Three things we learned from Southampton – Aston Villa

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Southampton – Aston Villa: Jack Grealish set up Ross Barkley for a goal and Southampton were twice denied by tight VAR decisions as Aston Villa prevailed 1-0 at St. Mary’s on Saturday.

Dean Smith’s men become the seventh team in the Premier League to win 10 matches this season.

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Villa moves into eighth with 32 points, five points off the top four with a match-in-hand on fourth-place Liverpool.

Southampton sits 11th with 29 points, losers of three-straight.

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Three things we learned from Southampton – Aston Villa

1. Villa makes most of danger (and some VAR luck): Saints probably had the better of play over 90 minutes but both sides had the opponent on edge for 6-8 minute stretches. The difference is that Villa found their finish before halftime on Grealish’s service to Barkley while Southampton couldn’t deliver the finishing touch midway through the second half.

Saints had 60 percent of the ball and an 18-8 advantage in attempts, but both managed four shots on target and Villa put the only one home. Maybe that should’ve been changed when Matty Cash’s handball was somehow denied by VAR, possibly because the ball first hit his thigh first, but most neutrals would likely acknowledge they’d expect handball to be called against their teams. Danny Ings then had the ball over the line in stoppage time but his equalizer was defied by his shirt sleeve being millimeters closer to goal than a Villa defender’s rear end.

2. Grealish gets love but defending an equal driver: Jack Grealish is a sensational talent deserving of praise for his chance creation, and he assisted Barkley’s goal. And while he’s the main reason that Villa entered the day third in expected goals despite playing fewer games than anyone else, the Villans also gave conceded the fourth-fewest expected goals as well as the third-fewest goals per game. So big ups to Tyrone Mings, Emiliano Martinez and Matty Cash.

3. But yeah, Grealish gets love for a reason: The assist for Villa’s captain brings Grealish’s season production total to six goals and nine assists in 18 matches, and his 0.44 expected assists per game is the fourth-most of players to make more than a half-dozen appearances (Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Cengiz Under, Kevin De Bruyne). He’s also 18th in xG+xA per 90. A word of warning to Villa’s opponents: Ollie Watkins is four spots ahead of Grealish, his eight PL goals three shy of his expected 11.

Man of the Match: Jack Grealish

Oriol Romeu might’ve had just as much impact on the game and would’ve taken this honor if Saints got anything out of it, but Grealish is the man.


Southampton – Aston Villa recap

Saints felt they’d won a penalty when Matty Cash blocked Stuart Armstrong’s close-range shot with his arm but VAR did not agree after a long review of the incident.

Barkley put Villa ahead just before halftime off a terrific Jack Grealish cross, and Ollie Watkins nearly had it 2-0 within two minutes.

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The game was opened-up plenty after the break and Oriol Romeu made a terrific tackle to deprive Watkins of a chance to put the game to bed.

At the other end, Armstrong just missed with a 20-yard bit to level the score. Frantically, the match returned to Saints end where Bertrand Traore couldn’t find the mark.