Aston Villa threw away points on Sunday as we suffered a 2-1 defeat at Brentford, arguably the most disappointing result since Steven Gerrard’s arrival.
Things started positively as Danny Ings gave us the lead, and it was a deserved one having dominated play for the opening 41 minutes of the encounter.
"We've lost the game because we've conceded two poor goals."
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) January 2, 2022
However, after conceding an equaliser just before half time, things went downhill from there as we struggled to show the same level of play after the break and while we weren’t ruthless or clinical enough in the final third, Brentford made us pay after finding a late winner.
Konsa a figure of reliability
While it’s always difficult picking out positives after such a disappointing outcome, Ezri Konsa continues to be a reliable pillar of the Villa defence.
From his positioning to his reading of play and his physicality to win duels, he was solid throughout and is continuing to mature into a top, top player.
If we can find that same level across the entire backline and give them better protection from midfield, we’ll be a lot harder to beat and it won’t just be Konsa who emerges as our best player at the back week in and week out.
Buendia steps it up
Given his struggle to add goals and assists to his game since his big-money summer arrival, it was important to see Emiliano Buendia produce in this game.
He was positive, confident and showed real quality at times when finding pockets of space in the final third, and his highlight moment came as he produced an assist for our opening goal.
From the skill shown in the spin to set himself free to the perfectly weighted through-ball for Ings, that’s the class we need to see from Buendia consistently, and evidently based on his performance this weekend, he’s certainly capable of it. Hopefully this is a catalyst for better things to come from him.
Ings shows his class
It’s been a difficult few months for Danny Ings given his fitness woes, but he was finally given the nod to start in this one and he responded perfectly with a goal.
That showed exactly what he’s capable of producing for us in front of goal, but perhaps the service was lacking across the game as a whole as while he threatened at times, he also struggled for large periods too.
Nevertheless, he stepped in and made an impact which is what Gerrard would have wanted to see from him, but that’s now three goals in three games without Ollie Watkins, and one in 11 playing alongside him. In turn, Steven Gerrard needs to find a solution if he wants to persist with playing them together.
Gerrard ruthlessness to come to fore
As stated in his interview in the video above, Gerrard has no hesitation in calling out the flaws and issues in his side that ultimately cost us on Sunday.
The players will know exactly which of them he’s referring to in key moments of the encounter, and so it’s about setting a standard and level that they must reach or face being dropped.
The Villa boss went one further in his interview with BBC Sport, noting: I’m not sure there were any positives today. I’m sick of saying it was a good performance [after a defeat].” That mentality and approach will hopefully set us on the right course moving forward.
Further, with the January transfer window now open for business, it will be fascinating to see which areas of the squad he feels he must improve and what that subsequently will mean for players who have long been important fixtures of the side.
Not good enough from Villa
Ultimately, this wasn’t good enough from Villa.
Defeats to the likes of Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea can be excused to an extent given the quality of the opposition, albeit those still remain disappointing losses as any defeat hurts.
In contrast, Brentford are a side we will be competing with to get as high up the Premier League standings as possible, and so to pick up one point from our two meetings with them this season is bitterly frustrating. This is the first result under Gerrard that feels like a true setback in the progress we’ve made under him, and so it will be interesting now to see the response in back-to-back meetings with Man Utd.