Rather quiet week following the Robbery at the Hawthorns as Dean Smith and the boys prepared to play without Jack Grealish for the first time. With Birkir Bjarnason, Henri Lansbury, and even Mile Jedinak all unavailable for selection, Villa will take the pitch with John McGinn, Conor Hourihane and Glenn Whelan in midfield. And with Neil Taylor out, we’ll see Alan Hutton on the left and Ahmed Elmohamady on the right.

Nothing terribly drastic, but it will be interesting to see how we get on without Jack. After he left the Baggies clash, I thought Villa lost their way a little in closing out that game. But that might have had as much to do with Kodjia’s poor showing. This time it will be a full 90 without the young man who, to my mind, is the glue in the side.

However, John McGinn will get a chance to shine even more brightly than he usually does, and I think everyone’s interested in seeing Anwar El Ghazi claim another start. The kid really is talented and if it were down to me, I’d be more than interested in signing him permanently. Smith’s gotten him fitter and is working on integrating the team mentality into him. For his part, El Ghazi seems to be taking it on board, and given his electrifying skills on the ball, the pace, power and eye for goal…Well, he’s becoming a very valuable player.

Gary Rowett’s Potters are unbeaten in eight, Villa in six. Stoke are two points and two places behind in 10th. Smith’s expecting a tough game, and I would, too. Stoke are a bit tighter defensively, but not so expansive on the attack. This is a game where I’d like to see Villa get in front early. But of course I’d like to see that every week. Always nice playing with a lead, and even better when the opponent isn’t a free-scoring side.

So, those are all the brilliant insights I’ve got as I’ve been away for business and it’s just about time to kick off.

Over to you.


Comments 66

  1. roger…Don’t really think it’s down to Deano. We’ve played poorly, and Stoke have shown more energy and doggedness. We’ve been slow and keep letting them get all packed in and set up.

  2. JC- Glenn wheelan just doesn’t help whenever he is in that DM position, does his best but we visibly slow up whenever I have seen included. Haven’t watched today but I assume something similar happened.

  3. yes jc , so close indeed, listening to gary thompson’s commentary, he was spot on or most of the game, stoke came to bore us , and we fell in to there trap. whelan not should have started cos he slowed us down, ohare should have started, aeg also had a bad game, but the weather as fooked, so as least were still unbeaten. Got a point. was good to see keinan on the bench, will start playing soon.

  4. Not a great result,but e en I am sure Dean Smith knows he needs 2 full backs as what we have are no where near good enough,plus Whelan should only be used for last few mins to run down the clock

  5. MK,

    Whelan doesn’t help anything, no. He does slow us down, but on the day, everyone seemed to slow us down. And when we tried to play the quicker through-ball, it was almost always errant.

  6. Thought it would be 1-1 so not surprised. No jack and the recent tough run maybe catching up with us. Stoke no mugs though. Lost 1 in 11 and one of the favs to go up in summer. Top 2 not for us this season but play offs a must.

  7. roger…

    Yeah, we just didn’t play quickly enough, which Gary pointed out quite often. The slow buildup just played right into their hands, and they were sat back almost every time. That said, they were disciplined, aggressive, and kept up the pressure.

    It also felt like that we’d probably go on and win until Elmo gave away that penalty. Had finally started to get going after ours.

  8. Andrew…

    Indeed, Stoke knew what they wanted to do and did it well.

    I still don’t think top 2 is out of reach. If we do some business in the window, we could really address the frailties and be nigh on unbeatable. Even today, poor as we were, found a way to get something out of it.

  9. Well not exactly what I had expected. It does seem to me that Villa get fouled a lot. I suppose that’s an indication on how teams think of them. Oh wouldn’t it be nice to have an enforcer like ice hockey! 🙂

  10. Evening all,

    Don’t look on here that much these days but good to see that all the doom merchants are now back to dooming ……… some things don’t change 😉

    Not sure how many of you left the comfort of your homes and watched the match live or saw it on AVTV?
    But – not a bad game, we were out of sorts today with many players below what they can produce. Stoke came to harass and kick us where possible. Easy to blame individuals but others in the team let those blamed individuals down. It is a team game and you would expect players to track back or fill in when gaps occur.
    But we still have the makings of a very good side and once newcomers get to grips with the hurly burly and sometimes nastiness of the Championship then we will grow as a team.

    We can score from many positions in the team but need to ensure that the back 4 is protected by midfielders covering back and looking after the runners from the opposition. This we are not doing and leads to our defenders having to try and cover areas that are left exposed.

    Yes we have dropped another two points but the new manager and his back room team have only just taken control of things. If this result had happened under he who shall not be named, all hell would have broken loose – more than that that has happened today. I’m just waiting for the Smith out posts lol ……

    We are doing ok and will grow into the new managers mindset given time. Lets just hope that he is given that time before everyone turns against him …….. and the team.

    Merry Christmas to all and a happy and healthy new year ………………….


  11. JC – and to you and yours.
    I didn’t say anyone was turning on Dean S, it was just a bit of a tongue in cheek comment.
    And I didn’t think it was a bad performance as such, just a disjointed performance and maybe the players tried to hard to be clever in what they did instead of doing the simple but effective things.
    But we are progressing and building a team which hopefully will grow to be one of the top two in this league. Especially if a few pounds are spent wisely in the transfer window …….


  12. Didn’t make Villa Park today due to a stinking cold, but did manage to watch it on the laptop.

    Little disappointed with Dean’s team selection, in that he did not give O’Hare a start in place of Jack, and as Andrew said, would have been a like for like replacement for him.

    Stoke seemed to very quickly dictate the pace of the game, and we were never really a match for them until Kodjia came on as a sub for El Ghazi.

    Let’s hope we have a whole bunch of players fighting for a place on Sunday to see Leeds off.

    Thanks to Andi Weimann for his skills in providing the assist for Bristol City’s equaliser against Norwich and Baker’s intervention in preventing a winner for them.

  13. Dean Smith on AVTV, after the game, was a very disappointed man. He felt the weather was a great leveller between the two sides, but pointed out that if you keep pumping balls in the air into the box, the two big centre halves will clear them all day long.

    He also was not happy with the defensive errors which led to both Stoke goals. There are going to be some stern words next week, and players are going to have to step up to the plate. I am sure he feels that in the last ten days he has lost six very valuable points that would have put us in front of where we were last season at this time of the season.

    I just love this guy. There are no excuses, just calls it as it is, and I am sure that if we can hold on until the New Year, he will bring home the bacon, and at least win us promotion back to the Premier League, but it is not going to be an easy trip.

  14. PP- agreed he’s very competent, after seeing our fullbacks give away two goals you have to concede he’s been right to play Taylor and Hutton in their natural positions imo.

    With some of the performances being so good its easy to forget what frailties we are masking. In effect we are a very good boxer with one arm tied behind his back. Smith won’t roast the players in public and thats only right but I have been told he is equally straight talking behind close doors. I love that he deals with players by showing them exactly what he wants and what they need to work on, it saves so much time and confusion.

  15. Our performance was off colour this weekend. The pace was down. Did we miss Jack? Two defensive lapses cost us 2 points. Not the first time. But despite this, we still scored 2 goals. The future remains very bright for us.

    OV – “If this result had happened under he who shall not be named, all hell would have broken loose – more than that that has happened today”.

    Not possible. He who shall not not be named would not have managed a substitution capable of influencing the result in the way that Codger did. Well done DS. But I agree with your other comments.

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