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.

Comments 121

  1. Halfway up the M5 from deepest Devon and looking forward to this afternoon’s game.
    Thanks for the write up John and let’s hope that Bree’s assessment is right and the energy levels return today.
    I’m sure I’m in a minority on here but I wouldn’t be rushing to replace Hutton.
    For the first 10 games of the season he was our highest ranked

  2. Player according to player ratings but of course that was when the team was playing more defensively.
    He has been the fastest player in the team in recent years (not sure if that still applies this year) and provides a handy outlet in a more attack minded team, but with the other frailties that you’ve pointed out, the whole back line is being exposed now.

  3. JC: “What he’s referring to is that since Jack went out, … In other words: Take a look at yourself and get stuck in.”

    That para is key. Well articulated, John.

  4. r0bb0,

    Yes, I agree to let Hutton go right now would be not just a travesty (despite his foibles) but just premature until we have a solution that’s working properly.

  5. Plus our Subs:
    Keinan Davis, Jonathan Kodjia, Anwar El Ghazi, Ahmed Eissa El Mohamady Abdel Fattah, Andre Green, Jed Steer, Kortney Hause

  6. That said, no one at the back covered themselves in glory. Moans from the crowd. Was a bright enough start, but too many heavy touches, individual errors.

  7. Well, early days but Villa being Villa, Smith must be starting to worry about what he’s in the middle of now…performance and results can’t continue like this for much longer.

  8. Paul,

    No, they can’t. If Jack is close, it will help a lot. And some of these purported deals must happen this window. But if we go up, massive work remains.

  9. Disappointing it was only a point. But after going 0-2, it was vital for Villa to respond, and they did. Down the stretch, seemed more likely we’d get the winner, but too much dithering, and Hull were just packed in.

  10. Another winless outing and what sounded like a poor to mediocre performance. The new keeper continues to make mistakes, no fit defenders or midfielders signe in the window….quite underwhelming

  11. JC,

    It ended with 18, 2 on goal.

    You always expect to have at least 33% going on goal, no matter how good chances were.

    Though I didn’t see the match there were several reported as going high and wide.

    Not good enough, I’m afraid.

  12. On the shooting matter, if you can at least get the keeper to save, there’s always the chance that if he doesn’t save cleanly, the ball can come out and give a scoring chance.


  13. JL,

    It really depends on the shot and the situation. Hull sent a lot high and wide, as well. You are correct about players taking on shots they shouldn’t, or not executing a difficult, but low-percentage chance that they have in the past. But you generally see those each week. To me, profligate means missing shots that a professional shouldn’t. The stats say one thing, but the viewing says there weren’t 16 of those. Maybe a couple.

    What Villa saw was a very packed box, and good clear lanes weren’t plentiful. Sometimes players made the wrong choice or rushed it, but situationally, it really did have a lot to do with the build-up, or lack thereof, and the types of chances that resulted. The two clearest/best chances went in. Green found himself in a great spot after a nice run and took a very fast ball on the carpet and sailed it from the outside of boot. Tony Daley was doing the color commentary and remarked that it was a very difficult opportunity to convert, even though you’d look at the ball and position and think he’s got to hit the target.

    But of course, anytime you put in on net, good things can happen. Both of Hull’s goals were sloppy as far as Villa are concerned. Kalinic was very poor on the first (though the way Chester & Co. dealt with the long ball was comical/tragic and presented the opening), and was forced into only one good save later. He probably would’ve saved the other if Taylor hadn’t slid in and sliced it up over him into the roof of the net. He was in position to, anyway.

  14. Paul,

    It wasn’t vintage stuff, no. But there was a lot of heart and desire, and the effort was a big improvement over the last two outings.

    Where Villa let themselves down was individual errors, heavy touches, wayward passes, dithering and being caught in possession, being to slow to find passes, and poor decision-making all over.

    This goes to JL’s point about the number of opportunities…A lot of the buildup was too slow. And when Villa tried to make it happen more quickly, the through balls were generally of poor quality.

    Hull also defended very well, and much more aggressively than Villa.

  15. After the first, bright ten minutes, the rest of the first half was dire. As JC summed it up, just not enough energy and too many individual errors.
    All the criticism around me was for Bolasie, Taylor and Bjarnason (in that order) so everyone was pretty happy with the substitutions. . . . and they made a such a difference that it was disappointing at the end that we didn’t win.

