Aston Villa fell to a 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace on Sunday as we twice threw away a lead in a bitterly disappointing and frustrating afternoon at Selhurst Park.
Goals from John McGinn and Anwar El Ghazi weren’t enough as we conceded three poor goals of our own in a game that completely got away from us in the second half.
The result puts a major dent in our hopes of finishing in the top half of the Premier League table, and it will only add to the frustration surrounding the second half of our campaign which has seen us lose our way and allow the season to fizzle out in disappointing fashion.
Performances and results like this one won’t quieten the criticism, and we have two tough games to finish the campaign now as minds perhaps wander to the summer to identify where we must improve.
Poor second half costs Villa
While we weren’t perfect in the first half, we scored two well-worked goals and went into the interval ahead and in good shape to go on and win the game.
However, it became apparent fairly early after the break that we were struggling to stay on top and it led to some really poor goals conceded which were really avoidable.
With a lack of quality and cutting edge up front, it ultimately ended in a defeat and the second half performance will need to be assessed closely.
Lost midfield scrap, control over game
As the game went on, Douglas Luiz and John McGinn were unable to gain a foothold as they had done in the first half, and it led to us really struggling to contain Palace and be a threat ourselves.
It reinforced the argument that we need more steeliness in that department to run games, and that is something that is hopefully on the Villa management’s agenda for the transfer window.
Smith slow to react
While the above is a long-term solution, the short-term fix would have been Dean Smith reacting quicker and making changes sooner in the game.
Instead, he waited until the 64th, 85th and 88th minutes to make substitutes, the first of which was Jack Grealish for Bertrand Traore, and by then it was all too late from our perspective in terms of taking command of the game and going on to win it.
That is certainly a criticism of the Villa boss that has been levelled at him on many occasions previously, and he surely has to be more proactive with his changes as opposed to reactive.
Not holding on to leads issue must be rectified
Villa did well with protecting leads last season, particularly towards the latter stages of the campaign, and that continued at the start of this one.
However, along the way we have lost the ability to do it and it has ended up costing us a lot of points in games that we should have won or at least come away from with a draw.
This encounter evoked memories of the loss at Burnley earlier in the season, and if we don’t learn lessons, improve on our weaknesses, then this will come back to haunt us next year.
Progress made but reason for frustration
From promotion to survival and now establishing ourselves as a Premier League side. Over the past three seasons, Villa and Smith have absolutely moved in the right direction.
The big frustration though is that our season has fizzled out which started as early as January and that has led to the obvious criticisms of Smith from some quarters that he isn’t good enough to take us to the next level.
It’s impossible to know that without giving him the chance. Villa need to add more quality in the team first as we’re coming up short in key areas of the pitch. With reinforcements this summer, if Smith is not delivering in the first 10 games or so next season, then we’re in a better position to make those kind of judgements.
The hope is that he is absolutely capable of continuing to lead our development and progress in the coming years, but the constant debate over his future seemingly after every game for now is already becoming quite tedious.