Villa’s 0-1 Boxing Day win over Swansea capped an interesting string of results that had seen the side score two goals in each of their three games, yet walk away with only two points to show for their efforts. After Wednesday’s game, Villa now sit ninth, three points off the playoff spots entering the day’s action.

The team sheet’s out, and the squad is unchanged from Swansea. Which is probably to be expected, as there aren’t that many options for Smith at the moment. Elphick has been recalled from Hull, Kalinic signed, and other rumors swirl about. We know there’ll be additions, and we know Smith would prefer to buy than loan. But for the moment, we’ve got what we we’ve got.

Today, though, Villa square off at Deepdale against a Preston North End side facing their own injury crisis. And now that an easier run of fixtures awaits, we’ll want to build on the midweek victory and get another three points in the bag to stay firmly in the mix. We’ve seen second-half runs in the Championship before, and if Villa are going to have one, there’s no reason to wait until after the New Year to start. Two wins in four days would do nicely to see out 2018.

Over to you.

Comments 64

  1. IanG,

    I’ve just been reading that Jack will be out for another 3 matches. Whether that’s ‘real’ I don’t know as he’ll have to play himself back in again.

    I wonder if he’ll be ordered to change his shin pads? I broached this issue to the club some 3 years ago and got a lax reply from them saying it’s his choice. I’m not sure that’s good wisdom on how to look after one who is supposed to be one of the best in the squad.

  2. JL,

    Could be, but not really seeing that. Lots of misplaced passes, poor control and touches. PNE are pressing really hard in their half and putting us off, but probably should be 1-1. Great save from Nyland, and I think Abraham’s was our first shot on target. EG took one he should’ve laid off to Tammy.

    And almost conceded just now.

  3. Well, what an abysmal display again from Bolassie and EL Ghazi, so my fears were well founded, and wonder what the result would have been if Bjarnason had come on at half-time, before Johnson started taking control of the mid field…. Destroyed by one of our own, a £50,000 give away, because he wasn’t good enough..!! Graham Burke, another ex-Villa youth not good enough, almost scored too.

    Far play to Nyland, another excellent display, only spoilt by Elmo’s gift, and failure to cut the danger, although he did have a slightly better game. Johnson showed the way to McGinn, who was short of his normal energy, and missed some glorious opportunities, if his shooting and passing had been better.

    Almost beaten by a team of inexperienced teenagers, Dean is going to have to do much, much better in the second half of the season. Never mind the other midfielders we are looking at to sign, Johnson, Bannan and Albrighton would all give them a challenge…!!!!

  4. I hope that those that did not get the opportunity to see the game, do at some stage see the terrific passes made by Johnson, not just 10-20yds, but the 30-40yds ones, including the one for the goal.
    Something we are lacking at the moment.

    Johnson and Hutton were probably both lucky today, as both could have seen red.

  5. Amazing result Norwich v Derby!

    Norwich looked as though they were going to shade it 3-2 after leading 2-0 early on, and then Derby score two late goals for them to win 4-3!

    With Albion dropping 2 points at home (as did Small Heath) we’re not in a bad position.

  6. JL – “we’re not in a bad position”.

    That’s true but we remain 5 points off the play off places and positioned with the also rans. We needed to beat PNE reserves today. Home to QPR on New Years Day is now looking significantly tougher. I have a feeling that we need a winning run of maybe 5 matches to make the move upwards.

    Bolasie needs a rest. Elmo too. Time for the Viking to start. We’ll have to wait until Tues to find out which keeper DS selects.

  7. PP,

    Obviously there’ll be changes during the window, but I’m hoping Bjarnason is closing in on full fitness. Having to replace Grealish with Whelan has done the side no favors at all.

    Despite the miss (and the missed opportunity to set up Abraham), BB brought far far more to the table, gave us a good boost.

  8. JC,

    My view entirely. I am disappointed that Smith has remained completely reliant on Bruce’s old favourites, rather than taking a chance when he could. I understand that in some games it was not possible.l

  9. PP,

    I think it’s just come down to injuries, haven’t really had much of an option besides Whelan. I don’t think there’s any way Smith would have him out there otherwise. And he seemed to have moved on from Elmo, too.

    I can’t say I’m surprised, and I’m sure Smith isn’t, but all the progress seems to have stopped without Jack in there.

  10. JC,

    In fact I think we ought to take encouragement from today’s results. It’s clear that the top-6 teams are no great shake – any of them – while Villa stand to improve over the next two months once we get a new couple of players in (we already have Elphick back) and Jack returns and gets back into a rhythm.

    If those other clubs are going to drop points as they did today we will undoubtedly take full use of that as I see it, and come back far more strongly than I thought we could after our Leeds defeat.

  11. IanG,

    Well it does put matters more into perspective i.m.o.

    When we had a reasonable centre-back pairing (yes, we did have one!) I felt that Elmo did his job reasonably well, but the last few weeks he’s stumbled a few times. At the same time he does have an attacking propensity – yesterday he presented Bikir with a point-blank chance for example.

    But more importantly perhaps the rest of the team are more concerned about trying to help the defence rather than playing football. And although I’d agree we could do with Jack’s return, perhaps it’s the state of the defence that’s really been our problem.

  12. JL
    Then there’s the new gk who apparently knows how to control his box, although Nyland is a good shot stopper, but with the weakness in the back 4 this has been part of the problem, & it transmits to anyone unsure or low on confidence.

  13. IanG,

    Good points. But it seems that as of today Nyland got crocked in training anyway, so Tuesday we’ll be laying another keeper. Steer may be recalled – but if we’ve already signed Nyland’s replacement, wot’s that all about?!

  14. The Mail says:

    Neil Taylor and Henri Lansbury are pushing for a weekend return, boss Dean Smith has confirmed.

    The pair will sit out of Tuesday’s game with Queens Park Rangers as they continue to recover from their respective injuries.

    But they could be in contention for the FA Cup clash with Swansea on Saturday.

    “I think the game being a few days away will come too soon for Henri and Neil Taylor but they could be back for Swansea,” Smith said.

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