Just two weeks into the Dean Smith era and it will be Aston Villa’s fourth outing under his guidance as Bolton come calling. Talk about hitting the ground running. So far, it’s been a mixed bag, results-wise, but I’m going to take James Chester at his word when he says the style and performances are getting better. He ought to know better than I.

And I think most would agree we deserved more out of our visit to Loftus Road.

However, we seemed to get crossed up and caught out when the official played the advantage, and there you go 0-1, and we couldn’t put anything in the net on our own behalf.

A week later, Smith’s had a chance to actually work with the side for an extended period for the first time since he arrived. The preparations included a closed-door intrasquad game at near match tempo that gave him a chance to run the rule over the full squad (minus Bjarnason). Whether this leads Deano to make any changes remains to be seen.

Does Bree get a look-in? More time for Bolasie or El Ghazi? Will Lansbury get a shot? Would he sit Jack, or does he feature with McGinn and Hourihane? Will we see Whelan or Jedi? Team sheet should be out soon, answering these probing questions. Probably before I get this up.

Anyway, it’s about time for another three points. This isn’t meant as a criticism or sign of impatience. We’d have expected to be beating Bolton with almost anyone in charge. But the reality is that we’re just two places and two points above the Wanderers on the wrong side of mid-table. And it could well be the case that what Smith is trying to implement might lead to a step back before it settles in and produces results that we’d all like to see.

Being a little more clinical in front of goal wouldn’t hurt anything either.

Over to you.

Comments 112

  1. Dean Smith I hope you know what you are doing can’t take any more setbacks,Hutton Taylor still getting picked none youth on bench these players are reason Bruce failed

  2. JL
    This was at the end of the last post after JC put up another post, & like you I’m looking forward to the match.
    Here’s my reply:
    JL
    Little was a better player & I didn’t say he wasn’t, but that doesn’t mean a lot in context as you can’t really compare because of different positions & the fact that Jack seems to be a late developer & really needs to be in the premiership [as do the Villa], & also the times are different with the facility of high tech to analyse the minutia, which would impact on how players play against him, & also the team itself isn’t organised/ good enough at present to support him.
    I remember the Liverpool game in the context of how good he was when he was younger.
    He even isn’t my favourite current player, so why you think I disagree with you all the time I don’t know, it was just a discussion.
    Maybe I just respond to the tone more.

  3. Thanks again JC

    JL- “If Villa were in the current position with Bruce i.c. there’d be calls for the manager’s head!”

    Can I have what your on? 🙂 After two weeks? not a chance, two years then definitely

  4. Dean Smith has made two changes to his starting line-up for tonight’s clash with Bolton Wanderers.

    Confirmed starting XI

    Nyland, Hutton, Chester, Tuanzebe, Taylor, Adomah, McGinn, Hourihane, Kodjia, Grealish, Abraham. Subs: Bunn, Jedinak, Whelan, Elmohamady, Bolasie, El Ghazi, Hogan.

  5. Nyland; Hutton, Tuanzebe, Chester, Taylor; Adomah, McGinn, Hourihane, Kodjia, Grealish; Abraham.

    Subs: Bunn, Bolasie, Elmohamady, Jedinak, Whelan, El Ghazi, Hogan.

    JG
    I really don’t understand this lineup either.
    And the only reason I can think of for the sub list is that he’s giving some of them a chance before he bins some of them.
    I mean, Jedinak & whelan on the same bench????

  6. JG,

    The whole scenario is interesting. I’m sure in the first three games that, as Smith said, he didn’t want to change much up. See what the basic side could do given some extra guidance. He could only really tinker round the edges.

    This almost seems like the first game in charge he could really be held accountable for, and even then that’s limited. I think part of the problem is that not many other players got much of a look-in prior to his arrival, and there wasn’t much cohesion with the side that had been playing. Bree would take a little bit, and it means moving Hutton. El Ghazi and Bolasie, not much time or integration. Indeed, with the back four being shaky, then putting in Tuanzebe where he belongs, he may still shy away from undercutting what understandings there are/were back there. Likewise with wing players, and how he wants the fullbacks to operate.

    I think he’s also got to navigate the dressing room. He’s got a number of veterans he won’t necessarily want to alienate, which I think was part of Bruce’s problem. Not saying Smith won’t do what he thinks is necessary, but giving guys a chance to prove they deserve their place is about keeping everyone on board, meritocracy, and all that.

    So, now there’s been a week and a couple of setbacks, I’m hoping we can see a step forward.

