Aston Villa fell to a 3-1 defeat at Man City on Sunday, with Unai Emery having plenty to mull over, more negative than positive, from our performance.
The game was essentially over at half-time as City took a 3-0 lead into the break, with poor marking from a set-piece, a breakdown in communication and a questionable penalty decision helping to put the hosts in complete control.
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While that sounds slightly bitter, the truth is that Villa were awful in the opening 45 minutes, and while we did improve in the second half as City’s level also dropped, Pep Guardiola’s men deserved the victory and were the better side.
Emery has a lot to consider ahead of our encounter with Arsenal on Saturday, as he looks to find tactical and personnel solutions, while also hoping that his players start to cut mistakes out of their respective games and quickly.
Mings absence magnifies his importance
There was no suggestion during the week that Tyrone Mings was at risk of missing this game, but our first-choice centre-half was absent from the squad and was a huge miss for us.
While he tends to receive plenty of criticism, Mings’ importance to the side is always magnified when he’s absent, as we miss his physical presence, height, and general organisation at the back.
Villa were too easy to play through in the first half and were poor defending set-pieces. While Mings may not have been able to sort out everything himself, he would have certainly made a big difference.
Moreno over Digne
After being replaced at half-time last time out, Lucas Digne was taken off on the hour mark in this one and that’s surely now opened the door for Alex Moreno to come back into the side.
Not only did the Frenchman struggle defensively as City broke into space between him and Calum Chambers on several occasions, but he offered very little in possession in our build-up play.
Emery must be demanding more in that role, and having signed Moreno last month for specific reasons in terms of what he adds to the side, the Spaniard should now get an extended run in the Villa XI.
Watkins continues fine form under Emery
That’s now three consecutive Premier League games in which Ollie Watkins has scored, and it takes his tally to four goals along with two assists in eight league outings under Emery.
There is no doubt that the 27-year-old is relishing playing under the current Villa boss, who is deploying him in areas where he can be more decisive.
That should be doing wonders for his confidence, as we saw with how clinically he took his goal on Sunday, combine that with his tireless work ethic when providing movement in the final third or pressing from the front, he is continuing to shine.
Duran making positive impression
After a brief eight-minute debut against Leicester City in which he impressed, Jhon Duran built on that and really stood out in the 30 minutes he got in Manchester on Sunday.
Whether it was drifting out to the right side or playing more centrally, the 19-year-old Colombian forward added a physical presence, technical ability and threat to our play.
Emery was right to calm expectations after the game as he is the one overseeing Duran’s development and will know how best to use him and how much progression he still needs to show, but there is certainly excitement over what the youngster can offer moving forward as he looks a real handful and is already pushing for a bigger role.
Solutions needed to get best of Buendia, Ramsey, McGinn
With players returning from injuries, Emery now has competition for places in midfield and will need to find the right balance with the right personnel.
In our last two games, Jacob Ramsey has been largely ineffective and too quiet playing on the right side, and so a tweak might be needed to get him into areas where he can maximise his strengths running with the ball and breaking into the box to provide a goal threat.
Similarly, Emiliano Buendia was isolated on Sunday and wasn’t able to be as influential, and with Leon Bailey struggling for consistency and form, could we deploy the Argentine playmaker closer to Watkins instead, move Ramsey over to the left side and play John McGinn on the right?
That is just one of many potential solutions that Emery could consider, but it’s a good headache to have for the Villa boss and he’ll hopefully identify the right choice that provides the best balance and efficiency starting against Arsenal.