Kieran Trippier’s 35th-minute free-kick was the difference between the two teams as Villa striker Ollie Watkins saw a goal ruled out for offside in the second half.
It was a below-par display from the visitors, with Birmingham Live journalist Ashley Preece tweeting that the visitors were “the worst they’ve been under Steven Gerrard”.
Despite the whole team struggling, Emi Martinez – who is usually excellent for the Villans – had a forgettable match.
According to SofaScore, the goalkeeper was the joint-lowest rated player on the pitch as the Argentine and team-mate Douglas Luiz were handed 6.4/10 ratings. The goalkeeper made just one save whilst also failing to record a single punch, runout or claim. Martinez could also only manage a 68% passing accuracy, whilst having just 28 touches – the second-fewest of any Villa starter.
Granted, Newcastle didn’t offer much either, with Eddie Howe’s side recording just two shots on target, one being the goal from Trippier. Also, in fairness to the Villa ‘keeper, there wasn’t much he could’ve done with the free-kick, which took a big deflection off Emi Buendia on its way into the net.
The performance was particularly below-par due to how high expectations now are for the 29-year-old. Since joining Aston Villa from Arsenal in September 2020, the goalkeeper has made 61 appearances, keeping 21 clean sheets in the process, an average of a clean sheet every 2.9 games.
He has missed just one league game for Gerrard’s side this term and is a crucial presence at the back, with his distribution a key factor in the way in how the 41-year-old wants his team to play.
However, one legitimate criticism of Villa’s squad is that there is very little pressure on the 29-year-old to maintain his place in between the sticks, with Jed Steer and Robin Olsen, who signed on loan from Roma in January, the only alternatives.
Olsen struggled to make a positive impact on loan at Sheffield United in the Championship earlier this season before switching to Villa Park, conceding 17 goals in 11 league appearances whilst keeping just one clean sheet.
As for Steer, the 29-year-old came into the team for the 3-0 defeat at Chelsea in September when Martinez was absent, whilst also appearing twice in the Carabao Cup and once in the FA Cup this term. It indicates his status as a reserve player that the bulk of his appearances have come in much-changed domestic cup XIs.
There probably won’t be any serious consequences as a result of Martinez’s below-par performance on Tyneside, but Gerrard will certainly be looking for a bit more consistency from his goalkeeper with his side targeting a top-half finish. That could be harder to achieve after this weak display from the Argentine, and indeed the team as a whole today.