  16. Someone reassure me that Tammy Abraham definitely isn’t leaving please.
    It just looked that way at the end of the game when he was out on the pitch on his own applauding the crowd and then giving his shirt to someone near the dugout.

  17. JC: “Two moves, two goals. Hutton not covering well, no one can pass, no one can hold onto it. And the back line is a joke.”

    I guess you weren’t inferring that Hutton was culpable for both goals?
    At the time, I thought that their second goal was just down to their good play and having watched it again I haven’t changed my mind.
    To single out Hutton without mentioning Taylor seems in that sentence seems a little strange.
    Hutton showed again what he brings to the team in the attacking half with good energy, some good passes and a clever assist too.
    The Birmingham Mail player ratings only rank Abraham and McGinn above him
    The fans around me were singing his praises too.

  18. JC,

    Hull: 12 shots, 4 on target. (BBC stats) That’s 33% hit ratio – the minimum you should expect.

    It’s the frequency on target that’s lacking for Villa, John, sorry. No situation excuses such a platry return of shots on goal.

    It’s a basics of football that you get the maximum possible number of shots on target.

    We frequently get far less than 30% on target, and that’s not good.

  19. What a great moment it would have been if Green had taken that chance.
    You’re right though jC, Hull were really well organised at the back and boy, did they work hard.
    We had the ball in and around their box for much of the second half, but as you point out, we just couldn’t quite open up clear sights of goal.

  20. r0bb0: “Someone reassure me that Tammy Abraham definitely isn’t leaving please.”

    I did in the last thread!!!

    The agreement with Chelsea stated that if they were to have hi back to keep or transfer it would have to happen by Jan 14th.

  21. I forgot to add: JC: “the viewing says there weren’t 16 of those. Maybe a couple.”

    That’s the point I’m making! And maybe it’s a couple more than your couple that could have been on target?!

    In which case that would have at least hit the minimum 33% criteria I set.

  22. JL,

    All I can say is that you have to watch the game if you want to evaluate the chances.

    The point I’m making is that I don’t see it as “profligacy”. What I see is us not creating a lot of good chances, rather than missing an unacceptable percentage of good chances.

  23. r0bb0,

    No, not inferring he was “at fault”…It was a good move, but I’m sure you saw the difference in the aggression and rate of closure from Hull’s defenders. Hutton was tracking, but he and whoever else it was out there were almost bystanders. He did make good contributions up the pitch.

    What I end up seeing (and saying) repeatedly is that he just doesn’t turn well. Doesn’t have ‘quick hips’. I think this is why he plays off, and while he is positioned where he’s supposed to be, he often isn’t doing much to stop anything happening, or is still getting turned and beaten.

    I don’t have an issue with him, per se. He works hard, gives his all, and does get forward. He’s delivered some good balls.

    On the defensive side, though, I think what I’m seeing is that we’re just not young enough, when it comes down to it. Not as fast, aggressive, or good in space as a number of other teams I’ve watched. Players are hedging and hesitating. We need to be able to close down. El Ghazi, Bolasie, Kodjia, etc., they all have a much harder task to get a ball in or beat their men than our opponents do.

  24. Also, the criticism of Bjarnason and Hourihane is fair. Both played hard and did some good things, but both were also guilty of a lot of poor passes and turning it over.

  25. JC,

    Yes, Take your point about the word “profligacy” but that’s just semantics.

    And I was using the word purely in the context of how many attempts on goal there were in relation to the total number of shots, and that has been happening virtually all season, please note.

    My comment is more about the whole season, please note, not just this one match, and I have raised this point before at least twice.

    I cannot defend the team on this though you seem to want to. I have read accounts of several Villa shots being “high and wide” or words to the effect, and eyt when I saw the short highlights an hour or so ago, Hulls’s second goal (the shot) could have gone anywhere but it was on target. OK, the scorer had room and time, but the shot was not an easy one.

    All I am saying is that of the 4 or 5 or more “high and wide” Villa shots that were reported (and of some others) is that more should have been on target – not resulting in goals necessarily but at least sent in between the posts.

    The technical ability of our attackers should have been up to it i.m.o., clear chances or no clear chances. As they should have been all season, but they have not done it consistently.

  26. Thanks for writing for us, JC. You’ve made your points well.
    There’s some good comments from Jl, too. Of course, we’ve got to get more goals on target to have a chance of scoring more. Inaccurate passing has been problematic at Villa for years. It’s been said before and needs to be said again, why do many of our players seem uncomfortable on the ball?
    That said, I feel Villa staunched the bleeding, today, could have done better-or worse.

