Villa are at Derby today, who’ve done well under new man Frank Lampard and sit in 5th, unbeaten in their last five. Going into the game they’re seven points better off than the Lions. Smith will be looking to close that to four after a proper Saturday-to-Saturday schedule.

As always Deano’s been interesting and informative in his pressers. There’s the high press. There’s looking at game footage with Grealish at halftime, and identifying the spaces he wants Grealish to take up and operate in, Jack’s frustration with wanting the ball and dropping deep to get it. Which Smith doesn’t want him to do: “Trust the lads to get it to you.” There’s being well impressed with John McGinn’s effort, contribution, and positioning. There’s being respectful, but not afraid. Double sessions on Tuesday, and recovery on Wednesday. Alan Hutton saying they’re getting fitter and stronger. JT taking the defenders aside and looking at film of how the best defenses play. Coaching, in other words.

Smith also had the chance to scout Derby personally earlier in the week, and between that and his head-to-head with them while he was still at Brentford, he’ll know what they’re about, as well as, in his own words, the weaknesses Villa will be looking to exploit.

The lineup is out, and still no changes, which also tells us a lot. Don’t know whether this is shaping up to be Smith’s ultimate starting XI, but he’s giving it a good long look, so there must be something to it.

I’ve left it late in the day, so I won’t belabor things. We know it’s a good measuring stick after the Rams brushed small heath aside, and I think Smith is relishing it, too.

As a result, I’m rather looking forward to our visit to Pride Park. No idea what we’ll get out of it, but something tells me it’s going to be a proper game of football. All you can really ask for.

Over to you.

Comments 125

  1. Thanks JC- I will be listening to Villa and watching the England v the All blacks today hope for two wins. I think the team picks itself more or less just the application thats changed.

    JL- Yes all these ancient breathing and energy practices must have the same roots, science is just catching onto how important Hydrogen is to the body.

    Haggis- I don’t think I have ever listened to dark side of the moon in its entirety, love some of their tracks though even though I’m a heathen 🙂

  2. Did Hutton just need coaching all this time.

    Just shows how badly we’ve been managed, all these year’s

    Really shows that attack is the best form of defense.

    This result sets us up Nicely for nx 6/7 games.

    Come thru that with 15+ points and the top of the table is there to be reached

  3. Made up this could be the start of something fantastic, think its been coming for a while and had the feeling Bolasie would have a hand in it today. Beer will taste better tonight 🙂

  4. We finally have a manager/coach who has a philosophy on how to play football. How to win the ball back from the opposition and how to play entertaining football

    The Dean Smith era has commenced.

  5. Oh yes. This is how to play football. At last we are showing a method and system and I must say it could have been a much heavier win. The future is bright. Excitement is back on the menu. Thank goodness that fan launched a cabbage.

  6. So many of our games televised recently . . . . what a shame this one wasn’t!
    Fantastic to acore 3 against a good side, but just as pleasing is the clean sheet. Nyland doesn’t inspire confidence but from what I’ve seen before, and read today, he does seem to be a shot stopper. I remember the same being said about Johnson in his early days with us, so with good coaching maybe he’ll come good too.
    A more confident and secure defence in front of him will help him too.

  7. What a great game to watch, thanks to a great live stream from one of our Scandinavian brothers.

    A tale of two halves for me, as what a difference it made once El Mohamady came on and Hutton switched to the left. Then the addition of Bolasie for Kodija, who provided a great cross for McGinn to head in at the far post.
    Must add that Nyland had a great game today too, showing a lot more confidence.

    Hourihane improved second half and put away a great free kick for Villa’s third, while it was good for Abrahams to get his goal for all the hard work he puts in.

    Enjoying reading Crouch’s book “How to be a footballer” at the moment. A great read I would recommend to anyone, and will give a few snips out of it, when I have more time,

    The Dean Smith era is under way…!!!! Come on you Villa boys…!!!

  8. Thank God last break to March,Dean will get a chance to get his breath,great to see attacking subs when we where ahead instead of Whelan,Jedi type we were used to

  9. JG,

    Yes, attacking subs, and Villa didn’t stop pressing, stayed on the front foot. Was nice to see all the pressure and dominance rewarded. Seemed like only a matter of time, and it was. Derby were left dazed.

