Aston Villa boss Unai Emery was unsurprisingly left bitterly disappointed with his side’s performance in our 2-1 defeat to Stevenage in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Morgan Sanson gave us a lead in the first half with a well-taken goal in Villa’s only real move that involved quality in the final third. While we improved in the second half as we played with more intent and urgency, we couldn’t find a second and that proved to be costly.
Lacklustre and lethargic defending was to blame as we made key mistakes in our defensive third late on, starting with Leander Dendoncker losing possession in a dangerous area before committing a foul, giving a penalty away and receiving a red card in the process.
While it was hoped we could either hold out for a replay or even turn it around in the latter stages given the players on the pitch still, we ended up conceding again and getting knocked out of the FA Cup altogether after more poor defending.
Unsurprisingly, Emery wasn’t best pleased with what he saw, and he provided his assessment of the game in his post-match interview, as he identified where his side went wrong and why it eventually ended up costing us.
“The big mistakes were in 90 minutes because we had the chances and we didn’t score,” he told Villa TV. “So many chances, getting into the box, and we were not clinical enough to score the second goal and finish the match.
“At the end, they really played with the possibility in their mind to make us make a mistake. They played with long balls, second actions and crosses, and they pushed for a draw.
“We didn’t control the match in the last few minutes, thinking ‘Ok, we are going to play the next match against them’.
“We can only make one mistake, not two.”
Emery also had a direct message to Villa fans as well, as he could only apologise for the disappointment over a big missed opportunity to enjoy a decent Cup run this season.
While it continues a barren run for the club in this competition, it’s not something that Emery will be used to given how well he has performed in cup competitions at an elite level throughout his career.
Having emphasised the importance he places on these competitions and his desire to win one during his time as Villa boss, he will be hugely disappointed on a personal level too that both runs have ended early on after our loss in the League Cup to Man Utd in November.
“We are so sorry for the supporters – I’m very upset, like them,” he added. “Now it’s my idea to try and come back so quickly thinking about the match here at home on Friday against Leeds United.
“We can speak about the match we played today and the FA Cup and how it was very important for us to do something we haven’t done for a long time.
“My process here started two months ago and to feel this way is a process too – not a good process, being disappointed, but we are going to work to try and identify the things we have to improve.”
It’s hoped that he can learn plenty about his squad in the defeat, whether it be what this group of players is capable or incapable of providing, and where he needs to prioritise reinforcements this month.
It was a big opportunity and test for certain individuals to show their worth to the Villa boss as he rotated and made eight changes, and while Sanson made a positive impression, many fell badly short and that could have repercussions moving forward in terms of what Emery is planning with the squad.