  27. JL,

    Not defending anyone or anything. I’m just interested in root causes and properly diagnosing what I see.

    As a result, I’m also offering a criticism, but a different one: which is that we don’t create enough quality chances. We’re rarely in as clean and clear as often as I see our opponents against us.

    So, build-up, quickness and quality of decision-making, quality of passing, how well passes are received, etc. I think it’s a different, and larger issue, than being ‘off target’.

    I mean, it’s all well and good to score a long-range worldy, but I’m saying that the shot total (and therefore on-target percentage) is almost irrelevant because many of the shots weren’t really on to begin with. They’re there, they get added up, but the numbers don’t really tell us what we think they might at first glance, imo.

    When Abraham or anyone else misses a sitter, I’ll call it right along with everyone else. Different end of the pitch, but as an example, I said I thought Kalinic will come good, is a good stot-stopper, etc., but he was really poor on Hull’s first. Maybe I change my mind after watching the replay several more times.

  28. Iana,

    I really don’t know why we seem to be perennially uncomfortable on the ball. Hull were pinging it around, taking it in stride.

    We were leaving it short, hitting it too hard. Terrible first touches. Overrunning when dribbling, showing too much of the ball. Just no one seems comfortable.

    This is what Jack does. El Ghazi is certainly very good with the ball, for example. Very talented. But Jack, in the middle, it sticks to him. He carries it past players. Glides out of challenges or gets fouled. Players suck up to stop him, he gets round, everything opens up. Everyone knows they can knock it to him and it will generally stay with him.

    What I did see today is that when Villa were bright to start, Hull were sitting off more. As they upped the pressure, we started making mistakes. And we did not generate the equivalent pressure or challenges.

    We seem to play scared, and have done for a long time.

  29. JC,

    I would agree that we seem not be creating many quality chances, but it could be down to nerves as we’re not winning these days.

    So when I instead refer to the situation of not putting shots on target what I’m really saying is “hey, get your shots on target and perhaps we’ll score and win more”. If they were to see that as a way forward then some confidence might return … and with it an improvement in the quality of chances.

  30. JC: “We seem to play scared, and have done for a long time.”

    Absolutely. . . . . and yet, when they do relax, they play some good football, as we saw for Dean Smith’s first few games, at the start yesterday and then the last quarter of the game yesterday when the crowd finally woke up too.

  31. JC: “So, build-up, quickness and quality of decision-making, quality of passing, how well passes are received, etc. I think it’s a different, and larger issue, than being ‘off target’.”

    The problem is, John, footie is not all about just method – it’s attitude too – particularly in putting yourself about enough to cause panic in the opposition.

    Sometimes it’s just the effort of trying harder and pressurising in any way possible that can create a result to generate confidence for the method to follow.

    Whether enough of today’s players are of that ilk to do that is another thing.

  32. JC (or anyone ‘in the know’) – what’s happened to Mark King? Seems to have disappeared since just after Christmas………… One of the best contributors to this page over the years – miss his comments, even though I don’t suppose JL does!

  33. vivavilla,

    I don’t have any grudge with anyone, least of all Mark. Our problem was primarily just not meeting on the same wavelength but he had/has a lot of relevant things to say.

  34. Yeserday’s Match

    Have just seen the 10+ minutes highlights. They certainly didn’t show all 18 Villa ‘shots’ – about 6 (including goals) were shown. But I did think that 3 of the 4 other attempts shown should have been far better directed than they were.

  35. I think Mark takes the odd break so he isn’t addicted to the internet.
    He works hard in his work most of the year so he’s probably somewhere on a Greek Island tanning his manly physique in the Med sun.

  36. I think JC and RObbo have summed this game up accurately. The debate about the number of chances we are creating is valid. Despite this, we still scored 2 which should be enough to win any game at home. Alas, the defence is poor at defending.

    I’d like to see more 1 touch passing to get things moving faster. But players like to take a touch first before the pass and then openings close quickly.

  37. Plug: “The debate about the number of chances we are creating is valid. “

    Forgive me, but I think you mean “quality chances”, for if we’re getting 18 shots in we must be making some kind of inroads towards goal, “quality” or not.

    I counted 3 in the extended highlights that really should have been at least on target and I’m aware that a second from Bikir should also have been heading that way. Add to that a “wild” shot from Green that Deano has mentioned, so instead of 2 on target we should have had another 5 on target, 7 in all (perhaps 6 at least).

