Talking tactics: Villa lose midfield battle and 3-5-2 exposed defensively vs Arsenal

Aston Villa suffered a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates on Friday night, with our first-half performance among the worst seen in some time.

After the late collapse at home to Wolves last weekend, a positive reaction was expected from all concerned to bounce back and get ourselves back on track.

READ MORE: Five big talking points as Aston Villa crash to disappointing Arsenal defeat

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Instead, Villa were entirely outplayed and outclassed in every department in the first half in north London, and while things improved slightly in the second half, it was all too little too late.

With all eyes now on our performance and result against West Ham next weekend, it’s arguably clear that Smith needs to make important changes to the XI that he starts against the Hammers.

Villa’s defensive weaknesses exposed

As seen in the images below, the lack of cohesion and gaps between the backline and midfield was a real problem for Villa, particularly in the opening 45 minutes.

John McGinn and Douglas Luiz were overrun and bypassed on countless occasions leading to the back three being exposed, while the gaps in between Tyrone Mings and Matt Targett were exploited by Bukayo Saka.

If the 3-5-2 system is supposed to give us a solid foundation on which we can go out and win games by keeping it tight at the back as a priority, it’s simply not working as the players looked unsure over their roles and positioning.


Jacob Ramsey’s positive impact

While it’s difficult to really focus on any positives after such a disappointing night, Jacob Ramsey’s performance off the bench in the second half was certainly something to be pleased about.

Not only did the 20-year-old score his first senior goal for the club with a superb finish, but it was his overall impressive impact that made a real case for him to return to the starting XI next week.

As seen in the examples below, he found pockets of space in dangerous areas to show good awareness and positioning, but he just needs to find more consistency in front of goal after scuffing his second opportunity.

Further, he also added a higher press to our play which was severely lacking in the first half, giving us a bit more presence and bite in midfield.

More needed from Buendia, Watkins & Ings partnership

Two key issues in our attacking play was the lack of influence from Emiliano Buendia and the absence of any real combination play between Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings.

Buendia made one impressive run in the second half that should really have ended with a goal, but it was that movement and probing dash that was lacking throughout from the Argentine.

We need him to become more influential in our play in the final third and to become a goalscoring threat himself, and so more of that will be needed moving forward.

Further, as seen in the second image below, there needs to be a better understanding and chemistry between Watkins and Ings. Both men want to lead the line and both have a mindset of scoring goals. Instead of playing a ball in for his partner, Watkins ran on down the left and eventually forced a save from Aaron Ramsdale, but it was an opportunity wasted by Villa.