Dean Smith admitted that some aspects of how Aston Villa played against Arsenal were unrecognisable, before discussing his confusion at a key incident in the match.
Villa lost for a third game in succession after Arsenal dominated them at the Emirates Stadium. Despite Jacob Ramsey scoring his first goal for the club, it was a miserable evening for Villa, who had already been well beaten by the time that went in.
After a promising summer in the transfer window, many expected Villa to challenge better against the likes of Arsenal. But this result and performance provided something of a reality check for Smith’s side.
While he noticed a contrast in their performances either side of the break, he admitted there were some elements of their display that were unrecognisable compared to their usual standards.
Smith told Sky Sports: “It was a very poor first half. Not recognisable as a Villa team we have come to know.
“They deserved what they got. We got dominated physically. If we had got through the half at 1-0 I would have fancied us, but 2-0 was hard to get.
“We knew Arsenal would start strong. I’d love to say it was the system and personnel but we just didn’t play well. Didn’t win enough balls, weren’t good enough on the ball.
“I’ll accept the second half all day long but the first half was not good enough.”
As Smith referenced, the timing of Arsenal’s second goal – just before half-time – was crucial.
The hosts were well on top anyway, but increasing their cushion took things away from Villa.
Penalty incident confuses Smith
Smith, though, was puzzled by the incident that led to the penalty that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang took, missed and scored from the rebound of.
He said: “It is a lower contact tackle. Grey areas, does he touch the ball first or his leg first? I thought they were the ones we were not going to VAR for.
“I am even wondering why he is allowed to put the rebound in.
“My understanding was he is walking off the pitch if he does not go to VAR, they can’t give me any clarity on that.
“I am concerned by the first half performance today. You never like losing any game, we will put it right. We have players coming back and more options in a good squad.”