  7. Jc- I agree on your ideas around team choice.

    There was a game played with high intensity to give players pitch time and look at the u23’s so I assumed that’s why they didn’t play ohare etc on Monday.

    When Smith came in we said it will require patience.

  8. One thing I am noticing is that Axel is too hesitant to play the ball forward. For example, McGinn upfield, comes under pressure, drops it back to Axel, two men rush to close Axel down leaving McGinn and a clear path between them for Axel to beat the press and set McGinn loose. He has to get comfortable enough to make that pass.

  9. evening Jc!,
    excellent sheet music at the top as always!

    The next 6/7 games will be be very entertaining/nerve wracking, i think!

    it’s so much fun watching us again, i almost went there today to see it in person, i really needed this as life generally a grind at the moment.

    we’ll need to keep start keeping a lot more some clean sheets, ( if this stay like this ) if the new gk coach ( ex player neil cutler) can help nyland, maybe we got a gem?

  10. Cheers, roger.

    Agreed, I’m looking forward to the games as well…having a man with a plan makes it much more interesting to watch in terms of progression, seeing how/if it comes about.

    Nyland? Yeah. It’s a big change for him, was a terrible back line in front, not a lot of height to help keep things from reaching him. As you say, some coaching and who knows. Johnstone had a rough go at the start as well.

  11. JG- Chester a Bruce signing? Or do you mean for Hull?

    Not bad was it? Bolton not up to much and half the team vying to join jack in the most fouled list, are we the most fouled team? 🙂

    Roger- know what you mean mate looking forward to matches again 🙂

  12. Good result!
    Rogermuffin I agree about Hutton, & he benefited from Adomah [& Bolassie]] which frees him up.
    Taylor is like he was when he first came, & long may it continue.
    Even Whelan has a new burst of life.
    But Bolton did some nasty fouls & a lot of cheating.

    Biggest plus is that the defence is getting better, & we are getting on the front foot more.
    The habit of scoring & dropping back is still there but less, & we need to keep going like we started, which led to Jack’s goal.
    Only moan is codger, as he isn’t quite at the races at the moment.
    His passing has disintegrated, & still doesn’t look up so much, but he does keep going, so now he’s fit maybe that will improve.
    Thought Hogan did well
    Now for the brandy

  13. But it is exciting to be a villa fan again,a manager with a plan (Not where he is eating after)system,style,just read elsewhere about villa players out warming down after match not been seen for a long time

  14. one thought from the game, thought McGinn had a really good game but you can level a lot of the stuff laid at Jacks door at his even more so with Hourihane . Exciting times and I hope they can fulfil there potential with us not Munchaster or Latherpool with a bit of help from Smith.

  15. Really enjoyed that last night in the main. Loved the mid 3 and how smith likes to play with 2 number 8s. Jack was a lot better last night. Being told to stay up top and not come deep. Smith said when first arrived jack needs more goals and assits… Low and behold he has both last night. Coaching hey!! Think a deep lying mid will be bought in interesting what the commentator said about smith at Brentford thought we had no legs in the middle of the park when they played us.

  16. Sensible that smith has kept the same back 5. Need a settled defence with everyone in natural positions. And thought both full backs done well. But in Jan pound a penny says smith will want a CB cause we are light but a deep lying cm, and 2 fullbacks. Those 3 positions are crucial in how smith likes to play. Great interview with smith after. Knows and sees sense! Loved how they were showing jack clips at ht, imagine that under Bruce !!

  17. Re the u23s and them being pulled out to have a game midweek in training. Worth watching out for as he did away with them at Brentford. Just had a b team. Not sure he rates the set up.

  18. v Bolton

    Great and bright start by Villa last night – and for 10 minutes Jack looked really good! 🙂 As did Abraham.n And didn’t McGinn get clattered!

    But for Chester (and his ‘real’ goal that was minutely offside) it might have been a different story and a repetition (result-wise) of previous matches.

    It’s going to be more of a real test next week. But here’s hoping that the upturn has started.

  19. Andrew- Lots of sense being shown plus application of his methods. Makes it interesting to compare with the previous regime as we have the same side virtually being played albeit in different positions.

    Its nice to see them Progress even though the display wasn’t as good as the last two in some ways. Still a bit wobbly at the back and I hope Ryland comes good because we may be after yet another keeper in Jan if not.

    I think we may see a few loanee’s back in Jan, Elphick and Clark for starters.

  20. JL- funny enough the game provided a platform that displayed really how good Jacks dribbling is with Kodjia and McGinn trying their best but with half the skill.

    Yes it could easily have gone wrong but thats been our season and it has to start improving somewhere, lets hope they draw from the clean sheet, our second under Smith. We do look more attacking while conceding fewer but some of the defences passing gives you palpations.

