The Warm Down: A Christmas cracker at Villa Park
(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Dean Smith was given the 'perfect Christmas present' as his side scored three goals despite losing influential defender, Tyrone Mings.

In-form Bertrand Traoré opened the scoring thanks to Ollie Watkins'  magnificent movement. Watkins forced Vicente Guaita into a parrying save, but winger Traoré stepped up to slot the rebound home.

Late into the first half Villa suffered a big blow as Mings got sent off for a second bookable offence. 

The red card didn't faze Smith's men as they continued to bomb forward throughout the second half.  

After Watkins' header from a curling free-kick hit the bar, Kortney Hause was there to head home the rebound from close range, giving villa some sense of security. 

To cap off the afternoon, in-form El-Ghazi fired home a wonderful first-time finish putting Roy Hodgon's men well out of sight.

Solid at the back

This time last year the talking point around the Villa was their dismal defensive displays. However, this isn't the case this time around - even with 10 men, the defenders looked comfortable on the day.

Smith brought in just under £80million worth of signings in the summer to make his side more competitive in the Premier League - one of those being goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. The 28-year-old has been in fine form since his switch to Villa Park and has registered eight clean sheets this season; the most in the league. He's turning out to be an absolute steal for just £17million. 

Sublime counter-attacking

With the likes of Jack Grealish, Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traoré, Villa have always been a side who love to hit teams on the break. With the home side down to 10 men against Palace, Villa needed to utilise their counter-attacking effectively and clinically. They hardly looked like the team with 10 men as they dominated throughout with Palace unable to handle Villa's pace in the final third.

Speaking to Birmingham Live's Ashley PreeceDean Smith said:

"Our counter-attacking threat was there for all to see. I said to the players: there's no other striker i'd want in the Premier League to play with 10 men." 

Watkins' work rate

When you're brought into the club for just shy of £30million you're always going to be under pressure to score goals. Watkins, brought from Brentford in the summer, has scored six goals this season and could have had more to his name if it wasn't for VAR.

Having not scored in six games, a small minority of Villa fans were starting to ask questions of the 24-year-old. However, what goes unseen by that small minority is his work rate off the ball. Watkins played a big part in all three of Villa's goals and was awarded man of the match.  He is a big asset to Villa going forward and a big part in how they play. He'll be frustrated he didn't bag a goal himself; he came close in the dying stages, hitting the post. 

Selection headache 

With the return of Ross Barkley fast approaching Smith has a conundrum  on his hands. Anwar El Ghazi is in fine form scoring in three of his last four. Traore has also been impressive scoring in consecutive games. Another player who had gone under the radar until the hectic December schedule is defender Kortney Hause. He also got on the scoresheet too. One worry for Villa was their strength in depth this year - it's fair to say those worries have been put at ease a little with so-called fringe players stepping up to the plate when called upon. Nevertheless, it's a headache Smith would want.