  10. Ian: “Anyone remember SB?”

    Yes – when Elmo came on to restore the Elmo-Hutton back 2 partnership.

    I was surprised that Elmo had been left out a few games ago after his spate of dangerous crosses, and now I’d say he’s back to stay.

  11. Ian, bearing in mind that I didn’t see today’s game, in recent weeks it’s been clear that our midfield have improved and our full backs are pressing forward more. Our attackers needed to find their shooting boots and the defence still looked shaky. . . . largely because of our more attacking intent.
    If we’re starting to look more secure at the back to then that is really exciting for the future.

  12. James G, Bruce has gone now so maybe it’s time to look forward instead of back?
    Let’s not forget that you wanted Thiery Henri . . . . so how’s that working out?

  13. r0bb0: “Our attackers needed to find their shooting boots …”

    Interesting point that until McGinn scored, Villa had only one attempt on goal. Rather a copy of what’s gone before, and surely give way to Bolasie in the starting line-up?

    Much as I like Kodjia, it seems his time is up.

  14. JL- Didn’t see the match but I suspect it is down to managing older players playing at higher intensity. I’m hearing his introduction changed the game as Taylor wasn’t getting forward so fair play to smith for being decisive and swapping a defender at half time and well done to Elmo.

    It will be interesting how much more time Kodjia will get, missed a hatful today. He is likely why Elmo has been sat or maybe fatigue, Smith will be watching the players stress levels in detail with our more energy intensive approach.

    The biggest thing is players now appear to want to be on that pitch, great to see or not today in my case 😉 I bet the players on loan are watching and hoping for a call.

  15. MK,

    Yes, fair points, but it’s interesting that Smith put Hutton and Taylor back in a few games ago stating that “players are now playing in their correct positions” (and Tuanzebe), but actually finding out that Hutton at l-b and Elmo’s forward play have been missed. That change – plus Bolasie coming on – certainly seems to have made the difference.

  16. Bolasie an interesting one, seems ideal for a twenty minute sub spot to cause a bit of havoc on a tired opposition.

    Robbo- that defence has been shaky all season and let in 18 under Bruce, three clean sheets and 3 goals against in 5 games says Smiths tactics have improved us shaky defence or not, we are to busy attacking to be attacked.

  17. JL- Well considering smith has had the team for under a month? its not bad and sometimes you have to go back to basics to know what your dealing with. Prior to his arrival we leaked 20 goals with mainly hutton at left back and tuenzabe at RB and jedinak at CB, Elmo was on the wing sometimes. So if Bruce had such a better knowledge of his own players why not play the defence we saw today from the off? he had them for over a year Smith a few weeks.

  18. This says it all from Smith, we came and took 3 points.

    “It’s a statement to me from the players, really.

    “I have seen where their standards are now and I can judge them on those standards.

    “I still don’t think they understand how good they can be.

    “When they do they can go and put on a really good run of results.

    “This is only one game today, two wins on the spin and our first away win since the start of the season.

    “But I told the players before we were not coming to Derby to get a point. We were coming for all three.”

  19. “There is a lot more to come from this squad,” Smith added.

    “I said to them yesterday and today there was an opportunity to draw a line in the sand, to show where we are at.

    “It shows the quality we have in the squad and when we perform like a team, as we did today, we can get performances and results like we did today.

    “We missed some really good chances.

    “But today I never doubted we would score.

    “I just felt we would create other chances.

    “I could see it in their eyes today there was a lot of belief there.

    “Sometimes that bit of confidence is all that is needed.

    “There are still things we need to get better at – defending long balls down the middle for one, where they created a couple of chances in the first-half.

    “But when we have a gameplan and the players follow it, we look one hell of a team.”

  20. Taylor coming off may have had more to do with the knock he took than tactics. Will have to hear from Smith. But he’s wanted Hutton playing on his natural side, and Hutton’s said that’s what he definitely prefers.

    Kodjia was put in dangerous positions several times and misfired badly on each. Bolasie was a natural sub, and he made the most of it. Fair play to Kodjia, he’s been working much harder off the ball, though.