    I think in true Villa style we will step up a gear against better opposition, not that Bolton were terrible they were fighting for their managers job. Think our players look happier overall with the way they are being asked to play.

  21. MK: “funny enough the game provided a platform that displayed really how good Jacks dribbling is with Kodjia and McGinn trying their best but with half the skill.”

    But how effective is the dribbling skill? Not a lot in my view and at one point dribbled so much that he came to a standstill and had the ball whisked off ‘im! 🙂

    I like to see a good dribbler as much as anyone, but give me a McGinn or a Milner any day as the kind of players that achieve a lot.

    And this was only Bolton we were playing against, let’s not forget.

    From what I saw last night there’s still a lot to be done, but like everyone here I live in hope.

  22. Jl- we will forever differ on jack on that score if others had half his ability to retain the ball there own game would come on leaps and bounds. As for having it taken off of him? That happened once as he looked up to find nobody to pass to and it happened to others like kodjia mcginn and hourihane as nobody appeared to be calling man on.

    We still don’t know how to service the loan striker, Tammy got little service and Hogan was completely ignored by hourihane late on who elected to shoot from 20 yards instead of rolling him in with the entire left side open.

    Interesting how our fitness problems have faded away? We are regularly getting 90 mins out of the team. Now that’s not just improved fitness in two weeks that’s players wanting to play and enjoying it imo.

  23. MK,

    I’m not saying Jack hasn’t got ability (which is what you seem to read) … I am saying what he actually achieves is very little compared to his entertainment level and the hype he’s attracted.

    To match the hype about him (we’re not talking of McGinn and Conor in this context) In my view (as others have said) he needs to be more incisive. Also possibly a supercharger to give him that extra burst of speed.

  24. MK,

    “if others had half his ability to retain the ball there own game would come on leaps and bounds.”

    Spot on. He’s the one player who can be counted on to basically have the ball glued to his boots. If that isn’t perhaps the most fundamentally important skill in football, I don’t know what his. After that, it’s distribution and reception. But starting with each player in isolation, it’s about controlling what you can, step one. Step two, delivering it to and receiving from other players.

    He allows the side to retain possession, to carry it out and up, to draw players to him, basically make an entire side of a team switch round to counter him. Building from that, it’s about making teams pay for having to focus so much attention on him. That’s the next step. It’s partly working with Jack, partly working with other players, and getting it all expressed in a system/set-up.

    From the snippets about what they’re actually “working on” in training, it’s clear that Smith wants to get everyone in the right places doing the right things, and drilling them on specific patterns with specific outcomes so that movement and passes are anticipated. Jack’s goal was a perfect example. That’s how you take raw material and come up with an end product. Deano wants him scoring, and he’s actually doing what’s required to build a side around him.

    It’s not enough to just say it, you have to make it a focal point in training so that it’s the organizing principle from which everything else radiates.

  25. And I should add that a big benefit of Jack’s control is that it allows him to keep his head up. He isn’t thinking about the ball. When the patterns and runs are consistent, he’ll be able to count on them, spot them sooner, etc.

    Hutton, for example, when he bombs forward is basically almost out of control. He’s great running in a straight line, still has speed and strength. But when he cuts in, he often shows too much of the ball and runs himself into a cul-de-sac where he loses it. That’s not to say he didn’t have a good game, he did. But if he had better control (allowing better vision, changes of direction, the layoff or penetrating pass), he’d be at a different level more consistently. Taylor, for his part, is better on the ball, but doesn’t have the same physical characteristics. If you could combine them, you’d have close to a perfect wingback.

  26. JL,

    In my essay answer (apologies for length or pounding on the obvious) what I’m obviously saying is that, to your point, without structure, Jack’s talent is wasted. Almost anyone’s would be. With structure, we should see the end product. Smith is working to create structure, which is what the team have lacked.

    So I don’t hold “lack of end product” as an inherent fault of Jack’s so much as the result of years of not being in a proper set-up. It’s hindered his development, as well as Villa’s overall. The good news is that he has the requisite skill. Now it’s just about getting it applied properly. Nothing’s ever guaranteed, but that’s what coaching is all about.

  27. Things are moving in the right direction. The last time I felt this positive was after we hammered small heath last season and moved into second place. That optimism didn’t last but I believe this time it will.

    DS has already moved into attack mode. I’m now just waiting for Abraham to find his shooting boots because when he does, somebody is going to get a hiding.

