Aston Villa and the not so sharp return

Villa’s goalless draw with Everton leaves Dave Woodhall looking to the future.

You wait all season for Villa to play Everton then two come along at once. villa’s best performance in months was at Goodison although with both teams playing better away than at home the return fixture wasn’t one to be particularly relished.

The good news was that Jack Grealish was back, albeit on the bench. the not-so-good news was that Ross Barkley retained his place in the side, although looking at the rest of the squad there wasn’t much option. Villa have lacked strength in depth for years and that’s one of the reasons why this summer could be the most important of our current ownership.

Jed Steer’s place alongside Grealish added fuel to the speculation that Tom Heaton’s off, although to my mind that would be premature as although Emiliano Martinez is a strong contender for both Villa Player and Premier League Bargain of the Season, most great keepers go through a rough patch at some time.

Keinan Davis started in the absence of the suspended Ollie Watkins and it’s perhaps kindest to say that throughout the match he showed that he’s a useful player to have coming off the bench. That Grealish bloke isn’t too bad, either. Three months out and he did more in twenty minutes than anyone else, if not everyone else combined, did in ninety.

Villa were okay in the first half, although there were few chances and the most notable bit of action came with a stoppage time injury to Matty Cash. Everton upped their game after the break but Villa’s defence coped well with any threats that came their way. Grealish’s entry into the action led to some of Villa’s best moments of the game, although the end product was missing and the match was petering out into a goalless draw long before the end.

As with the first half, the second featured an injury to a Villa player, this time Tyrone Mings after a collision with Martinez. Luckily it didn’t seem too serious and even more luckily for Sky the referee didn’t allow enough additional time to put the start of the Game of the Century in jeopardy.

The scoreline might have reflected the match and both reflected the weather but there are still positives to take from the evening. Jack returned, Douglas Luiz and John McGinn were improved, Villa’s defence was much better and most of all, this should be the last time we have to play without a crowd. Last season’s game with Everton was played in an atmosphere that will long be remembered. This one was, well, at least it won’t have to be repeated. Saying that though, their away record is as good as our home form is poor so that’s another consolation.

The season might be fizzling out after offering so much promise but there isn’t too much wrong with taking four points from a team who have spent much of the past decade in the Best of the Rest position Villa had made their own before then. The big challenge when 2021-22 starts is to outdo Everton over 38 games rather than just two. And did you know this is the most-played…..?