Aston Villa 1 – 2 Manchester City
A few days ago, the world of football united against Manchester City and 11 other teams, for their owner’s greed and lack of consideration for the history and competition of European football. It later turned out that they had as much conviction as most Aston Villa attacks in recent weeks.
For Villa, this match against City represented an opportunity to stick it to the football ‘elite’. In spite of this opportunity, a string of on and off performances from Dean Smith’s men, won’t have given fans much confidence of an upset. The Citizens would be looking to bounce back after some poor results, a defeat at the hands of ten-man Leeds, and an FA cup semi-final loss to Chelsea.
There was one change to the side that agonisingly lost to Liverpool. Jacob Ramsey came into the midfield in place of the injured Trezeguet. The Egyptian had successful surgery, and is now looking at a lengthy period of recovery. Adding Ramsey on the left of a midfield of John McGinn, Marvelous Nakamba and Douglas Luiz would surely pack the middle of the park and hopefully restrict the space for City to operate. Carney Chukwuemeka was added to the bench, looking to make his first Villa appearance. The big news for Man City was the loss of Kevin De Bruyne in the loss to Chelsea, but the squad depth at Pep Guardiola’s disposal still made their line-up a scary prospect.
Blink, and you would have missed John McGinn’s goal after 20 seconds. Villa were off to a flyer as Tyrone Mings’ quick thinking set Ollie Watkins free on the left, and his ball across was converted by McGinn charging forward. From that point on, minus one or two rare claret and blue forays forward, it was all Manchester City.
Phil Foden looked high in confidence as he showed pace, agility and skill on the ball. It was the young attacking midfielder who would break through the Villans deep defence to draw the scores level. A long Ederson pass found Oleksandr Zinchenko on the left, the ball was played across to Bernardo Silva, who picked out an unmarked Foden. It was a crisp City move, but Marvelous Nakamba or John McGinn really should have tracked the goalscorer.
It was then an uncharacteristic error from Emi Martinez that put Pep Guardiola’s team in front. A dinked cross from Bernardo was flicked into the net by Rodrigo, as Martinez haplessly charged off his line. Villa were give a ray of hope though, as John Stones recklessly took out Jacob Ramsey on the break. A red card was eventually rightly produced, making the second half at lot more interesting for the Villa faithful.
Dean Smith opted to switch to two up front in the second half, with Keinan Davis coming on. Villa started the half brightly with some crosses into the City box. The visitors still looked dangerous, but it looked as if there was a possibility for Villa to get back into the game. Then Matty Cash hit the self destruct button as he took two obvious yellow cards to get sent off. It was after this moment that the game died. Nothing particularly happened as City controlled the possession and let the minutes tick down. It felt like a pre-season game, the intensity just wasn’t there.
The best chances came for City, but even those were half attacks as they left men back to prevent a counter.
The full-time whistle confirmed what had seemed inevitable since the 60th minute, a 2-1 loss. It’s not 6-1 like last season, but other than for a very brief period, it never seemed like Villa had City sweating.
Emiliano Martinez – 6
Usually so reliable between the sticks, Emi Martinez made a bad error to allow Rodri to score. The Argentine more often than not judges whether or not to come for crosses perfectly, but his judgement let him down. He did make some impressive stops however, the best of which coming as he dived low to his left to stop a powerful Riyad Mahrez shot.
Matty Cash – 4
Already on a yellow card, Matty Cash was completely reckless to bring down Phil Foden, as he was nowhere near the ball. Even with that aside, he was dragged this way and that by Foden, with the attacking midfielder getting the better of him on multiple occasions. For a player to give away a man advantage, in no danger, in such a brainless fashion is completely inexcusable. Hopefully, he will see it as a big lesson and learn to manage his frustration better.
Ezri Konsa – 7
Ezri Konsa was often the man to sweep low crosses away as City tried to pass their way into the Villa net. The young defender also adapted remarkably well to being played in a half centre-back, half right-back style position after Matty Cash was sent off. Support from Traore and then Anwar El Ghazi was few and far between, but Konsa had a much better time up against Foden than Cash did.
Tyrone Mings © – 6
Maybe Tyrone Mings could have done better for the second Man City goal, but apart from that he didn’t do a lot wrong. His quick thinking and accurate long pass got Villa off to a flyer before the visitors knew what hit them. On top of this, Mings’ three blocks leads the Villa team, and his four clearances was joint first. He also didn’t have any errors with the ball at his feet this time round, with his play being a lot tidier and direct.
