Dean Smith Faces Up to His Most Difficult Situation Yet as Villa Boss, as Realty Bites

Reality Bites

After picking up just four points from the last available 27, Aston Villa find themselves in the bottom three and precariously three points adrift of Southampton in 17th. The league table doesn’t exactly spell ‘Merry Christmas’ for Villa supporters.

The recent game against the Saints highlighted all the current issues with the team. They are a naive and a soft touch at the back, no team in the league has conceded more goals from set pieces and only two have conceded more goals.

Villa also present a lack of real constant threat going forward with their lone striker failing to register a shot on target in their last four games.

And anyone who was at Villa Park for the 3-1 loss at Southampton and saw the team booed off, know the honeymoon period is over for Dean Smith, and from now on, results will out weigh sentiment.

“It’s four Premier League defeats and four not great performances from us,” reflected Smith, at his pre-Norwich City press conference.

“That’s concerning, obviously, and the goals that we’ve been giving away. The performance against Southampton wasn’t great.”

Christmas Worry

Many Villa fans would have looked at the three Christmas fixtures against the then bottom three, expecting a rich harvest of points. Such complacency against an improving trio of teams, seemed to have infected the players going into a game against Southampton, which was perhaps the club’s most significant game since the play-off final.

Victory would have seen Villa above the relegation zone by three points and very much looking up at the three teams above them by only a point. Instead, they are two results away from those teams and psychologically now one of the favourites for relegation.

Yes, the Norwich City game is a ‘must win’, but the damage has already been done now mentally (and physically, with the loss of John McGinn) and the Canaries will fancy their chances.

“Every game is a must-win. We were in the bottom three when we went to Norwich earlier in the season and we beat them 5-1,” said Smith, trying to play down the situation.

The Villa Head Coach knows that Norwich were down to barebones that day with a makeshift defence, which they have now got back. While Villa got beat 4-1 at home to Leicester City, Norwich managed to get a 1-1 draw at the King Power stadium, the following day.

“I’m not saying that it’s going to be 5-1 on Boxing Day because they look a very much improved team,” admitted Smith.

“They’ve played well in their last two games and they’ve got a lot of injured players back.”

Unfortunately, as Norwich are on the road to improvement, Villa, as well as suffering a slump in form, have also lost two of their key players in Tyrone Mings and John McGinn for the clash.

While McGinn is out for around three months, at least Mings return is on the horizon. He’ll return to full training on Boxing Day, with a chance of lining up against Watford.

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“We’re always in a battle,” said Smith, of Villa’s current plight.

“Sometimes you have to take stock. We’re third bottom in the Premier League and in the semi-final of a major cup competition.” 

“Sat here this time last year, we were a mid-table Championship team. We’ve come a long way in a short space of time, we had a big turnaround in the summer and we still need additions in January as well.”

2020 Hope

Villa fans will at least be comforted to hear Smith talk up recruiting in January, after the club had previously suggested it would be a conservative transfer window. The needs are obvious, so hopefully the club will have players targeted that they can get in relatively swiftly.

Villa have to find some fight and heart for the battle ahead, as the concern is now real.

Smith though, says his team is primed for the fight ahead.

“We’re still working hard and battling on all fronts and that will continue. Our competitive edge has to be there whether we’re in the bottom three or the top three.”

Let’s hope Villa aren’t trying to find such an edge in the bottom three for too long.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry guys I can’t agree with everything you say here. The difference in quality between the Championship and the Prem is enormous and it takes time quality and mistakes (which have to be learned from) to close that gap. Villa look nervy at the moment which is no surprise having taken only 4 points from the last 27 available until today.

    ….and what a day, the team battled harder, pressed higher than they have done for some time and put their bodies on the line in some last ditch defending (awesome stop from Douglas on the line) The quality isn’t there that we have had previously because of low confidence, a couple of wins and the belief and confidence will come back.

    To keep a clean sheet was vital and fair play to the back four and super Tom Heaton today. (Good call by Deano to change the right back today, as much as I like Guilbert, his discipline and positioning has been questionable of late and I thought Almo did well today) Konsa and Hause stood tall and good to see us win so many headers in our own box and go close at the other end.

    I genuinely believe Wesley is a good hold up player, he needs support to score as it is a thank-less task chasing long balls and being constantly out numbered three to one. El Ghazi is not a defender but constantly has to do more of this than what he is best at which is attacking and taking the defender on. Trez and El Ghazi on the wings with a license to attack the opposition full backs (without anyone getting on their backs if they lose the ball) just keep taking defenders on forget ridiculous stats of how many successful passes or successful dribbles they make or how many times they lose the ball, I am not interested in that, it means little if negative stats are good but creation is not forth coming. It means more to me that players are positive, so get these wingers creating and supporting Wesley. Play 4, 1, 2, 3 (Douglas holding and bringing the ball out from the back) Grealish in the middle with Connor and Wes Trez and El Ghazi. Forget about being too open, defenders are paid to defend, that is their job so do it well and take pressure off the midfield (midfield still have to support and Trez and El Ghazi need to be the outlet ball to take further pressure off) Attack is the best form of defence without sounding naive.

    No pressure on Deano he wants success as much as we all do. It takes time to adapt to the top flight not just for players but for managers and coaches alike.

    Let’s stick together everyone, our supporters are our 12th man, yes we are in a relegation fight let’s accept that but as long as every player gives 100% every game and doesn’t shy away from responsibility and enjoys their football (which I think the above formation will do) we will be fine and can continue to grow as a club.

    Andy Hall
    VTID

  2. We all wanted DS to do well, more so than any other because he was one of us.
    But with the money spent, you have to say he has failed badly so far in the prem.
    If it was bruce that got us in this position and spent that money,There would be some hard protesting by now.
    Fingers crossed he can turn it round. 3 points minimum today or it’s hello championship barring a miracle or some top draw January signings

  3. Sorry but you can’t play down this situation it’s been obvious from early in the season that Wesley is not up to it and it’s about time DS admitted it, team selection has been very poor at times and again DS seems reluctant to change things, hense our league position which spells disaster if we don’t do something soon re a proven goal scorer, I read that we will be looking at signing a striker either permanently or on loan but it needs to be a good one or it will be another waste of time, I’m hoping that we won’t be too far adrift by the time the window opens but sad to say with others improving around us we could find ourselves rock bottom and on our way back to the Championship. We need 6 points from our next two games including Norwich or I fear the worst,

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