It wouldn’t have taken many minutes for most supporters, indeed any seasoned football fan, to see have recognised that Villa’s entire game-plan was flawed.
What was perplexing was that the Villa bench allowed our hosts to dominate and put the game to bed before doing anything about it. It was a painful performance both on and off the pitch, with the only positive being that the problems are glaring but fixable.
THREE AT THE BACK
It doesn’t work, it hasn’t been working and needs to be binned. Smith had worked hard in the early part of his tenure at the club to address our often shambolic defending. The system leaves us exposed and with space to exploit, something which Arsenal demonstrated repeatedly in the first half to great effect.Embed from Getty Images
Matty Targett’s form continues to be erratic after a much improved 2020-21 season. The former Southampton defender looks uncomfortable, is unable to fulfil the wing-back role and finds himself frequently recovering defensively. The clumsy, albeit debatable penalty conceded on the stroke of half-time sums up his struggles.
BUENDIAEmbed from Getty Images
Villa’s club record signing looked lost at times at The Emirates, once more deployed in a position which didn’t reap great rewards at Norwich. We have a long history of buying players who look outstanding for opposition and then inexplicably play them outside of the role in which they previously shone.
There can be no doubt that Buendia has the talent, but there are hints of similarity to the early Villa career of former club Captain Stilyan Petrov. The Bulgarian, who most will remember as an outstanding footballer, stank Villa Park out for weeks after his arrival, resulting in a humiliating substitution of one of the clubs marquee signings. Buendia needs to find his feet, settle and one wonders if we are watching history repeat itself.
On paper, a predatory goalscoring combinaton. In practice, an awkward and ineffective experiment which hasn’t work in the opening quarter of the campaign.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”Albert einstein
Emi Martinez continues to impress. He could do little about the goals and pulled off another superb penalty save only to see the rebound bundled beyond him. It wasn’t the Argentine’s evening to crotch thrust in front of his former employers, but his time will come.
Leon Bailey, fit for selection but bizarrely benched, once more evidenced the threat he carries. The Jamaican international looked as bemused as the rest of us as he was sent on to fix the debacle, but immediately provided energy and flair to the attack.
Bailey was the creator of Aaron Ramsay’s fine consolation goal, jinking skillfully across the field and Arsenal defence before the academy graduate despatched a wonderful strike into the top corner.
It prompted a momentarily sense of false hope, a couple of half chances, but Arsenal had done more than enough to earn their victory.
For Villa and Smith there is no hiding from the reality; this was a poor display and a deserved third consecutive defeat. This is not the time for culling manager’s or determining whether individual players are up to the task. We need to get the fundamentals right, no longer persevere with glaring tactical errors and then judge the results.
If things don’t change, the mistakes will continue to manifest themselves in defeats and the heat will inevitably turn up upon a manager whose progress is scrutinised not only by an ambitious fanbase, but also a watchful ownership. As such, let’s hope we learn from our mistakes and arrest this alarming slide in recent form quickly.Embed from Getty Images