Aston Villa picked up a point on Thursday night as we couldn’t find a way past Everton in our second clash with the Toffees in the space of a fortnight.
The two sides met at Goodison Park at the start of the month, with Villa returning home with all three points after an impressive and well-deserved 2-1 victory.
However, we weren’t able to repeat that level of performance and result this week, as we remain in 11th place in the Premier League table with just three more games to go this season.
On one hand there is real frustration that we couldn’t get more. That said, with Everton coming on strong in the second half, perhaps a draw was a fair result.
Martinez equals club record for clean sheets
That’s now 15 clean sheets so far this season for Emiliano Martinez, which in turn equals the club record set by Brad Friedel in the 2009/10 campaign.
The Argentine shot-stopper will have three cracks at surpassing him, but he has already proven to be an exceptional signing for us given the way he has influenced our improvement at the back.
That said, with the way the entire team defends and works hard to make it difficult to break us down, credit goes to all for playing their part, but Martinez has produced some top-class saves throughout the season and has cemented himself as a fundamental figure for us.
Mings puts in captain’s performance
Although he eventually returned the captain’s armband to Jack Grealish as he made his comeback from injury, there is no doubt that Tyrone Mings put it all on the line in this game.
From last-ditch interceptions in the final minute and injuring himself in the process, to never letting his concentration and energy levels drop as he remained a rock at the back throughout.
He’s had his critics this season, particularly after some costly errors, but there is no doubt that when he’s on his game, he’s a real pillar of the side.
Time up for Barkley?
Ross Barkley is edging closer to seeing his loan spell with us come to an end, and unfortunately it would appear as though he’s run out of time to prove he deserves a permanent switch.
While there were more positive signs in the last meeting with Everton and against West Brom, he’s taken another step back this week with his performances and it has to raise real question marks over his ability to continue on at Villa.
After the start he made, it looked as though it could have been a perfect signing. However, as time has gone on, he hasn’t done enough to warrant a return to us next season and beyond.
Poor play in final third continues
It wasn’t just Barkley who struggled on Thursday evening though, as the entire attacking unit didn’t show enough quality in the final third to trouble Everton.
While we enjoyed good spells of possession throughout, we didn’t really have too many ideas on how to unlock a stubborn Everton defence, which was happy to sit back in numbers and counter us.
That’s where Barkley, Bertrand Traore and Anwar El Ghazi needed to do more to support Keinan Davis who was always a willing runner, but we came up short in that department.
Jack is back, Grealish provides massive boost
A huge moment in the game arrived in the second half as our captain, Jack Grealish, made his highly-anticipated return from injury after missing the previous 12 games with a shin problem.
It didn’t take him long to get comfortable back out on the pitch as his mazy runs and ability to draw in the opposition to create space for his teammates started to make a big difference to our attacking play.
Not quite at full fitness and sharpness yet, he’ll hope to get more minutes on Sunday against Crystal Palace as we hopefully finish the season with a flourish.