  21. r0bb0,

    Yes, may very well have dodged a bullet with Henry. I think Smith is out to prove things to a lot of people, and he’s making it obvious he’s clearly a coach.

  22. Also, I have to say, a big part of the reason the defense is looking better and we’re getting clean sheets is because we’re defending higher up the pitch.

    Tuanzebe is finding his feet and starting to put himself about a little. It’s making life easier for Chester, and Axel’s pace is allowing them to get further up and still recover when a long ball is played. Obviously Smith wants those long pass outlets shut down and cut out.

  23. As for me want g Henry,yes I would have taken anyone over Bruce, can’t compare Henry taking over a Monaco side and taking over us in championship,anyone would have improved on Bruce as he left villa in same way he left every job a failure

  24. It’s made me so happy I won’t sleep!

    He said his philosophy is constant pressure, attack. 1 nil up, or 5 nil up he wants to be merciless. To strike fear into our next opponents

    Something like that. I’ll find the proper quote!

  25. r0bb0
    “The quality in the squad is there for all to see. All they have done today is taken what they have done on the training ground into a match.”

    I’d forgotten what it was to get normal service renewed
    Well a few more things could be taken into the next match, looking forward to seeing small heath demolished again

  26. On Taylor

    What I said on him seems to have been mistrued. I was simply stating that the reversion to Elmo-Hutton seems to have had a very +ve effect. Why and how that came to be I was not concerned about or whether Hutton prefers playing right. It just happenend to be the full-back combination that Bruce seems to have preferred.

    While we’re talking of full-backs, while Bruce was here everyone was saying “why isn’t he using Bree?”. Well, Smith ain’t either, but no-one says anything! 😉

  27. Yesterday’s Performance

    I’m a Villan and I take nothing away from Villa’s win yesterday.

    However, it was essentially the second half performance that did the trick and after making a couple of switches. And it wasn’t until the first goal was scored that we got more focused on where the goal was!

    So – just a word of caution. I’d want to see another 2 or 3 convincing matches before I started getting excited.

    Mind you a 5-0 win next match may help a lot to convince me that it’s really going right! 😀

  28. MK: “… science is just catching onto how important Hydrogen is to the body.”

    Actually your reply and the above comment highlighted that in my previous post I inadvertently said “oxygen”, not “hydrogen”, I think.

    So you picked up on something that Gurdjieff (and Ouspensky) identified way before science started looking more closely at it.

    But of course it’s not simply the effect on the body. Gurdjieff’s methods were directed at using the physical to help develop the spiritual (the soul). As stated before, this is essentially an old practise that Gurdjieff (and not only he) made the West come to be aware of. It’s making use of the body as a temple (as Jesus put it).

    But the instructions of the really great teachers did not highlight the breathing (and other practises) so much as the moral foundation, and that this why they have a higher standing for me over Gurdhieff. Breathing techniques were instructions that were originally reserved for an inner circle that understood more.

  29. JC
    Thanks for, once again, writing our leader.
    I have only seen the highlights and was pleased with what I saw.
    “Breathing techniques were instructions that were originally reserved for an inner circle that understood more.”
    Are you saying that the inner circle could breath better?

    Enjoyed the rugby from Twickers.

  30. JL,

    You’re nothing if not consistent!

    I’ll save most of my thoughts for match review (don’t want to use all my best bits here), but you’re correct, one swallow does not a summer make. We’ve certainly been there before.

    Since it seems inevitable that Smith vs Bruce comparisons will continue for a while, I will say that it’s perhaps a bit damning that in using the same set of players (bar Tuanzebe and Jedinak) Smith had them looking so much better: more organized, more disciplined, more cohesive, and running for a full 90.

    “While we’re talking of full-backs, while Bruce was here everyone was saying “why isn’t he using Bree?” Well, Smith ain’t either, but no-one says anything!”

    The conclusion we reach when one man gets better performances out of the same players? He might well know more about what he’s doing than the previous man. Time will tell, as you say.

  31. JC- You can see on the pitch he is getting more from them and he tells you exactly how, it is quite damning for Bruce but its pretty undeniable. Very impressed with Nylands distribution yesterday too. I have no doubts we will have poor matches but at least there is a plan, its down to whether thats acted on or works on a match to match basis. I have the felling we will be winning a fair few if we play like that though, best I have seen since MONs time and in terms of controlling matches better.

