Dean Smith has questioned the application of his players following the 3-1 defeat to Arsenal and admits that he was ‘concerned’ by some of what he saw.
Villa, who had an excellent recent record against the Gunners before Friday night, were below-par from minute one and failed to register a single shot on Aaron Ramsdale’s goal in the first-half of the contest.
Despite an improved performance in the second 45, the visitors ultimately gave themselves far too much to do and Smith says he cannot excuse the way in which the team started the game.
“We just didn’t play well enough,” he said.
“They deserved what they got first half because we got dominated physically and that’s unlike us. I had to change it at half-time and unfortunately if we’d have got through that half 1-0 I’d have fancied us in the second-half, 2-0 was probably hard to get.
“We knew Arsenal would start strong. They started strong against Crystal Palace in the week and we warned the players of that. I’d love to say I think it was systems, personnel, we just didn’t play well. We got dominated.
“We didn’t win enough second balls, didn’t win enough first balls, wasn’t good enough on the ball. I’ll accept the second-half all day long but that first-half just wasn’t good enough.
Smith was left confused by the manner of the performance and admitted the first 45 in particular, was concerning.
“I’m concerned at the moment because we’ve conceded four goals from set pieces over the last two games. But it wasn’t a set piece goal that we conceded last week, we felt we dealt with that certainly second phase but we’ve got to win first contacts. We won enough last week. It was put into an area where we had enough bodies to win that first contact so that certainly was disappointing.
“I’m concerned by the first half performance today. We were good enough for 80 minutes against Wolves to go and win that game and we were sloppy at the end of it.”
Despite the overwhelming disappointment that came immediately after the defeat, the Villa manager was keen to assure fans that the team will get through this rough patch.
“You never like losing any game in the Premier League. We’ll be alright,” he added.
“We’ve got a good enough squad to do it. Leon Bailey needed those 45 minutes as everybody could see today. We’ve got Bertrand Traore coming back as well.
“We’ve got more options now in a good squad but I can’t deny we were second best tonight.”