Premier League Relegation Battle: Encouraging Signs for Aston Villa Despite 0-0 Draw

The Premier League is back! Oh, how we've missed you.

That's right. After 100 days, action in England's top division got back underway, with Aston Villa played out a 0-0 draw with Sheffield United.

As the away side walked out on to the pitch first, it was once again made very evident the reality of the current climate. At kick-off, all players also took a knee as they looked to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

For both sides, while it may have been just the first game back, the importance of it could not be understated. Sheffield United remain in the hunt for European football, but for Villa, they're fighting to remain in England's top division.

Starting the game in the bottom three, the clash with Sheffield United was their game in hand on the teams around them, and a win would have seen them move out of the relegation zone - at least for the time being.

As a result, Dean Smith will have stressed the importance of a positive performance and result. The hosts initially struggled to get a foothold in the game early on, but soon grew into the contest. Villa's best moments in the opening exchanges actually came when playing direct, with defenders and midfielders looking to play long.

Aston Villa showed encouraging signs

The Blades defence struggled to deal with Keinan Davis, who used his body well to force his opponents into mistakes. The hosts also looked sharper to loose balls, while they were snapping into challenges and looked the hungrier of the two sides.

While the quality perhaps wasn't quite there, that was to be expected in the first game back, but what will have pleased Smith most about the first half performance will have been the intensity of their play.

But while this was the case, they failed to create any golden opportunities and instead, they could - and should - have found themselves behind at the break.

Yet, this wasn't down to a lack of organisation in defence, but rather a calamitous goalkeeping mistake. Orjand Nyland seemed to carry Oliver Norwood's cross past his own goal-line, but the technology suggested otherwise.

Nyland's howler

It is worth noting that this is a Villa side that have the worst defence statistically in England's top flight, having already conceded 56 goals this campaign.


While they ultimately weren't able to find a way through and grab the winner, the clean sheet will have been very pleasing for Dean Smith. Apart from Nyland's horror moment, Villa looked tight at the back and kept Oli McBurnie and Billy Sharp extremely quiet throughout.

Elsewhere, the returning John McGinn was also instrumental in midfield, working tirelessly off the ball and showing creativity when on it. His driving runs from deep created problems all evening for the Blades, while he also linked up well with Jack Grealish.

The midfield combination of Grealish and McGinn, as well as the promising showing at the back are both very encouraging signs for Villa and Smith.

John McGinn's return could be key

Of course, their inability to break the deadlock will be a cause for some concern but, ultimately, it was never going to be a perfect performance. All Smith could ask for in the first game back was a willingness from his players to go out and put on a performance as they look to avoid the drop - and this is exactly what he got.

Make no mistake about it, they are in a real battle to avoid the drop. But for the first game back, Smith couldn't have asked for much more. Now, they must kick on and look to build on this showing.

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Source : 90min