‘Easy touch’, Dean Smith mystery & the word that just keeps cropping up for Aston Villa
Disbelief – that’s the word to describe Aston Villa’s devastating 3-2 defeat against Arsenal.
It was a three-minute horror show as Dean Smith’s side were put to the sword after daring to dream at the Emirates.
John McGinn opened the scoring before Wesley restored the lead after Nicolas Pepe pulled a goal back from the penalty spot.
An uncharacteristic error by Tyrone Mings gifted Arsenal a second while, six minutes from time, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the winner from a free-kick 20 yards from goal.
Here, Our Man at Villa, Ashley Preece, picks out four things learned from such a sore defeat to take.
CUT OUT SILLY MISTAKES
It was yet another error-strewn performance with Smith and Villa left kicking themselves. Jack Grealish at Spurs, Tom Heaton against Bournemouth, letting Jordan Ayew in at Palace while, against Arsenal, it was first Bjorn Engels planting a leg before Tyrone Mings attempted a cushioned header before Callum Chambers pounced to drag Arsenal back level.
Villa appear not to be learning from their mistakes – and are being found it and punished time and time again. The Premier League, as everyone knows, is unforgiving and Villa must stop gifting the opposition free hits on their goal.
Villa are, it’s got to be said, becoming an easy touch – and that needs to change sooner rather than later.
VILLA MIXING IT WITH BIG BOYS
Spurs, Everton, West Ham and now Arsenal – Villa have proved they can mix it with anyone and performed heroically yet again in north London. In the first half, Villa were good for their 1-0 lead – really good in fact.
They restricted the Gunners to next to nothing in terms of chances and looked menacing on the break with Jack Grealish, Trezeguet and John McGinn orchestrating from midfield. As Smith alluded to in his post-match press conference, Villa should go for the kill instead of retreating – just as they did at Tottenham on the opening day of the season.
But, remaining positive, there’s a lot Villa can take from an hour at the Emirates, looking brave and bullish at times but couldn’t find what would have been a match-winning third.
Villa had 14 shots on Bernd Leno’s goal, nine of which were on target. In the first 45, Villa shown a real togetherness, grafting for each other to win the ball back to kick-start an attack.
Grealish and McGinn both looked on it before fading late on, making the wrong decisions as Arsenal continued their barrage of pressure. Wesley, too, notched a well-taken goal to take his tally to two goals in six games.
VILLA CAN’T PLAY AGAINST 10 MEN
Just like last week, Villa worsened after a red card was dished out to the opposition. Villa were much the better side when it was 11v11 but, as soon as Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent off, Villa were on the back foot.
Against West Ham a week ago, Villa looked like an entirely different team – and did so again at the Emirates, a shadow of what they produced prior to Maitland-Niles’ sending off.
It’s surely a mental thing, you’d guess, as Mings alluded to in his post-match interview.
He said: “I don’t know what it is at the moment but something needs to change, especially when we go either ahead or a man advantage. It seems to have the opposite effect.”
TIREDNESS, TIMING & NO DOUGLAS LUIZ
Villa worked relentlessly hard in the first period – and it came back to bite them late on at the Emirates.
Smith’s men pressed from the front and did so again when Arsenal went down to 10 men before pushing – and finding – a second goal through Wesley.
After that, though, Mings made what seemed to be a tired pass, opting to casually cushion a header to Taylor as opposed to being sharp-minded enough to realise booting it into row Z was the only viable option.
The whole of the Villa XI look shot in terms of fitness, such was their efforts. The way Matteo Guendouzi and live wire sub Lucas Torreira drove at Villa’s back line was alarming to say the least.
Why didn’t Smith change it earlier and bring on Conor Hourihane to provide much-needed energy? That, for now, remains a mystery.
Afterwards, the boss said how he wanted Villa to go and get a third so kept trying to attack and it was mistakes which cost them in the end but, the point is this, Smith should have boxed clever and should have attempted to shore it up much more.
Villa were getting overran, so why not change it? Are the likes of Grealish and McGinn un-subable, if that’s even a word!? He should have freshened up the engine room.
To leave Douglas Luiz out as well was bamboozling, too. The Brazilian would have been ideal for the last half-hour at the Emirates, a mature head who’s played in big arenas before.
That decision to leave him out, you’d say, came back to haunt Smith who, in the end, stuck to his principles as he kept with it in search of what would have been a killer third goal.