Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has reiterated his demand for more protection for Jack Grealish and warned his captain is at risk of injury from opposition fouls.
Grealish – the most-fouled player in the Premier League – had another rough night at Stamford Bridge in Villa’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, where he was fouled seven times, more than twice as many times as any other player.
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Smith, who had claimed Grealish was targeted by Manchester United on Saturday, said his key man was again unfairly treated at Chelsea – and the standard of refereeing in the Premier League is putting him in danger.
“You come to clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea and I don’t expect to get too many decisions – and I think that’s been the case in both games,” said Smith.
“I think the refereeing in the Premier League so far has disappointed me because I expected a lot better.
“There’s been a tag team at times, fouling Jack Grealish. I spoke about it the other day. There were five or six [against Chelsea]. There was a foul on the edge of the box that wasn’t given – then they had one that was given. I’d like to see a lot better officiating.
“If he doesn’t get protection then, yeah, you worry for him.
“You can’t have tag teams having a free whack at him all the time. The officials will have to sort that out.”
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However, Smith conceded his side had not been good enough on Wednesday night against Chelsea. Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount scored either side of Trezeguet’s bundled effort to secure the win and Smith says Villa must be better to upset the top teams.
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“I thought the best team won on the night,” said Smith. “I thought they started each half a lot better than we did. We grew into each half, but in the first 20 minutes of each half they put us under a lot of pressure.
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