Emi Martinez was probably one of a very few positives Dean Smith would have taken out of his sides poor performance in their goalless draw against Brighton.
Credit to the home side, they nullified Villa’s attack and were a goalscorer short of taking all three points at the Amex Stadium.
Smith described his side’s performance as ‘below average’ with more unforced errors than he remembers seeing in a long time.
The Villa boss made just the one change to the side that beat Arsenal 1-0 last weekend with Douglas Luiz replacing Marvelous Nakamba. The Zimbabwe midfielder may feel a little unlucky to have been dropped given his performance last weekend.
Villa struggled to get going from the off with Brighton being by far the better side throughout the 90 minutes and the home side should have taken the lead after 10 minutes. Alexis Mac Allister managed to get on the end of an inviting cross from Joel Veltman but could only guide the ball over the bar.
Martinez was called into action just moments later through a Veltman drive but it was comfortable for the keeper.
On the half-hour mark, Brighton turned up the pressure as Martinez once again came to Villa’s rescue. Neil Maupay was denied at the near post following a shot from a tight angle and then Leandro Trossard could only watch on as the Argentinian tipped his effort over the bar.
Arguably his save of the half came when he turned Dan Burn’s header around the post as Villa struggled to get out of the final third.
Surely Villa wouldn’t be as bad in the second half!
High Press problems
Brighton got their tactics spot on and Villa was, as Smith described below average. They doubled up on Jack Grealish and pressed high up the pitch. Not the first team with a high press that we have struggled against this season.
Matty Cash was soon forced off with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Ahmed Elmohamady.
The home side continued to dominate but Martinez was in no mood to concede after he pulled off yet another sublime stop to keep out Veltman’s effort that looked certain to rattle the top corner of the net.
Morgan Sanson was introduced as the struggling Ross Barkley made way. The Frenchman also made an immediate impact but was unable to get on the end of Grealish’s low cross.
The last chance fell to Danny Welbeck, who tends to love a goal against Villa. The former Man United and arsenal forward managed to direct a cross towards the goal but once again Martinez proved equal.
There is no secret that we have had a fantastic season so far but that does not mean the players and management are exempt from criticism.
The defensive players have been let down by those in front of them since we returned from our Covid break. Wayword passes and the lack of press will always put us under pressure. Smith’s lack of a plan B or being able to deal with the high press is worrying but we need to remember that he is still learning his trade, like many of the players.
Two big positives from the game would be the performance of Martinez and also his defenders. Its clean sheet number 12 of the season in a game we probably would have lost last season.
It’s an old cliche in football but they do say the signs of a good side are when you can grind out a result on an off-day. In recent weeks, it’s not the first time we have managed to do that.