Patrick Viera’s Crystal Palace dominated an unorganized Aston Villa side on Saturday, sending the Birmingham club to a 3-1 loss in the nation’s capitol.
Despite taking an early lead via a fifth-minute Ollie Watkins tally, Villa were overrun in midfield and were relegated to nothing more than spectators for the remainder of the contest.
Wilfried Zaha drew the match level in the seventh minute and, after a period of sustained pressure, Palace nearly took the lead in the 27th minute when Jefferey Schlupp scored from an offside position. A VAR reversal ensured Villa hobbled into halftime tied with a far-superior Palace side.
The Eagles resumed their onslaught on the other side of the break and earned a penalty in the 56th minute. Zaha, the penalty taker, had his attempt stopped by Emi Martinez, but the Ivorian scored on the ensuing rebound to give the hosts a 2-1 lead.
Jean-Philippe Mateta provided an insurance marker (3-1)–immediately after being introduced as a substitute–in the 71st minute.
Aston Villa look a lost side after a promising preseason
Expectations were reasonably high for Villa heading into the 2022/23 Premier League season. A fresh slate of signings and a full preseason for Steven Gerrard would surely fire the club into the top-10.
But three games into the season and Villa simply look a lost side. There’s an abundance of quality in the squad but there’s no clear identity. Teams with less talent look more menacing than Villa at the moment because there’s a clear, well-written plan in place (Brighton, Brentford, and Leeds, for example).
Gerrard, who’s had all summer to work with the squad, seems unsure himself how he wants Villa to play. Often electing to play long balls from the back instead of building up, or attempting to create from wide areas–with little to no support–when the squad is more suited to exploit the space at the top of the box, Villa look confused and without direction.
In their last 14 Premier League games under Gerrard’s direction, Villa have won just three times. It feels as though the squad has actually gotten worse with a full Gerrard preseason.
On Saturday, Villa were out possessed (51% to 49%), out shot (17-13), and out chanced (5-1). At one point Will Hughes got in behind a back line that made no adjustment despite clear ineptitude.
Reports suggest Villa are on the verge of signing Watford winger Ismaïla Sarr, who would surely bolster attacking options, but it’s clear a commanding central midfielder is needed to play alongside Boubacar Kamara. John McGinn has been dreadful and Jacob Ramsey has been inconsistent.
From here: splash for a central midfielder, secure a loan for a central defender, and give Gerrard a month to sort it out.
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