After almost three weeks away from playing Premier League football, Aston Villa returned to top-flight action on Wednesday night as they took on Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Dean Smith’s side were in the contest until well into the second-half, when controversy struck with just ten minutes to go. Tyrone Mings was adjudged to have played Rodri onside after the Spaniard stole the ball off him after coming from way behind, and Bernardo Silva stuck one into the corner of the net to set City on their way to victory.
And whilst VAR played a massive role in Villa’s 2-0 defeat to Pep Guardiola’s men, Bertrand Traore was a bit of a let-down for his manager too.
The Burkina Faso international was given the nod to start ahead of the in-form Anwar El Ghazi, who’s scored five goals in his last games in the Premier League.
And but for one of those stand-out ‘did you see it?’ moments where Traore made Kevin De Bruyne look a fool with an incredible first touch, it just wasn’t the former Lyon man’s night.
Too often he got himself into promising situations but couldn’t deliver a good enough end product, and his reliance on his stronger left foot meant that City could play him far more easily and just force him onto his weaker right.
In the 68 minutes that he was on the pitch, he lost possession 10 times, and given that he only 23 touches of the ball, he conceded possession with every 2.3 touches – by far the worst of any player on the pitch, and an indication of how much he still needs to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League.
Traore failed to find his man with any of his three attempted crosses, whilst he only made four successful passes in the entire time that he was on the pitch. It certainly didn’t help his team that he wasn’t much of a help for Matty Cash defensively, which is quickly becoming a theme whenever he’s playing.
Whether it was Joao Cancelo who recognised that he could have a field day with Traore not tracking back, or Guardiola making that a part of his tactical blueprint before-hand, it was no surprise to see the Portuguese left-back be one of City’s chief creators on the night.
He had three shots, one of which hit the woodwork, completed 100% of his dribbles and had a whopping 108 touches of the ball – the joint-most of any City player, and showing how much City attacked down Traore’s side.
Writing in his post-match player ratings, The Birmingham Mail’s Ashley Preece said that he was “guilty of losing him as the City full-back burst forward to link up with Foden” and that he was “a bit wasteful on occasion”.
VAR might take the headlines, and rightly so given how it’s cost Villa. But Smith will also be very disappointed with Traore’s showing after showing him the faith to start him over El Ghazi.