Back in the day, managers would make a habit of leaking fake injuries to the press, or putting uncertainty in the opposition manager’s mind when it came to the fitness of key players. It was a chance to play a bit of poker leading up to the fixture to potentially wrong foot the opponent’s planning.
Nowadays though, the 24/7 hawkish inquisition of fans on social media makes it a little more difficult to pull off. In the thirst for knowledge, fans overlook the potential tactical advantage a manager may be trying to curate leading up to the fixture.
Over the international break, Villa collected a couple of key injuries in James Chester and John McGinn to add to the one Neil Taylor picked up that ruled him out of the second half of the Derby County game.
The latest news on the trio that was announced publicly was:
“Taylor and Chester both trained fine,” stated Dean Smith. “We’re leaving John for another 24 hours to have another look how he is, but Chezzie and Taylor are fine.”
In terms of how Gary Monk would prepare his team, out of the trio, potentially John McGinn is the man that would concern the Blues’ boss the most in terms of counter tactics.
It’s likely that the derby being on a Sunday, gave McGinn a chance of playing in the derby, after his injury. So it does actually seem to be a touch-and-go situation.
With Birkir Bjarnason out, McGinn, if he is injured, will be replaced by a very different midfielder in Villa’s ranks. Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan and Henri Lansbury, are all in the running and each offer something different to the team.
If I was Smith, and I knew that McGinn was 100% going to play or 100% going to miss the game, I’d keep Monk guessing to the end.
Smith has impressed Villa supporters on the whole by his eloquent interviews and post-match analysis. While we’re still getting to know our Head Coach, one question is, is he too earnest?
Look at some of the very top managers like Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, they all have a wily streak about them, hence the notion of them being masters of mind games. In a Villa-context, both Ron Saunders and Ron Atkinson certainly had the trait too.
Certainly, it’ll be interesting to see how Smith copes with the challenge, if Villa are battling it out in the promotion/play-off spots come the spring, which has been uncharted territory in his career so far.
First things first though, beating the Blues with or without McGinn.