Roberto De Zerbi identifies key factor in Aston Villa's defeat at Brighton

Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa - Premier League
Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa - Premier League / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

In a thrilling Premier League encounter, Joao Pedro's 87th-minute goal propelled Brighton & Hove Albion to a 1-0 victory over a weary Aston Villa side plagued by injuries at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.

Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi credited the win to a combination of factors, including Villa's fatigue and the exceptional performance of their backup goalkeeper, Robin Olsen.

Villa entered the match with limited rest following a midweek loss to Olympiacos in the Europa Conference League, and the absence of key players, such as first-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, further compounded their difficulties.

Despite the challenges, Olsen delivered a stellar performance, making crucial saves that kept Villa in the game until the final moments. De Zerbi praised the Swedish goalkeeper, calling him Villa's best player on the day.

The Italian manager also highlighted the impact of Villa's busy schedule on their performance, suggesting that the physical and mental strain of their recent matches had taken a toll. This fatigue, combined with Brighton's relentless pressure, created numerous scoring chances for the home side throughout the game. De Zerbi told Birmingham Live,

"They are fourth on the table and playing against the teams of Emery is still very tough. We played a good game, we deserved to win, we could score more goals. But to be honest Villa were not the true Villa today, maybe they were tired."

Ollie Watkins, Calum Chambers
Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa - Premier League / Bryn Lennon/GettyImages

Villa's woes were compounded when Morgan Rogers was forced off the pitch due to an injury just 25 minutes into the match. The 21-year-old, who had been a key player for Villa since joining from Middlesbrough in January, required immediate medical attention, leading to an early substitution that affected the team's morale and tactics.

Brighton's resilience and adaptability shone through as they took advantage of Villa's vulnerabilities, showcasing De Zerbi's tactical prowess and his team's ability to recover from their own recent struggles. The victory not only lifted spirits within the Brighton camp but also provided a crucial three points to distance them from the bottom half of the table.

For Aston Villa, the defeat was a setback in their quest for European football next season. The absence of key players, including Martinez, midfielder Youri Tielemans, and the uncertainty surrounding Rogers' availability, has put Villa's squad depth and tactical adaptability to the test as they prepare for a vital Europa Conference League semi-final second leg against Olympiacos.

As the Premier League season reaches its climax, Brighton's victory over Aston Villa highlights the unpredictable nature of the competition and the importance of squad depth and resilience in overcoming the challenges of a demanding campaign. Villa must regroup and overcome their injury troubles to maintain their top-four position.