Aston Villa suffered a fifth loss on the bounce as we fell to a 1-0 defeat to Southampton at St. Mary’s on Friday night.
Adam Armstrong’s strike in the third minute was the difference between the two sides, as while the hosts dominated the opening 45 minutes, Villa certainly improved after the break and were on top for most of the second half.
However, we couldn’t find a clinical edge to our play to get back into the game, and so naturally, the pressure continues to build on Dean Smith as we continue to fail to find ways to end our poor run of form.
Slow start proves costly for Villa again
A major issue in Villa’s slump over the past month has been an inability to start games strongly.
We saw it again at Southampton, as although it was a superb strike from Armstrong to break the deadlock, Villa looked second best in every department for most of the opening 45 minutes.
That simply can’t happen. That in turn ends with us chasing shadows and the game, and it continues to make our lives more difficult in trying to get out of this rut.
Midfield needs to be addressed
For the umpteenth time already this season, our midfield was completely bypassed and overrun. The idea of playing John McGinn and Marvelous Nakamba as a two-man midfield didn’t work.
The pair couldn’t impose themselves on the game in either phase, and it led to countless problems for us as Southampton were well on top in the first half and dictating everything.
Unless we add a different profile of a midfielder in January, we must have three in the middle to try and control things.
Villa have lost our solid base
Time and time again it was far too easy for Southampton to get at our defence and test Emiliano Martinez. Whether it was down the flanks with overlapping runs or cutting through the heart of the side, it was hard to watch in the first half.
Smith and the players would undoubtedly have spoken about shoring things up and stressed becoming hard to beat again, but we simply didn’t show that early on.
That’s now five games without a clean sheet, and Southampton certainly could have had more in the early stages.
Too sporadic from creative players
Whether it was Emiliano Buendia floating in and out of the game, Anwar El Ghazi’s lack of quality in the final third or Leon Bailey’s poor night, we didn’t get enough from our creative individuals.
That in turn led to Ollie Watkins being isolated without the service he needs to thrive, and so while we did create chances in the second half, it wasn’t consistent enough to really put pressure on the Saints.
While the hosts showed that they have a clear style of play and identity as a team, Villa lacked cohesion and understanding.
Smith facing difficult fortnight
It’s ultimately just sad to see the Villa boss come under pressure and receive stick from fans.
Albeit some of it is warranted, especially given our current run of form, it’s so gutting to see how things have developed over the past month following that win over Man Utd.
Time will tell if the owners still believe that Smith is the right man for the job as there will likely be some difficult conversations over the international break, but it’s going to be a horrible fortnight for all concerned as we have to wait to see if we can finally produce a win against Brighton on November 20.