    So we don’t really need “quality” chances in my view. We need to shoot better as the first priority to get confidence and then improve a game based on the confidence engendered.

    Sorry if I’m harping on about this but first and foremost I’m a psychologist and to me it’s a clear issue. We need to *gain* confidence, and by scoring more we’ll get there, regardless of what the defence does.

  38. JL,

    I’ve said all along that most if not all games simply come down to who wants it more, etc. So I don’t discount that part of the equation at all, and I know Smith doesn’t. It’s a huge part of the game. Smith got us playing with that intensity and desire, and results and performances followed.

    Then we saw the injuries, and it all changed. You, me, everyone…We might all ascribe different weights to the various factors, but something obviously changed after the Albion game. Just like things changed after the small heath match last season when we lost Jack and Albert.

    Unfortunately, it can be hard to break things down when multiple players go out. Always much easier to see what each player brings if everything else remains unchanged in their absence.

    So I give a lot of weight to Jack for what I see happening, or not happening, beyond the defensive third.

    Which is to say, I’m not surprised to see Elphick and Chester struggling with long balls that Tuanzebe was very quickly becoming more adept at handling, or the lack of pace in keeping up with runners on the break, shepherding them out of the danger zone, sticking close to make sure they don’t easily find the outlet, all of that. And of course, I also wonder how much of Hutton and Taylor sucking in toward the middle has to do with the limited range we’re seeing from Elphick and Chester (sadly).

    So, I really do see his absence playing a big part in a number of the goals we’ve conceded since he’s been out. Not that we were rock solid before that, but he was making us better, and you’d expect the rest of the side had more confidence.

    If we want to extend that, we could say that the team are playing differently upfield as a result. More afraid of making mistakes, hedging their bets on being on the front foot, etc.

    But…I don’t think Tuanzebe accounts for the lack of cohesion, composure, combativeness, quickness of play/interchanges in attack, all the stuff that seems to have disappeared since Jack got hurt.

    Deano was pointing to the mistakes, turnovers, etc., happening in our build-up/attack that led to counters/opportunities and decreased confidence. Me, I think Jack brings confidence to the side for a variety of reasons, but not least because he holds the ball, carries it, and helps diffuse pressure and momentum.

  39. Plug,

    Absolutely on the quickness of play. Hull sat off at first, and we were doing alright. As they upped the pressure, like you say, there was too much thinking which I think is generally the undoing of us.

  40. Sarri says he is finding it extremely difficult to motivate his players at Chelsea. A common complaint with today’s millionaires who are so rich, they can’t be bothered to bust a gut for the cause. I wonder the same thing about a few of our players, past and present.

  41. JC,

    Well, though I agree with the much of the drift of what you’re saying, in my opinion is that if you’re without two of the most influential players the rest have to be professional enough to stand up to be counted. It’s not that the other players are without talent, but do they have sufficient commitment (McGinn especially excepted from that question of course) to make up the team’s loss?

    The issue I was making about lack of shooting accuracy is not actually anything much to do with what you’ve written but the identification of something that can be addressed to get the team (and the fans) back into having a +ve feel in the absence of being able to implement Smith’s former approach.

    If you’re short of the ability to translate Smith’s approach then to me it’s simply commonsense that greater determination can be the telling factor, and part of that “determination” should be in making greater effort in getting your efforts on target.

    For example, Bikir used to come on and, in probably some kind of anger because he’d been put on the bench, and would score a stunning goal. Now, when he’s selected as a starting player he almost shies away from a scoring opportunity. What’s the difference? Attitude, in my book. And Conor is another of that ilk as I see it.

    I think Bruce saw the need for more dynamicism and why he called in certain players, especially Snodgrass. Not saying that Smith doesn’t see the need, but there must be a way of he getting the issue across to those players lacking the degree of effort needed.

  42. Andrew
    He’s training at Villa as he has no club, is what I read.
    That could mean a trial, or maybe a favour, not clear yet as far as I can see.

  43. I don’t think we’ll miss him JL. He has never seemed fully fit to me. Looked on the heavy side and his wages were ridiculous. I’d rather see one of our kids in his place any day. Another millionaire….

  44. Plug,

    I certainly agree as Villa were reportedly paying his £75k pw wages and not getting very much return for it.

    Perhaps this is why Green was ushered back – in anticipation of this event.

