Aston Villa manager Dean Smith says his team’s season “will not be defined” by their results against Manchester City and Liverpool.
Villa’s 6-1 home defeat by City was their worst result since 2016.
It leaves them in the bottom three on 21 points, a point behind Watford and West Ham, with a worse goal difference than both.
“Two of the sides below us were playing each other and with us against Man City, you didn’t need to be a betting expert to see we would be in the bottom three today,” said Smith.
“But our season will not be defined playing Manchester City and Liverpool. Their three scorers today cost more than our whole squad.”
Villa had high hopes of a respectable finish on their return to the top flight after a three-year absence last summer.
The club spent £130m on 12 players to bolster Smith’s squad but following season-ending knee injuries for first-choice striker Wesley and goalkeeper Tom Heaton on New Year’s Day, are trying to find replacements who will ensure they don’t experience a swift return back to the Championship.
Veteran former Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina was at Villa Park for the Manchester City game and is expected to complete a loan move from AC Milan in the next 24 hours.
Villa remain on the hunt for a striker and against City gave a debut to former England midfielder Danny Drinkwater, who has joined on loan from Chelsea after Burnley cut short the 28-year-old’s loan deal.
Drinkwater, who has only played three games in 17 months, was at fault for City’s first two goals and looked off the pace as Villa struggled.
“Danny will make us a better team,” said Smith. “He has looked good in training and he got 75 minutes today, which he needed. He was not the reason we lost 6-1.”
Smith said if Villa fail in their striker search “we will cope”.
However, they have scored more than once only three times in 13 Premier League games and conceded 23 in their last nine, which has included a single clean sheet, so there are clear issues to address at both ends of the pitch.
After Saturday’s trip to Brighton, they face crucial games against Watford and Bournemouth. Looking further ahead, Villa’s last game of the season is at West Ham, another of the clubs in a perilous position near the bottom of the table.
“We are a proud club,” said Smith, a lifelong Villa fan. “Standing there at 6-0 was not a pretty picture.
“In the end, it was a containment job against a far superior team but we were contributors to our own downfall and their third goal summed up the game.
“They make 20 passes without any physical contact and when [Sergio] Aguero puts it into the top corner, there is no-one within three or four yards.”