Aston Villa fell to a disappointing 3-2 loss to Watford in our first game of the new Premier League season, with Dean Smith left unimpressed with his side’s first-half performance.
Villa went 3-0 down after 67 minutes, and while we improved after the break and battled our way back into the game, it was far too late as we return home with nothing to show for our efforts.
While there were a few positives in terms of Danny Ings getting a goal on his debut and Leon Bailey impressing off the bench, it was a frustrating and disappointing day as we must now look to bounce back and produce a response against Newcastle Utd at home next weekend.
Smith has to figure out ideal system, personnel
Villa were overrun and lacked solidity in the heart of the side in the first half, with John McGinn and Marvelous Nakamba struggling in the opening 45 minutes to get a foothold in the encounter.
Jacob Ramsey’s introduction at the interval made a big difference as we immediately looked better, and so unless a midfield enforcer is brought in, we arguably can’t afford to leave ourselves so open and vulnerable with a two-man midfield.
With Ollie Watkins hopefully set to return next weekend coupled with Bertrand Traore and Leon Bailey impressing off the bench, Smith also has a good headache in terms of team selection as he has multiple options at his disposal. It’s easier said than done finding the right combinations though.
Midfield a major concern
As noted above, the midfield was a real concern through the first half and at times in the second too as it was bypassed by Watford far too easily who broke at will on our backline.
We can’t afford to be that exposed moving forward otherwise sides will continue to cause us real problems, and so whether it’s a late move in the transfer window or a temporary switch in system, Smith has to address that quickly and find a way to bring a better balance and cohesion to the side.
Bailey makes positive first impression
On a tough afternoon, Villa and Smith will be pleased with how Bailey came on and impacted the game in a positive way. With a lack of training with his new teammates, he made himself at home and showed some class in our attacking play.
It’s hoped that he’ll be in a better position to start next weekend having had more time to settle and train, as it was clear that he’ll be a handful for a lot of Premier League defences this year.
Debut goal for Ings
While he worked hard and showed some great movement in the first half with no reward, it was nice to see Ings get his goal on his debut with a late penalty.
There is no doubt that he will thrive in this side when our creative and playmaking players click into gear and provide him with service, while his quality off the ball makes a big difference too.
Watkins will hopefully return to partner him next week, but it was a positive start to life as a Villa player for Ings.
Time needed for attack to click
With so many new faces, others working their way back from injury to regain full fitness and perhaps just a lack of overall fitness in the squad after our disrupted pre-season schedule, time and patience will be needed to see the best of this attacking unit.
Buendia, Bailey, Traore and Co. will become a nightmare for opposition defences, but for now, it looked like they’re still building an understanding and chemistry.
Smith will know that it needs to all click into place sooner rather than later as the pressure will build quickly, but time will tell if they can show improvement next time out.