    As for nobody saying anything? well I speak for myself but I trust Smith to do what is needed, Never did trust Bruces Judgement as it appeared suck it and see not thought out particularly. Once this team is rolling then it will be easier to slip players in without upsetting the apple cart.

  32. Some changes the players have said Dean Smith has introduced:
    They have running sessions and are already much fitter
    They have training sessions, 1st team vs the rest and they play with high press and match day intensity
    As a result, every player knows what is expected of them
    The atmosphere is much better and training is fun…..don’t discount this statement

    Im so glad we didnt get Henry. What could be better than have a Villa man lead us. Next 6 games will be tough. If we can go 4-1-1, I think that will put us in tge mix for top 2

  33. It’s a wise move JL to keep your powder dry until a form trend becomes more reliable. But this wasn’t a 0-3 or 0-4 away win against relegation teams like Barnsley or Burton. This was a 0-3 battering at an in-form and promotion chasing Derby. Wonderful result and deserving of much praise. All we have to do now is take 3 points off small heath at another sell out VP.

  34. JC: “The conclusion we reach when one man gets better performances out of the same players? He might well know more about what he’s doing than the previous man. “

    We have little evidence of that, do we, as far as the f-b’s are concerned.

    To drop Elmo and then reinstate him (OK, maybe forced to because of Taylor’s knock) looks odd to me, but I suppose Smith wanted to see how people were in their natural positions (e.g. Hutton).

    I doubt that Smith & Co can make very much difference to the f-b positions and because of the overall defensive uncertainty, is an extra reason for pressing forward so that they’re under least pressure.

  35. Plug: “This was a 0-3 battering at an in-form and promotion chasing Derby”

    That’s why my powder is dry – becuase it wasn’t as you describe!

    The score may well have been 2-0 or 2-1 to Derby at h-t and but for their profligacy (and Nyland) they would have been.

    We had one shot on goal until the 74th minute, despite generally being i.c. second half.

    The thing is that because Villa played up so well in the last 15+ minutes we have probably forgotten about the first half when the defence was open a couple of times through over the top balls – as a week or two ago.

  36. MK: “[About Bree] As for nobody saying anything? well I speak for myself but I trust Smith to do what is needed, Never did trust Bruces Judgement as it appeared suck it and see not thought out particularly.”

    What a prejudiced statement that is! 😀

    The issue is – is Bree good enough or not? Both managers seem to think not, so whereas I agree that Bruce had certain limitations, you can’t dismiss his capability willy-nilly. And until DS gets Villa promoted he’s nothing on his c.v. to indicate that he’s as good as Bruce. We may like his approach (and I’m with everyone on that), but the proof is in the eating.

  37. JL – watch Frank Lampard interview….he disagrees with your view and said the better team won. LAST I checked a football game lasts 90mins, so please stop writing bollix

  38. JL,

    Focus less on the fullbacks when you record a clean sheet and score three. Look at the rest of it, the total performance. Villa were in the ascendancy virtually the entire first half (with Taylor in), bar a couple breakdowns down the middle (which Smith called out post-match).

    When you slot in a player due to injury, and everything keeps ticking over and you maintain your dominance, then you know there’s a system, and that everyone knows their role. And it’s not like Elmo wasn’t playing in his preferred position. He came in and took it up because Taylor’s injury meant Hutton had to go left because we don’t have another naturally left-sided fullback.

  39. VillaMD,

    You didn’t read what I said. I didn’t say Villa were not the best team, what I am saying is that for 74 minutes they showed little technique to win the match (you have to shoot on target to score goals – right?) and very nearly gave the game to Derby through over the top balls, one such ball doing us a couple of weeks ago.

    That’s all I said. Until h-t the game was winnable by either side and we still couldn’t shoot on target until 16 minutes from the end.

  40. JC: “Focus less on the fullbacks when you record a clean sheet and score three.”

    I’ve only made further comment on this issue because there are some people who are so anti-Bruce they can’t see the consistency between his and Smith’s defensive calls.

    Like others, you misunderstand me, John.