Matt Targett – 7
Five tackles shows that Riyad Mahrez didn’t have the beating of Matt Targett too often. Villa’s left-back has really matured defensively this season, and this was another good performance. At the other end of the pitch his didn’t quite have the desired impact, but up against a winger like Mahrez, it’s understandable that Targett didn’t stray too far from home.
Marvelous Nakamba – 5
There was probably more that Marvelous Nakamba could have done to prevent Foden’s equaliser. He also struggled to get in amongst the City midfield and make many challenges. His one clearance, no tackles and no interceptions show how ineffective he was at breaking up the Citizens attack’s. Taking off the Zimbabwean for Ross Barkley did seem like an odd move from Smith, but Villa needed to try and drag themselves back into the game with a goal,and Marv wasn’t going to bring that.
Douglas Luiz – 5
Brazilian midfielder Douglas Luiz put himself about a bit in the middle of midfield, but he was thoroughly outclassed at times, by a team that don’t give the ball away often if ever. His efforts to pressure the likes of Gundogan and Bernardo were mostly fruitless, though he did pick up a tackle and an interception. There were a couple of occasions when Doug’s passing was sloppy, with under hit passes putting the defence under immense pressure.
John McGinn – 6
John McGinn had his moment after 20 seconds, and it looked like he was going to have a barnstorming game. For the first five minutes he came out the blocks at speed, but then died off and did less and less. As the second half progress he became virtually a non-entity as City played positive, but not particularly incisive football to run down the clock. The start from the Scott was promising though, more of that will be needed against the Baggies.
Bertrand Traore – 5
There were some exciting moments early on from Bertrand Traore, as Villa had a good opening five minutes. From then he failed to excite, and generally failed to influence the game. Matty Cash, for all his mistakes, needed some help from Traore, and often it was nowhere to be seen. Villa needed that moment of quality and flair from the Burkina Faso international, but he was often surrounded by City players and forced backward.
Jacob Ramsey – 6
Jacob Ramsey took a nasty challenge from John Stones that led to the City defender’s red card, but thankfully he wasn’t injured. Though his defensive work wasn’t always the most energetic, Ramsey got stuck in when he needed to. He also added a key pass and a shot lashed into the side netting. It says a lot about how highly he is thought of, that he was selected ahead of Anwar El Ghazi.
Ollie Watkins – 6
It was another game of the ‘thankless task’ for Ollie Watkins. A lot of running, pressing, and occasionally picking the ball up on the wing. His run in behind created the Villa opener, and often he did well to win headers or attempt to hold up the ball, but there were no real sniffs at goal for the England international. The one time where some space opened up, he opted to pass. He had nothing to lose and had come close from far out in the past, why not have a pop?
Off the Bench
Keinan Davis (46) – 5
It looked like Keinan Davis was going to cause all kind of trouble for the City defence when he initially came on. Then after the red card and the change of game plan, he wasn’t really in the game. The ball wasn’t going up to the strikers, or into the box often enough for Davis to be effective, which led to him only having 10 touches.
Ross Barkley (62) – 5
Ross Barkley wasn’t bad. He didn’t give the ball away as he often has in recent weeks, he didn’t play many bad passes. He didn’t exactly do anything positive though. Smith was looking for some game changing creative influence from the Chelsea loanee, and it didn’t arrive.
Anwar El Ghazi (74) – 4
Five touches, in 20 minutes. Anwar El Ghazi attempted to beat Zinchenko once, and had the ball stolen, and City hit on the counter attack. He may as well have kept his training gear on.
Dean Smith – 5
It’s fair to say Dean Smith had the start that he would have dreamed of. After the goal though, Villa were so unbelievably passive, invited City onto them, and the visitors got a routine win. The red card to Matty Cash didn’t help matters, and having a man advantage would have put Villa in a position to go for it, but it was just plain boring and unambitious.
After the red for Cash, Deano got out his bumper book of tactics, and came up with a formation that was remarkably attacking. The way the team played while using it though, didn’t live up to the premise. It wasn’t the drubbing that happened last season at Villa Park, but Villa now are supposed to be light years away from where they were last term.
Next up it’s West Brom, which surely won’t be the walk in the park it was in December. Big Sam Allardyce has got his team playing some very nice counter attacking football. It may be too late for the Baggies to survive relegation, but if they get something against Leicester City tonight, then they’ll see a win against Villa as a potential springboard to launch an Houdini act.