  45. Bolasie apparently emailed the club last night to terminate his loan deal, before the deadline at midnight, which he had written into his loan deal. I am pleased that he is going and saving a substantial £40,000 per week, as Villa at the most, would only be paying 50% of his wages.

    I am just interested in why he ended the deal, rather than Dean Smith, or maybe he had been chastised by him, and was not expecting to feature in the future, and would rather be living in Cheshire, with his peers. It could also have been the fact that he was substituted for Green to the delight of the Villa fans.

    Enjoyed the second half at Villa Park, after the substitutions, and will agree with JL that Villa had more than a few chances, which with a little more composure by players, instead of going for glory untamed shots, could have been converted, or at least on target. The problem we have, and you see it with many average players that bit is all about statistics, I need to have the shots or the assists for my bonuses, rather than the importance of scoring a team goal.

    I also fee that McGinn is working very hard, but not smartly, as he was alongside Jack. He loses the ball as often as he gains it and often his passes go astray, or don’t reach their target. Bjarnason is not used to playing a no.10 role, which he was on Saturday, with Hourihane, who is used to playing further forward, playing a more defensive role in place of Whelan.

    Is the problem at centre back caused by Chester and Elphick being on the wrong side, when Chester played on the right with Terry on the left? Really was disappointed with Hutton on the right, when Bree has done well there. He would fair better on the left and Bree on the right, or is it time to give Revan or Mitch Clark a go, if we are not going to buy anyone.

    I am not sure that we are going to see much change now before the end of the season. I am not sure that Dean has come up to the board’s expectation, and now they will not commit anymore funds until August. There will not be any managerial changes in this time either, but Dean will be allowed to use any players that we own, but very few loan deals are likely now.

    I have to say I also agree that Axel Tuanzebe has been the major loss to the team. I have so loved watching him develop this season as a centre back, his tackling, head ability, and movement with the ball became a revelation in the end, rarely passing across the box, instead making sure it went forward to jack, Conor or John McGinn, and that is what we have been lacking, in addition to Jack’s ability to hold the ball up.

    I think Dean has been wrong not to use Callum O’Hare, who is the only player we have capable of carrying Jack’s role, as I am sure he could have grown into it after a couple of games. I think the same with Bree, and perhaps he should have recalled DE Laet, who is impressing in Melbourne, according to my son out there.
    I have a great photo of De Laet with my grandsons, after he scored the winning goal the other day!

    I am still a solid Dean supporter, and will continue to support him, as he did get the team right in the end on Saturday, and they put in a superb effort, but effort is not enough to win games. There has to be a better plan, better team selection from the off, and maybe a few arms round some shoulders, making players a little calmer on the pitch.

  46. Paul: “saving a substantial £40,000 per week, as Villa at the most, would only be paying 50% of his wages.”

    I quote what I did from the Mail, Paul – that Villa were paying *all* his wages.

  47. Cheers JL,

    I don’t trust the Mail much these days since Matt Kendrick passed most of the reporting to Gregg Evans, although it may not be all down to him, but more to do with the Mail no longer being a local paper.

    I now have an inkling that Dean may only be with us now until the end of the season, as David Wagner has only been replaced at Huddersfield because he did not wish to renew his contract at the end of the coming season, and his appointment would make perfect common sense for the future planned by the owners for Aston Villa.

  48. I’m glad Bolasie has left. Too much money not enough reward for Villa. I would hope smith stays longer than the rest of the season. The club has no money for transfers. Players are coming back from loans and this is the future not transfers. Kodjia can leave too IMO. I don’t think his ankle is going to let him be the player he was. He’s always going to favour it and it will make him hesitant and a step slower.
    The new goalie doesn’t trust his defence to do the right thing and it puts him in a compromising position. He should be able to cheat a bit and have the back four cover for him.

  49. John Terry’s persuasion of Charlie Colkett has failed, and he has joined a Swedish side.

    Villa is no longer a drawing power for decent loan players, and players out of contract, and as Ian says we are going to have to rely on our own players for the rest of the season, meanwhile the Baggies move into third with a good mix of their own signings, youth players, and some very good loan signings from the Premiership.

  50. I don’t think Dean will be going unless he wants to. If Compass were serious about the right way and long term, then right now, they’ll have been having the midseason evaluation with Smith and likely concluding that it is going to be a rebuild.

    I don’t think there’s any reason Dean wouldn’t be trusted with that. Could always be wrong, but I think it’s pretty clear that what we have, and what we’re paying, isn’t going to cut it in terms of depth and quality.