    As always I seek fairness, and sometimes fans get carried away. I forgive ’em, it’s an emotive thing being a Villa fan! 😀

  41. Jl – fair enough, but watch the game again. I look at overall play, not just shots on target. Granted Derby could have scored 2 in the 1st half, but we should have scored 3 vs QPR and lost 1-0.

    Villa are playing quality football, the best Ive seen since the Paul McGrath era.


  42. VillaMD,

    You know as well as I that you can’t score unless you put shots on target. For a period Derby were more in danger of that than we were – hence how it all could have gone awry. And it illustrated that we haven’t yet fixed things – though the second half was much better and indeed hit a glorious climax.

  43. JL,

    “I’ve only made further comment on this issue because there are some people who are so anti-Bruce they can’t see the consistency between his and Smith’s defensive calls.

    Like others, you misunderstand me, John. ”

    I may indeed have misinterpreted…But at the same time, that would seem to imply Smith is saying, “You didn’t necessarily have the players wrong, you just weren’t playing them properly.”

    (Except of course for the fundamental failings, which included playing Whelan and/or Jedinak to no benefit, and playing Tuanzebe at RB. And Smith has sat Elmo since the first game or two, as well.)

    This is probably a large part of why Smith took the job. Realized the pieces were there, just not being trained and utilized right. In other words, he saw something he could come in and fix.

  44. JL,

    I’ll pop in for VillaMD…scoring is a funny thing, the most confidence-dependent part of the whole game. The more players feel that opportunities will be limited and they have to make one or two count, the more likely they are to clench up. When you know you’re going to get more, you know your odds of finishing go up. And, of course, the rate of return will always be dependent on the quality of the chances. When you almost invariably slot home from one or two clear or half-chances, then you’re world class and not playing for Villa.

    With Kodjia yesterday, we saw just that. He knows he’s playing for his future. He wants to make an impact with whatever chances he does get. And he’s misfiring all over the place for just that reason, imo. Smith has at least made some progress in getting him to settle down, make a simple pass and move rather than taking on two, three or four players to work himself free for a shot.

    And we could extend that to Jack. Smith has already identified the flaws we might point to in his game. He’s frustrated, he’s trying too hard to do too much, and hasn’t been put in a position to leave certain aspects to others and concentrate on where he can make the greatest impact. So, Smith is freeing him up from the self-imposed pressure to carry the team end to end, and instead trying to focus him making an impact in more defined areas and situations. He’s making the game simpler for Jack and in so doing, giving him a greater opportunity to succeed.

  45. JC,

    1. These are honeymoon days with Smith. We’re in love with him before he has even created a conception! 😀

    2. My main issue was about Bree (not played by either manager) not on the issue of whether the players were in place and not being played properly! And in respect of Elmo/Hutton I don’t think that’s a relevant point though I agree the issue is likely to be true in respect of other players. It’s a point that I’m well aware is there for the stating but at present – until something concrete is achieved – I don’t think it’s worth gushing praises. We’re only 5 games in!

    3. On the scoring issue, I’m well aware of what you state. All I was doing was focusing on the game outcome as it might have been if the pattern of the first half had been repeated. The game in fact could have ended 0-0 or 1-0 (either way) based on the pattern of the first 45 minutes with us only getting 1 attempt on target. We might have been behind at h-t if one of their chances had been put home, as it was at QPR.

    I’m just putting reality into the situation, not using wishful thinking – though I agree that the future does look much brighter right now.

  46. JL,

    The first half was indeed wide open, and I commented at halftime that either team could be ahead. Very true.

    Also very true these are honeymoon days. But I saw more progress yesterday than in the last year-and-a-half. Does it continue? Smith seems to think so.

    With Bree, we’ll see over time. It’s clear that Smith has been in no rush to change much up. Adomah has continued to feature, although many were calling for him to be sat. Likewise Kodjia. Main changes obviously have been Tuanzebe for Jedinak, and neither Jedi nor Whelan seeing any meaningful playing time. And all of a sudden, with a high press and two key changes, we’re keeping clean sheets. So, if I said Elmo, Jedi and Whelan were surplus, I’ll take being right on two out of three. 🙂

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