For what it’s worth, this was not a fun thing to write but after Villa fall badly at home to a relegation rival, you can help but think despite the threat that Southampton had up top, defensively Villa are in big trouble.
Yesterday’s game at Villa Park was supposed to be the first of what were to be three huge win’s in the team’s bid to distance themselves from a relegation battle. However, things really didn’t go to plan and the script was well and truly ripped apart from the first whistle.
All afternoon, Villa were miles off the pace and looked like a team who were at six’s and seven’s with every Southampton attack. This would be something that was highlighted by the Saints’ first goal.
After a neat ball over the top of the Villa defence from Nathan Redmond, Shane Long got the better of Bjorn Engels before forcing a save from Tom Heaton, only for the ball to fall to the feet of an in-form Danny Ings, who slotted home the rebound from six-yards.
While you could argue that Villa were unfortunate that Heaton rebounded he save into the path of Ings, the one thing you couldn’t argue with was how bad Villa were defensively. Again, this was something that would play a huge part into why Dean Smith’s men were 2-0 down just ten minutes later.
Southampton’s second come from a James Ward-Prowse corner as Jack Stephens beat off a very weak challenge from Anwar El Ghazi to head home. Prior to the corner, Kortney Hause almost scored an own goal and would have, if not for the quick reaction of Villa ‘keeper Heaton.
Again, just as the same as Southampton’s first goal from Ings, defensively Villa were a mess which ultimately led to the corner and the team needed a defensive miracle in the second 45 minutes to keep the scoreline respectable.
There’s no doubt that Dean Smith had work to do as Villa headed into the break 2-0 down, and in truth, there was an expectation that changes were going to be made. However, Smith decided not to change things and just as the first half started and finished, the second was more of the same.
With just six minutes gone in the second half, another defensive mistake came from Villa and this time it was McGinn’s replacement Marvelous Nakamba who was at fault. After a Redmond cross, Nakamba failed to get rid of the danger and instead found Ings, who would slot home for his second of the game and Southampton’s third of the afternoon.
With the game completely out of reach, it was a case of Villa just seeing the game out. Southampton did have a couple more chances prior to their fourth but Redmond fired a shot wide into the side of the net and Ward-Prowse saw his free-kick saved easily but Heaton.
Villa did manage to pull one back late on from Jack Grealish, as the captain continues to be the only shining light within the starting XI, but even after another wonder-strike from Grealish, it was too little and too late for Dean Smith’s team.
With the clock winding down, Southampton had a glorious chance to cap off what was an easy afternoon, as Ings and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg got in behind the Villa back four but after Heaton saved from Ings, Hojbjerg couldn’t keep his shot down and the ball sailed over.
There’s no doubt that Southampton deserved all three points as the final whistle finally came, but from a Villa perspective, this was an afternoon in which the team had been completely undone by themselves.
Credit to Ralph Hasenhüttl’s team as they ripped Villa apart, but in a game which had so much riding on it, Dean Smith’s side were simply not good enough and defensively looked like a team who are in big trouble.
Next up for Villa, it’s another battle with a relegation rival in Norwich City on Boxing Day, and between now and then, Dean Smith is left with a task to figure out how on earth he can improve his team defensively.
With the absence of Tyrone Mings and now John McGinn it’s going to be tough, however, if Villa are to get themselves out of the mess they are in then they have to help themselves out because yesterday’s performance was a disgrace.
Norwich will be no pushover when they come to Villa Park as they too are in a battle for Premier League survival, and based on the evidence we saw during yesterday’s game, they will also take full confidence in knowing they are facing a Villa team who just cannot defend.
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