Perhaps for the first time since he was appointed, Aston Villa boss Unai Emery’s frustration and disappointment was really evident after our loss to Arsenal this weekend.
The 51-year-old has been forthcoming and frank with his assessments since he arrived, and there has always been a positive sense about his words of encouragement in terms of what he’s demanding and wanting to improve at the club.
READ MORE: Five key talking points as Villa suffer disappointment in Arsenal defeat
However, after Villa suffered a 4-2 defeat to Arsenal on Saturday, with two of their goals coming in injury time, it was clear that he wasn’t happy with what he’s seeing from his players despite the positives that he was willing to acknowledge and accept.
There’s no denying that there is real quality to our play at times, particularly in the lead up to goals as we’re playing his brand of football and with the style that he’s trying to implement to successfully break teams down.
While that’s one important aspect, we’re clearly not doing the job defensively having conceded 11 goals in our last three games, and part of that is down to continuing to make mistakes and letting in soft goals that can be avoided if we’re switched on and defensively resolute.
Despite that though, it’s clear where Emery is most annoyed, as explained by the Villa boss in his post-match interview on Saturday.
“I’m really frustrated,” Emery told VillaTV, as seen in the video below. “It’s embarrassing to do the same in two matches, each goal (4-2), at home here with our supporters. I don’t know exactly, but we are not playing, being competitive at home.
“And we are not playing, really, in the idea I want in the team. I don’t know exactly why.
“I think we are playing with intensity, we are playing with passion, running, scoring goals quickly. But we are not playing football controlling the ball, the game, controlling the positioning, of the time in the 90 minutes.
“We are scoring one goal quickly and we are waiting in the 90 minutes, pass as soon as possible and don’t play the match in the way we were preparing – being consistent and being confident in the 90 minutes in our ideal style.
“And, really, I’m disappointed because I think the reaction will be quick and being very, very different like we have shown in the last two matches against Leicester and today.”
In the games we’ve won under Emery thus far, we’ve played with a level of control in games in terms of dictating possession and the tempo of the encounter. Whether we look at Man Utd at home or Tottenham or Southampton away, there was something more methodical in the way we came out on top against tough opposition.
In contrast, whether it was Wolves, Leeds Utd, Leicester City and now Arsenal at home, we’ve not been able to maintain that same control in those games, and they’ve become thrilling for the neutral, but anxiety-ridden for supporters and clearly a source of real annoyance for Emery.
The Spaniard evidently isn’t interested in end-to-end games, regardless of how much quality we show in the final third to score goals. While that’s obviously a massive bonus and a big step towards winning games, he is absolutely crystal clear in his demand for us to have control over 90 minutes.
That means slowing the game down when we go ahead and not conceding sloppy goals soon after, showing more composure and patience in key periods to dictate the tempo and not allow the opposition to dominate possession and build a sustained period of threat, especially on our home turf.
Now, the Arsenal game was settled by some key moments. From Leon Bailey and Jhon Duran’s efforts that didn’t find the back of the net to the huge slice of luck for Arsenal as Emiliano Martinez inadvertently directed the ball back into the net for their third goal.
However, Emery is clearly talking about an issue that he has identified in other games, particularly against Leicester, where we seemingly haven’t learned our lessons and improved and have ended up losing by the same scoreline by making similar mistakes and not executing his game-plan.
For all the positives, the Villa boss isn’t happy right now that a key principle that he is trying to implement and get across to the players – which is seemingly happening in training – isn’t being carried out on the pitch.
It’s a challenge for the current group that they’re going to have to be successful in, as if they continue to fall short, it feels as though Emery isn’t going to hesitate in making changes to bring in solutions that can provide what he’s asking for, as he certainly doesn’t sound as though he’s going to adjust or abandon his ideas and style moving forward.