    So, for example, Bolasie. Whoever made what decision first based on what factors, I doubt we’ll know anytime soon. But, he clearly wasn’t making the difference he needed to make. Some reports suggest he’s thinking he’s got an opportunity to challenge for a starting spot at Everton, especially now that he’s ‘regained fitness’. Was his ineffectiveness due to the side around him? Or was it down to him? Some combination?

    Tough to say categorically like it is with so many things. What we know was that he was largely ineffective for us. We’ll see how it goes for him from here.

  51. Paul,

    On Colkett, I think he only matters if Grealish isn’t coming back. I read good things, but he’s not exactly been playing at the top level. Perhaps he would’ve been a good option for taking Hourihane or Bjarnason’s spot, but if Colkett had choices, he’s choosing based on where he’s going to play the most. For me, I don’t think going to Sweden is going to make him better. So, reading between the lines, I’m thinking he’d rather be a big fish in a smaller pond. Which is fine.

    But if we are trying to go up, or just get better, then it’s defenders we need. And players that will be around to develop and hold onto.

    So I don’t think Villa have become ‘unattractive’. I think it’s more about money, what Villa need, and how that weighs up against what the player in question, as well as the parent club, are wanting.

  52. I guess what I’m saying is that, in essence, we’re seeing deferred decisions and hard choices now having to be made. The playoffs are still entirely achievable, but what if we do go up and what if we don’t?

    Either way, we’ll likely lose Tuanzebe and Abraham, 50% of the spine. Might very well lose Grealish, too, even if we go up, and there’s 75%.

    Bottom line, bringing in loan players without an option to buy is just not going to help. It’s fine to fix one position of need. But right now, if we’re bringing in more loanees, then it’s all about betting on using the PL money to put things right over the summer.

    McGinn is all-action, but he’s not bossing anything. Hourihane looks fine, does the Westwood job with better quality on set-piece delivery—but only when Jacks’ playing. McGinn and Hourihane need Jack, simple as. They’re not good enough on their own. And Bjarnason has always been better playing deep than forward. And always better in all-round performance after a run of games.

    So, you might say losing Jack is a blessing in disguise, depending on things we might never know. We’ll see what changes, if anything, when he gets back. He carried the team down the stretch last year, maybe he can do it again. But we’ll still have hard decisions, and I think that’s what Compass and Dean are coming to terms with now.

  53. IanG,

    “The new goalie doesn’t trust his defence to do the right thing and it puts him in a compromising position.”

    Yep. The back line is a shambles. Kalinic should certainly have done better on their first. But. That ball should’ve been dealt with much better in the first place.

  54. Paul,

    Though I can see what’s prompted your argument, I feel that Smith is in for the long haul. All the noise coming out from VP in the last few weeks is about things like “not expecting promotion this season” and “building for the future” (or words to that effect) and good business people know that you cannot achieve a re-build by constantly chopping and changing the personnel, even though Wagner may well be an attractive proposition.


    You say “[Jack] carried the team down the stretch last year, maybe he can do it again.”

    Well, again I would differ (of course)! Yes he caught the eye, no doubt, but if we hadn’t been so well organised defensively (the c-b pairing of Chester and Terry particularly worked well) it would probably have been a different story. We’re back to the principle that effective attack needs to be based on a good defence.

  55. good god any question marks over smith is insane! WE NEED STABILITY!!

    Deano has the perfect credentials for us.

    We have loads of players out of contract in the summer. We have lots that are going to leave. And smith is the perfect proven man to reshape a squad with good young hungry players all whilst playing attacking footy….and he is a villa man! Patience

  56. john

    yeah he only trains twice a week.

    Lots of talk words have been had from the coaches. a few home truths and the players not liking it.

    plus they know there off in the summer….remember that transition word!!

  57. Some very good comments JC, which I go along with, and perhaps the point I was also making was that the media had it that Colkett was almost a Villa certainty, having been talked to by John Terry, one of the very few mentions of Terry. I was also making the point that had results been good for Dean, the board would have been having very different views now.

    In essence, Dean has not achieved anymore than Bruce would have done, and perhaps even less, except in the style of football played. I do want to see continuity and not constant chopping and changing. Our under 23’s and under 18’s seem to be improving and developing in accordance with the club’s plans. What is needed now is a clear direction for the first team squad, which without Jack and Axel, seems to have fallen apart. I also do not understand what it is with us and goalkeepers, apart from Sam Johnstone on loan last season, we have not had a decent keeper since we foolishly let Brad Freidel go to Spurs…!! Yet there seems to be a plethora of young excellent keepers about, but none signed by Villa.

