Ezri Konsa on notice vs Fulham after error-strewn display in shock Aston Villa loss to Nottingham Forest
Key Aston Villa defender Ezri Konsa will need to show a major improvement from last week for the visit of Fulham or could see his place under threat despite playing every minute in the Premier League so far.
The centre-back has been an ever-present in the top flight for Unai Emery this term but was at fault for one of Nottingham Forest’s goals in the shock 2-0 defeat last weekend, and could have caused at least two more.
Konsa, 26, is usually so dependable but looked visibly out of sorts at the City Ground as the Villans sparkling form came to a sudden halt.
It will take more than one nightmare afternoon for Emery to lose confidence and the Spaniard is sure to restore the defender to his usual league spot at centre-back, having put in a shift on the right for the Europa Conference League win over AZ Alkmaar on 9 November.
But if he produces a repeat of his display in defeat last weekend when Marco Silva’s side arrive at Villa Park on 12 November it might make the manager think twice about bringing Diego Carlos into the Premier League XI, with the £26million signing [The Athletic] still only having made four starts in the English top flight.
Konsa played a big role in Aston Villa conceding the second goal to Forest’s Orel Mangala last Sunday (5 November), even if his part was overshadowed by the bizarre attempted save from Emi Martinez that bounced into the net.
In the 47th minute He should have cut out a weak Harry Toffolo ball in from the left that was half-blocked by Matty Cash, but was instead deceived by the bounce and allowed Taiwo Awoniyi to take possession in the box.
With the defence suddenly put on the back foot the striker could then recycle the ball back out to Toffolo who found Mangala in space outside the area to hit his speculative shot towards goal which would end up bouncing over the line.
It had been a similarly off-colour story immediately before the break as well as Konsa had also been lucky not to concede a stoppage-time penalty for a potential foul on Awoniyi, only to be rescued by the flag and the video assistant.
As Morgan Gibbs-White played a ball over the top from the right flank Konsa stepped up towards the half-way line at the same time Pau Torres turned to chase back, meaning the Spaniard played both the striker and teammate Nicolas Dominguez onside while Konsa was left trailing yards behind.
Konsa was still the only one with his arm in the air appealing despite Torres being in his field of vision, before his attempt to chase back only led to him clumsily felling Awoniyi in the box.
A narrow VAR decision saved him from a possible red card for a challenge that hadn’t been an attempt at the ball, and while that might invite the conclusion that it was a successful offside trap it was surely more luck than design as he and his central defensive partner weren’t on the same wave length.
Konsa continued to look rattled shortly after the Mangala goal, as he needlessly surrendered possession with a wayward pass in midfield under no pressure at all – one of five times he gave the ball away according to SofaScore stats from the game.
As with the Martinez error to concede the second goal Konsa was far from alone in underperforming on the day, as the stats show that star man Torres actually gave it away 12 times, so perhaps the Englishman simply suffered from making the more noticeable errors.
On 50 minutes Konsa attempted to deliver a short pass into Boubacar Kamara who was showing to receive possession, only to miss him completely with a simple ball to leave the pair gesturing at each other in frustration.
Ibrahaim Sangaré swept up possession and played a first-time ball into Awoniyi, who combined with Anthony Elanga to launch a counter-attack.
After Cash had joined the calamitous party by falling over as he attempted to regain possession, the ball found its way to Awoniyi in the Aston Villa box with Torres and Konsa in close company.
However, rather than win the ball it was nudged through the latter’s legs as his nightmare afternoon continued, to hand Dominguez a dangerous shot on goal from close range, which he scuffed tamely straight at Martinez.
As long as Konsa rebounds to his standard level against Fulham then the Forest defeat can be chalked up to a bad day at the office all round, with various players contributing to a performance well short of what has come to be expected of an Emery Villa side.
Yet it was alarming that in the space of just a few minutes either side of half-time such an important Villa player nearly played a leading role in the concession of three goals, so he will clearly want to iron that sort of lapse out.
Torres hardly showered himself in glory on the day either, even if he was more of the supporting cast to Konsa in the previous examples.
Everyone can have an off day, and it as long as there is no repeat it does not need to be a major slight on a player who has been largely excellent, but it is a measure of the increase in standards at Aston Villa that it stood out when they dropped.
Emery is sure to have his eye on a response from a player he has come to rely on or he might be faced with an unexpected decision to make.