By Phil Jennings
DEAN Smith has always said he will never sugar coat a Villa display – and he was true to his word after the defeat at Tottenham.
The Villa boss saw his team take the lead at Spurs through John McGinn – and then fade badly, making errors that allowed Mauricio Pochettino’s side to claim late goals and sink Smith’s side.
There were plenty of encouraging moments that had high profile pundits like Gary Lineker insisting Villa have enough to keep their heads above water this season in the top flight.
Smith has been saying all summer that he intends to go for the win wherever Villa and show no fear of any club’s status.
But Smith’s assessment was an honest one after losing to last season’s beaten Champions League finalists and he told reporters: “We’ve got to be better on the ball than we were today.
“I thought the physicality in the last 15 minutes was due to us chasing the ball for so long in the second half.
“You’ve got to be competitive and you’ve got to pick holes as the opposition do and we felt, with the way they play with their full-backs so high, that there were opportunities for John McGinn and Jack Grealish and our wide players to utilise those spaces.
“And we managed to do that for the goal. We did it again when Trezeguet could have made it 2-0.
“We had another counter attack from their corner when Jack broke away to put Trez in again. We had a number of opportunities in the first half.
“I’m also not silly enough that they’ve had a couple of free headers in the six-yard box in the first half and we had to weather an almighty storm in the second half as well.”
There were some who questioned the signing of Bjorn Engels from Reims as his profile was fairly low on the radar – but he had an impressive game alongside Tyrone Mings and Smith dismissed suggestions that Villa have signed too many players who will struggle to gel this season.
Smith added: “Bjorn Engels fitted in seamlessly and, obviously, Tom Heaton is a Premier League stalwart so it’s been pretty seamless to be honest to integrate players.
“They’ve learnt very quickly how we want to play. I thought you could see our defensive organisation, how well they’ve picked up a lot of the stuff already.”
Smith also explained his team selection which saw right-back Freddie Guilbert left out.
The Villa boss added: “It was just a selection. I decided to go with the team I went with. I felt I wanted two defenders, two midfielders and two forwards on the bench. Either Matt Targett or Freddie Guilbert had to miss out and, unfortunately, he’s had a good pre-season as well.
“There’s only 18 players I can choose. Ezri Konsa was on the bench and Ezri has played a number of games at right-back who could go there if one of our full-backs got tired. Matt Targett got the nod over him on the bench.”