    We should now concentrate on the players we have, play the best that we have, whether they are 17 years old or 27 years old, and let them develop between now and the end of the season into a meaningful squad. We must at the same time support Dean and the squad in this build, and make sure that they feel it, as it is a big ask.


    I have to disagree that Dean has the perfect credentials for us, other than being a Villa fan, and that can actually work against him, as he feels the hurt as much as us.

    His experience of putting sides together at the lower level is fine, but where is his experience of promotion from Championship to Premiership, Premiership to European Championship, the experience of winning trophies. He has none of this, and this is what has been lacking at Villa Park since we won Europe in 1982…..

    As Dean himself has said, the management team at Villa Park has 5 Champions League medals between them, and they all belong to John Terry!

    Dean may be able to take Villa to the next level, but beyond that he has no experience, and it is a very different ball game. Only Rafa Benitez has managed to survive with a club of Villa’s size with no money and no backing, because of his wealth of experience.

  58. Paul

    I just don’t understand that argument at all….why do we have to have a manager that has somehow won something?

    Would you rather have poch or mourinho?

    why wasn’t rdm a success when he won a champ league with Chelsea!?

    Smith is proven to build squads with good young players and improve them. just what we need.

  59. Andrew,

    I understand what you are saying, and Dean has operated very well building teams and developing them, but it is on the basis, that as players become an asset, they are sold on, and more new ones are recruited. This is what Villa has always done, which is why, at the higher levels, we are not very successful. You need to build teams which will be champions, with a strong squad and a spine that will play together for several seasons at least.
    You will never develop, if you keep selling your best players. How long was/are Terry, Lampard, Hazard and Cahill at Chelsea?

    Poch has still to win something, Mourhino has done it. Villa are also going for promotion from the Championship to the Premiership, not from league two to league one, and there is a big difference.

    Something is still not quite right at Villa Park, and it needs to be sorted. Perhaps, it has to do with the levels of expectation, which does not exist at smaller clubs, where the intimidating past does not look down on them. They maybe need a positive mind coach, similar to our long lost Jenny Truman!!

  60. Very sad news that Argentinian, Emiliano Sala, signed on Monday for £18million by Cardiff City, is missing, presumed dead, after the light aircraft he was flying in went missing over Guernsey. Our thoughts go out to his family and the club.

    Andre Moreira may be on his way back to Atletico Madrid, having only played once for Villa during his loan deal so far.

    HITC has suggested Villa should look at Downing, as he will not play another game for Middlesboro, without triggering a one year extension to his contract.

  61. JL,

    Building from the back is a football truism, yes. Which, apart from the odd midfielder link, is why the focus appears to be largely on the backline.

    Obviously Smith’s comments this week show that Chester has been more crocked than we thought, and it would only make sense that the dropoff we’ve seen in his performances are related to that. If rumors are to be believed, it would seem Smith doesn’t view Hutton or Taylor as particularly useful.

    But. As I see it, this isn’t the root cause of poor passing, lack of movement, lack of pressure, “profligacy” or not creating enough quality chances, etc. in the remaining 2/3 of the pitch.

    What the shaky defense is doing is making the 2 goals a game we seem to generally come up with not be sufficient. As poor as the play has looked at times, we’ve gotten enough goals that we’d expect to be winning more of these games if only we didn’t make it so easy for the opposition to score.

    I’ve gone on at length about what’s happening further up the pitch that contributes to that (the broad umbrella of defending from the front). If you give it away cheaply, don’t win it back, don’t ease pressure by controlling the ball for longer passages, lose your shape and discipline…The back line obviously will be exposed.

    If we’re going with truisms, “game are won and lost in midfield” is every bit as apt. Given a poor defense, we have to be smarter and more effective with the ball in front of them.

  62. I’m still positive about Smith and I’m in his camp. Like Andrew says, patience needed. We’ve seen some exciting matches since he arrived.

    And JC. I’m definitely in the “games are won and lost in midfield” camp. When we get the midfield truly sorted, things will take off.

    Think we need a big clear out of the ageing legs this summer. Think the ageing legs know it too. I’ll crack open a six pack in celebration on June 30th when Turpin takes his final steal.

  63. JC,

    Yes, exactly. Ideally the whole team should be well constructed.

