Aston Villa fell to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Tottenham on Sunday as question marks perhaps will be raised over our best system moving forward.
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg gave the hosts the lead at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but Ollie Watkins bagged our equaliser and his first goal of the season to set up a fascinating last 20 minutes.
However, Villa’s good work in getting that goal was undone soon after as Matt Targett’s own goal eventually separated the two sides and ensured we return home empty-handed.
In truth, we perhaps didn’t deserve anything from the clash given the level of our performance, which was all the more frustrating after how impressive we were at Old Trafford against Man Utd last weekend.
Change needed from 3-5-2?
While the 3-5-2 formation certainly brought positives against both Everton and Man Utd in the Premier League as well as against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup, its longevity and effectiveness week in and week out will have to be questioned after this game.
Villa struggled throughout to get going as with no fluidity or quality to our attacking play, we never really threatened Tottenham consistently at any stage in the game.
That started with an inability to build out from the back, while we looked disorganised and struggled to control the midfield. In turn, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if Smith changed it against Wolves after the international break in a game at home in which we need to be on the front foot and be the aggressors.
Ings could make way
Despite Dean Smith’s comments in his post-match interview as seen below, there are slight concerns over the Watkins and Danny Ings partnership up top as it hasn’t yet clicked.
Smith on Watkins-Ings: "I have no concerns. Danny's scored goals already. Ollie's got his 1st today & we're creating chances. Pair worked as hard as anything again. There's no frustrations. In the final third our final ball wasn't good enough."#avfc #UTV
— Talk Villa (@thetalkvilla) October 3, 2021
While Watkins grabbed his first goal of the season on Sunday, Ings struggled to really influence things again and appears to be finding it harder to adapt and fit into this system.
Time will tell if the Villa boss sticks with it, but with Watkins arguably pressing more effectively as the spearhead of our attack too with clearer and more defined roles, once Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendia are both available to Smith, that seems like the most effective front three for us.
Lacklustre display off the back of a big win
What made this defeat all the more frustrating was that it came as confidence and optimism was as high as ever following our win over Man Utd last weekend.
Villa were seemingly hitting their stride and getting closer to showcasing our best, but this is ultimately a step back now as questions will be raised over our consistency and what is the right system for us moving forward.
Nevertheless, the most disappointing aspect of Sunday’s loss was just the lacklustre nature of it with a performance devoid of quality and sharpness adding to the frustration.
Midfield crucial to make Villa tick
A reoccurring theme of some of our most impressive wins has been our midfield grabbing the game by the neck and not only taking control, but setting the tempo.
We saw it against Everton as we took charge in the final half hour, John McGinn, Douglas Luiz and Jacob Ramsey were all impressive at Man Utd, and it’s imperative to give us a foothold and balance to our performance and offer help to both the defence and two frontmen.
McGinn, Luiz and Ramsey were all off the pace on Sunday, and in a chaotic game which needed one midfield unit to show class, composure and accuracy, we didn’t get that from our trio.
Watkins up and running
In a game of few positives, one that did emerge was the sight of Watkins scoring his first goal of the season.
After a disrupted pre-season and having to work his way back to full fitness over the course of the start of the campaign, it must have been a frustrating period for the Villa striker without finding the back of the net.
It’s hoped that his goal against Spurs will not only open the floodgates for him, but also lay the blueprint down for his teammates on how best to use his movement, instincts and finishing in the box again to ensure there is plenty more to come and consistently in the coming weeks and months.