  28. Not on villa,but arsenal look good under emerey, shows all managers reach a point where it’s time to go,arsenal under Wenger of late would have folded when they conceded

  29. JC,

    Sorry, John, I don’t hold with your thesis. And to say “… After that, it’s distribution and reception.” is actually the antithesis of Villa’s need, because we need those attributes to be succesful, not dillying and dallying.

    I’m from the old school of football support (which is pretty obvious I suppose) and goes right back to supporting Villa from the 1880s – did I tell you my gt-grandfather, who lived close to the old AV Methodist Church, made a clock to celebrate Villa’s first FA Cup win? (and donated it to a church).

    So the words of wisdom about Villa from my greater family have influenced me in how I think and in my viewpoint about Villa, in particular, supplemented by considerable study into the thinking of the likes of McGregor, Ramsay and Rinder.

    To reiterate what they sad, they said that football is not going to produce results without playing effective football. The frills are what they are – frills. Jimmy Hogan (the dather of Hungarian football) was of a similar mind. That being their attitude I stick with that. It’s good enough for me.

    As for the “lack of end product” in Jack as being “the result of years of not being in a proper set-up” that may well be the case. I’m in no way castigating Jack and trying to place fault for his condition, I am merely observing what is. The fault for it isn’t my concern.

  30. … and whether Jack can be coached into playing effective football (especially over the majority of a match) we have to wait and see. No-one can say that DS will produce that result. On the other hand, he might.

  31. JL- no I don’t think that I just think you underestimate his effect and worth to the team. Nearly everything we do goes through him. Any player could do with more speed but I don’t think he’s slow particularly.

  32. well I see it as a choice of extremes JL.
    when it all comes together without manipulation in the moment in the match, the extremes vanish.
    DS seems more equipped for it to have an ongoing stable dynamic than our previous manager.
    So if the training works it should benefit Jack & the team in the matches.
    So probably best not to cling on to favourite positions, over much [except for entertainment].

  33. Iana: “What’s wrong with a good dribble now and again?”

    As the babe said to its mother! 😀

    No, nothing wrong with a good dribble – so long as it *usually* leads to something like a shot on goal.

    I actually refute what MK says – that “Nearly everything we do goes through him.” Not that the statement is wrong but that the decisive end product is usually missing. It’s not often that he makes a telling pass.

    In fact I’ve seen as many decisive final balls delivered by Hutton this season.

  34. JL- well assists and goals do not tell the entire story, Hourihane has played more telling passes resulting in goals than most of the league yet his overall contribution is nowhere near that of Jacks.

    Hutton? he has one goal no assists, I’ll put up his stats and Jacks up. One of Jacks strengths is Key passes funnily. Hutton less than 80% pass success jack near to 90% and passing is seen as huttons strength. More to my point Jack has better defensive stats than Hutton too!!

    https://www.whoscored.com/Players/113069/Show/Jack-Grealish

  35. MK – as I keep saying my viewpoint is in relation to the hype surrounding Jack. Therefore comparison with other Villa players is not relevant. Conor doesn’t get hyped, and rightly so.

  36. As to Hutton, I go by what I see – that for a full-back his passing has frequently been nearly deadly. If the attackers don’t convert those passes it’s not his fault.

    We’ve talked about stats before. They usually don’t tell a sufficient story.

  37. MK,

    Anyway, the man I quoted – Jimmy Hogan – said it perfectly. There’s not much point in too much dribbling. I rest my case on that single (and highly qualified) pronouncement, and also on the fact that Villa teams have never been known too much for their dribbling since 1893.

    Despite the skills of Little and Cowan, they generally played a game directed towards getting the end result, not for creating pure entertainment. That is the tradition of The Villa Way, and with 7 League triumphs and a European Cup triumph based on that play, there can’t be much wrong with it.

  38. Dribbling

    Thinking of this topic and The Villa Way, I remembered just now the story of Villa’s Bobby Templeton, dribbling wizard at Villa during the 1900-02 period. They say that it was because of the crowd moving to have a better view of Templeton’s dazzling play for Scotland that it caused a temporary stand to collapse and a number were killed.

    To start with he didn’t do too much dribbling for Villa, but as time went on he took it on himself to overdo his skills so that usually he got himself boxed in and got nowhere. In the end the Villa management decided enough was enough and sold him, despite the fact the fans loved him.

  39. JL- Quite honestly I don’t see the hype angle, any player with an outstanding quality will get some, Mcginn for instants, its not Jacks fault and who else in the Villa team has had a £25m offer made?

    Smith has had one week to apply some tactical nous and coach Jack and it worked, of course he needs work but I think if he is overdoing the dribbling its more to do with the teams reliance on him and lack of option over him doing it for any entertainment Value?

