When you’re sitting 17th in the Championship table in your third season in the league, having blown millions on under-performing players, it’s hard to find any genuine reasons to feel good about the situation. Villa are as likely to become the new Leeds (it’s coming up to 15 years since their Premier League relegation) than get promoted this season.
Still, a new
manager Head Coach brings at least some fresh hope of getting the club back on track. In the latest podcast (episode 55) we talked Smith, his coaching staff and the new Sporting Director, but they were always going to have a difficult job hitting the ground running when starting mid-season.
Dean Smith has had a tough start, as he’s only had a few days of training with his entire squad before being thrown into three games in the space of just six days, but patience is required.
The reality is it will take him a good few weeks to impart his ideas and tactics, and evolve the team into playing the way he wants them to. Then you have to factor in he may not have the ideal players currently in place to pull it off.
In the short-term, when the results don’t go for Villa, supporters are seen crying out that the players aren’t good enough or the en vogue excuse of the moment, that has been parroted across social media, that the players are not fit enough.
Yet, when the opposition is interviewed pre or post game, they always talk up Villa’s players as being some of the best in the league. Jordan Rhodes who scored a brace for Norwich against Villa last week, in his post match interview, was raving about the quality in the Villa team. A few days later QPR boss Steve McClaren was claiming Villa would finish top six at the end of the season.
In terms of player fitness, Dean Smith declared in a press conference, he was working with a “very fit bunch” of players. He knows, he has the results from the GPS monitoring vests to work off, the Villa Twitterati don’t.
“What I’ve found is we have a very fit bunch” – Dean Smith just now on fitness levels of Villa’s midfield and strikers. #AVFC
— My Old Man Said (@oldmansaid) October 25, 2018
Villa’s two losses under Smith have come away against teams in Norwich and QPR, who are currently bang in form and they’ve been trips that historically haven’t been easy fixtures for Villa.
Smith also has to cope with the reason that MOMS predicted would lead to Steve Bruce’s downfall, namely his poor squad of defensive players and questionable goalkeepers.
With all this in mind, lets look at the reasons to be cheerful over the past week.
Five Reasons to be Cheerful
1. Smith Pre-season
While three games in six games is never ideal for any football manager, Dean Smith will at least have had an intensive week of insight into his players in match situations. A kind of competitive mini pre-season, if you will.
While he would have liked at least a point or two more, winning at home against Swansea was key in at least getting the supporters on board for the tough task ahead.
2. Possession and Shots
Villa registered 68% possession and 18 shots against QPR, which is pretty good for an away team. Against Swansea too, there was plenty of chances for Tammy Abraham to improve on his single goal and walk away with the match ball.
At the moment, Villa are 5th in the division in terms of possession with 53.7%. To back that up, Villa have the third best rating in the league in terms of passing accuracy with 78.8%.
So the foundations for an improvement in results are there and Dean Smith has barely got to work yet.
3. November Home Comforts
We’ve already detailed the perils of the winter fixture list which could ultimately define Villa’s season going into the new year, but the good news for Smith is three out of four of Villa’s November fixtures are at Villa Park.
The visit of Bolton is arguably the easiest of the three, with Midlands rivals Forest and the Blues potentially tougher tests as both are currently challenging for play-off spots. The Blues in particular seemed to have finally clicked into gear.
Last season, it took the visit of local rivals to raise the levels of Villa’s more talented players, so hopefully they’ll be bang up for these games.
4. Assist Man
He may have only started seven league games this season, but Conor Hourihane is the joint top assist provider in the Championship with 5. Only Millwall’s Jake Copper and the Blues’ Jota can match the Villa midfielder.
While he’s been on the bench as many times as he’s started, at least he can be classed as an impact player when he comes on, which is always useful to have in a team.
5. Hogan’s Run
He may have only touched the ball four times in almost 40 minutes when he came on against Norwich, but it’s good to have Scott Hogan back to fitness with the fixture intensive winter period on the horizon.
I just wish we had more centre-backs and left-backs to call upon.
Listen to the latest MOMS podcast show