Mauricio Pochettino claimed Chelsea were “a little bit unlucky” against Aston Villa but admitted his players need to “grow up” as a team after they were beaten 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Sunday’s Premier League encounter turned with the sending off of Chelsea’s Malo Gusto after 58 minutes when the score was still 0-0. His challenge on Lucas Digne was late and caught the Villa defender on the ankle, and after a pitchside VAR review referee Jarred Gillett upgraded the initial yellow card to a red for dangerous play. Pochettino brought on Ben Chilwell and moved Axel Disasi to right-back, but the dismissal did not much alter Chelsea’s attacking intent as they continued to seek out a winner.
It was a decision that would come to haunt them, as with the home side committed inside Villa’s half Moussa Diaby broke with the ball and fed Ollie Watkins, who after seeing his first shot blocked by Levi Colwill scored with his second, angling the ball beyond Robert Sanchez and in off the far post. It was the second time in two seasons that Watkins has netted in a Villa victory at Stamford Bridge, as Unai Emery’s side took full advantage of Chelsea’s ongoing inability to turn promising situations in the final third into goals, before pouncing when their own moment came.
Striker Nicolas Jackson, who has scored just once since his £31million summer move from Villarreal, again cut a frustrated figure as he picked up his fifth booking of the season for attempting to block a Villa free-kick, incurring him a one-game ban. Pochettino refused to criticise the officials and said it is the players that must take the rap for the team’s poor start to the season.
It’s our responsibility and the players’ responsibility,” said Pochettino. “We can’t blame the VAR or the referee. The situation, we need to act different, in a different way. I’m not going to blame or say anything against Malo Gusto. Situations happen in football and they affect the game and the team in a negative way.
“We need to grow up like a team, not only in an individual way. A player like Nico (Jackson) that is so young, feeling the Premier League and he’s learning, he needs time. In this type of game, we’re competing and we want to win. But players, when they are young, need to learn with experience.
That’s why we feel disappointed because we are playing too many situations like this. Another small detail and in the end we are losing the game. We are in a situation we need to change as soon as possible.”
Chelsea largely dominated up until the red card with Raheem Sterling and Mykhailo Mudryk particularly lively attacking down either flank. But the team were dogged by a familiar failure to turn pressure and possession into gilt-edged chances as their scoreless run in the league extended to three games.
“It was a little bit unlucky,” said Pochettino. “How many chances did we have like Aston Villa? They shoot, we block, then they shoot and it touches the post and goes in. For us, how many one v one against (Emiliano) Martinez? We were a little bit unlucky but that happens.
“We need to accept the reality. But it was unlucky because how many chances did they create? Not many. With 10 men we were forcing them to go back.
“That is unlucky. We need to be aware about what is going on but in some way we need to be calm because the team is creating, the team is alive, the team is fighting every single action.
“We cannot say anything about the players, we cannot say that they gave up after 70 minutes. They were fighting until the end with one player less.”