    The penny will drop for him and at last we have someone who can explain it to him, Smith has already said he needs to trust his team-mates to get the ball to him and not do to much in areas to far back to be effective. That I am afraid is a remnant of how Bruce wanted him to play.

    Under 23’s are 2-1 up James Bree two headers can’t be far off shifting Hutton can he?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YqMT5NAFIk

  40. 3-3 so far U23’s great going forward but without Clark and Suliman who are out on loan they are soft at the back particularly through the centre, could be 6-5

  41. IanG- yep he was but with Lansbury in the centre you’d expect a bit more steel, clarke on now who is a really good prospect, an all round Midfielder.

  42. 4 points off 6th with 4 of the top six coming up, if we keep improving the play and results could be in contention by December. Can’t believe Norwich are now top.

  43. I did read that Smith liked the players to move around the pitch in several positions and get an idea of what kind of service they would like from their own specialist position, just a different perspective.

    I like the Brentford B team idea as well, I think you could replace the U23’s with that and mix those coming through with those on the teams fringes to keep match fitness up and a continuity of style.

  44. Jack on Smith.

    Grealish has had, to his own standards, a quiet start to the campaign.

    But he says working with new boss Smith at Bodymoor Heath has had the desired effect and feels his performance against the Trotters could be the catalyst for him to fire the club into the upper echelons of the Championship.

    He told Club TV: “He has been working hard with me on the training field on one or two things. I’m not going to give away the tactics but tonight it definitely paid off.

    “I am loving working with him. It’s obviously nice for me as well because he’s an Aston Villa fan. His whole family are Aston Villa supporters just like mine. We get on well.

    “I think you can see from what we’re doing that we’re working on certain things on the training pitch that are all paying off.

    “It’s really good. He’s very good – and he also has two great coaches in Richard and JT alongside him.

    “All the boys are enjoying it and I think you can see that from the way we played against Bolton. We obviously beat Swansea in his first game but even against Norwich and QPR, I thought we should have got more.

    “Hopefully we can just carry on training hard now, work towards next week and hopefully put in another good performance against Derby.”

  45. Smith on Jack over dribbling 😉

    “It was great to see Jack making the run we’ve been working on in training – it was a good slide through by Tammy Abraham. We need to continue getting better at those runs in behind.

    Jack’s getting those runs into the box and has been doing that the last few games. He controlled the game for long periods.

    The energy and distance he covers at high intensity is very good.

    He’s worked hard and deserved his goal – it was a good finish. I want to see more of it.”

  46. MK,

    DS was not really talking about the dribbling – it’s about how the first goal was made and how they’re trying to get Jack further up the field.

    But too much dribbling is still too much dribbling!

    “who else in the Villa team has had a £25m offer made?” – that’s exactly part of the hype that’s been generated. That and the price of £40m that Bruce put on his head a few months ago.

  47. Well, back home and chilled out, after an eventful weekend, starting in Birmingham on Friday.
    I made it to the Aston Tavern once more, and enjoyed a beer before the game, and then joined the Holte Enders at the ground, and must admit that it was not its normal self. It seemed that little bit subdued. How much that was due to the minutes silence, the respect for the Leicester chairman, and a little trepidation as to how the game would be.
    No worries Villa started well with plenty of cheering from the off, and Villa pressing, culminating in Abraham’s great pass for Jack to score the first goal within five minutes. The crowd are sensing that this could be the turning point for Dean Smith’s Villa, and for another ten minutes Villa remain on the front foot, and looking good, but as the time goes on Bolton start to find their feet and get involved, and the more it progresses, you can see the more they try, and become harder to beat, and become more vicious in the tackle. Couple of scary moments, one with a great clearance by Chester. Almost a good second goal from Villa. but unfortunately, Chester was offside.

    Second half we did start well again, and this time Chester got his goal from a great Grealish free kick. Villa settled more, and there did not seem to be much danger then, but Abrahams should have converted at least one of the chances that fell his way. You do feel that the fans did not really trust and get into the full swing, like they used to, but this win will go a long way to restoring confidence, and they will find their full voice once again.

    Good performances all round by the team, and they will continue to improve, and so will the fans.

    If we can get a good result from the Derby game, it will really set us up for the clash with the ‘Noses…and Villa Park will be rocking once again.

  48. Yes that commentator!!!
    So bad he drives me mental.
    For Villa to just give us the audio from the International video, is not only pointless, but is an insult to the fans [courtesy of Dr Tony?], which is why I’ve rescinded my membership

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