from this and, more importantly, pick the correct man to mark/cover the space to deny Jannik Vestergaard any joy from dead balls on Saturday.
Yes we all know that Ron Saunders used just 14 players as Villa won the title in 1981, but football has changed and tonight some of Dean Smith’s men looked weary as this game drew to a close. Ross Barkley has started all three games since his hamstring injury but failed to complete any of them. John McGinn wasn’t quite on it with his passing either.
With Aston Villa completing a backlog of games in hand, a bit more midfield rotation may be what the Pride need. Thankfully, Morgan Sanson adds strong competition to this area whilst Marvelous Nakamba and Jacob Ramsey have proved to be able deputies when called upon to start in the middle.