After a strong start to his reign at Aston Villa, Dean Smith has finally hit some adversity. His team have suffered consecutive 0-3 setbacks, and looked as poor as the scorelines on both occasions. Normally, people might start asking questions. But.
We know it’s all about the injuries. Jack Grealish’s absence has been massive. I’ve said it too many times, but this is the real difference when we look back at the performances against Derby and Middlesbrough in the context of how Dean Smith wants his teams to play. Axel Tuanzebe? Another big loss, of course. With an injured James Chester slogging his way through a series of different partners, Axel’s quality, size, and pace have been sorely missed on the back line. There’s been no suitable replacement, and it’s only highlighted the deficiencies at the back, deficiencies with which we’re all too familiar.
If transfer rumors are to be believed, it would seem Smith agrees with supporters regarding those deficiencies and that Villa need to upgrade at fullback on both sides while adding more depth and athleticism in the middle. It would also appear he’s open to changes in the midfield. Here’s hoping the things we’re reading about come about.
Perhaps James Bree has summed it up best:
“We sat down this week and went over the game for an hour and spoke about everything. We came together as a team and said what we have to do better and also what we’re going to take forward. We need to raise our energy levels and performance levels in the next game and hopefully then we can get back on track. If you’re losing 3-0 to anyone you know you need to look at yourself.”
What he’s referring to is that since Jack went out, we haven’t seen the the upfield pressure, tenacity, and all-action, front-foot football Smith wants. We’ve seen the side has it in them. But then it disappeared. It’s puzzling in terms of logic, because you know you want to protect a poor back line by doing more upfield. But that’s exactly where Villa have been lacking. And a poor defense is not helped by losing its most dynamic player. In other words: Take a look at yourself and get stuck in.
There’s obviously more contributing to the malaise. Birkir Bjarnason is a player who gets better the more he plays, but he hasn’t played a lot this year. Henri Lansbury can’t seem to get past hamstring issues. Yannick Bolasie and Anwer El Ghazi have run hot and cold. Your options are then Glenn Whelan and Albert Adomah, and Adomah has also been fighting for fitness. Whelan is simply too old and too slow. However, he chews gum well and does a lot of pointing.
Anyway. We all know this. Jack’s apparently trying to talk his way back into the side now. Axel’s further away. Villa look to be active on the transfer front, but we all know how that goes.
Today? It’s Hull coming to visit. They’re on form. Villa aren’t and have been looking at themselves (if Bree is to be believed). Fortunately, the league remains relatively tight when we’re talking playoff spots.
The main question I have is whether Villa really want to go up right now. But that’s a question for another day. Right now, Villa just need to win a game.
Over to you.