Aston Villa manager Remi Garde praised his side’s improved spirit during Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Stoke City but lamented their lack of quality.
A fortnight on from their 6-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool, Villa were much improved defensively and thwarted their hosts well in the first half despite struggling to offer much threat themselves.
But Marko Arnautovic scored twice in five minutes before the hour mark, ensuring Leandro Bacuna’s 79th-minute strike was a mere consolation for Villa who remain eight points off safety.
Garde said: “Today we saw a team that had the right spirit, which wasn’t the case against Liverpool.
“We failed so deeply in that game that I was expecting something different today and I saw my team in better shape.
“We know we are a team who find it difficult to score, we don’t score many, so until you’re not behind in a game it is a chance for us.
“This was the plan, to defend well and maybe create just one or two opportunities. But the second half started poorly and we showed our fragility, then we have been punished.
“But today the spirit of the team was better.”
Garde made just one change from his side’s defeat to Liverpool, with Micah Richards replaced by Alan Hutton, but the Villa boss acknowledged his options are limited over the remaining 11 games.
“I have choices to make sometimes, when I have enough players to do so,” said Garde, whose side face Everton on Tuesday.
“Micah has played some games, not today, but we have three games in a week and some players can’t do that.
“I think the way the team behaved today gave me reason not to make too many changes. In spirit, the same players [from the Liverpool game] responded very well.
“We put in much more than the previous game for sure but today it was much more about quality than effort.”