Aston Villa crashed to a defeat against bottom side Sheffield United, further intensifying the belief that they are a one-man team with Jack Grealish missing once again.
The Villa skipper missed his third game on the bounce with an undisclosed injury as rumours continue to circulate about how long he will miss, and his side fell to a second defeat in that time.
Striker David McGoldrick’s sixth goal of the season in the first half was enough to secure the points for the Blades, who were reduced to 10 men with 35 minutes to play in the second half. Despite that though, Villa struggled to create any meaningful chances after that and Chris Wilder’s side held on for the points.
It’s a big worry for Dean Smith’s side, who had been one of the better teams to watch in the division for much of this season when Grealish was available.
The 25-year-old has been in sensational form with seven goals and ten assists in all competitions, leading Villa to a charge for the European places less than a year after avoiding relegation on the final day of last season.
With Grealish missing, the burden has been placed upon Bertrand Traore and Ross Barkley to provide the spark from midfield to create and score goals but it just hasn’t quite happened for them. Barkley’s performance in the defeat to Leicester was enough to see him dropped for the next two games to the bench, while Traore got on the scoresheet in that game but has struggled to do much else since.
Even in the win against Leeds, the Villains created just three shooting opportunities from open play, plus two from counter attack situations and then four set-pieces according to WhoScored. They scored one goal and only came out victorious thanks to a man of the match display from Emi Martinez in goal.
It’s something that the manager needs to address, with the over reliance on Grealish just asking for trouble even once he returns to fitness.
Clubs were already aware of how much creativity and skill he brings to the side, but seeing how little the rest of the team bring to the team without him, it’s worth them targeting Grealish a little bit more than usual and forcing the team to use the rest of the players on the pitch.
They could potentially go for a change of system, maybe adding in an extra midfielder to help them build from deeper positions or even a change of shape to move players into more attacking positions.
Regardless of what they decide to do, they need to do it quickly before they fall away from their league position and end up seeing out the rest of the season just playing out the rest of their games with nothing really to play for.