    And, I agree about “this isn’t the root cause of poor passing, lack of movement etc” bit, but that to me is partly down to two weak midfielders (Bikir and Conor) who blend in well when the team is functioning OK but don’t stand up and be counted when the chips are down. Plus the missing drive coming from the back (Axel).

  64. The hope and prayer method of team building brought to us by Lerner as he strip mined the club and skulked back to New York has pervaded to this very moment. Occasionally God smiled down and made Bruce look like a genius only to turn away and leave Villa Park a shambles. Again. If God has a plan I’m wondering what this one is, as like Groundhog Day with Bill Murray doing things over and over as February 6th never ends. Only Bill finally gets it right.
    This is what I’m expecting from Dean Smith, “getting it right”. No more loans of aged players, no more loans that develop someone else’s property, no more transfers of players who once wore a top premier teams jersey. Do it the Villa way. (Haha we’ve heard that before). Smith’s way for the foreseeable future. The future lies with the youth. The championship is built for youth. Let them improve and mature here not league 2. And maybe God will approve the new approach and not turn away.

  65. Could be it is time to include some of our youngsters as it seems to me that, once the Board stated this season was going to be about rebuilding, the incentive for the players to work their socks off to get in the play-offs was minimised.
    Give a couple of youngsters a chance and they will bust a gut to impress.
    Defence is our major worry – when the defence is shaky the goalkeeper gets nervous and makes mistakes which problem then cascades back to the defence and they get even more edgy. If Kalinic was to command his area confidently the defence might improve but it needs strengthening right across the back 4.

  66. Villa youngsters beat Hednesford Town 4-2 away in the Birmingham Senior Cup, which included Doyle-Hayes and Kelsey Mooney in the side, with Mooney scoring the first goal for Villa.

    Apparently, Mile Jedinak played 60minutes behind closed doors in a friendly, and Dean Smith was very impressed with what he saw, so could be the Jedi may play a part on Saturday, and Jack is also pushing to return, but I doubt Dean would risk him for the full game, maybe a 20 minute cameo.

    Interesting to read that De Laet has also been playing through the pain barrier in his determination to get fit and play football, and is now playing up front for Melbourne, scoring the fastest goal for his club, in 13.5 seconds and the final winner in their 4-3 victory at the weekend.
    Sounds just the sort of committed player Villa need, but he is unlikely to return, and is just working hard to get a contract for himself next season.

    See us and Derby missed out on another Chelsea youngster, who has gone to ‘Boro.

    Bolasie seems to have decided that after him playing well in the 7 game winning streak, that he struggled after, which is why he decided to move on to Dean’s disappointment. Perhaps he felt his role changed after the injuries to JG and Axel, and he was expected to do too much in defensive duties, which does not suit his style of play. At least it has freed up some money for Dean to use elsewhere.

    We are still hoping to sign a couple of players before the window closes, and we will just have to wait and see.

    I see Rafa has now said he will not sign a new contract with Newcastle, if he does not get any new signings in the January window, and they are just about to receive £55million in TV money….

  67. According to the official site, Whelan and Jedinak will be fit for inclusion in Saturday’s squad, but jack is still at least a week or more away.
    Lansbury and Tuanzebe are not near yet, with Lansbury several weeks away, and Axel out of his boot and commencing light training, but again looking at least a month away.

    No real news of the transfer front, apart from Moreira finding a new club straight away.

  68. JL
    That occurred to me about Jedi as well.

    I was thinking that along with him maybe BB instead of Hourihane, with 1 or 2 of the kids the kids on the bench for the midfield.

    Maybe he’ll come on as a sub, which is more likely.

  69. I am getting the impression from some of things that Dean Smith is saying, that the plan is basically to clear out most of the players at Aston Villa, including the youngsters, but to maximise their value, and then bring in much higher quality young players for development, and the progress of the club will be somewhat gradual.

  70. It looks like all the buses will come at once as far as new players are concerned.I just hope it doesn’t all come down to the wire.

  71. Ipswich at home today – must be 3 points, surely? Although Lambert will feel he has a point to prove, I’m feeling optimistic and sticking my neck out for a 4-0 win…………. 🙂

  72. (4-3-3)

    Kalinic. Hutton, Chester, Elphick, Taylor, Whelan, Hourihane, McGinn,,Adomah, Abraham, El Ghazi. Subs: Steer, Hause, Jedinak, Elmohamady, O’Hare, Kodjia, Davis.

    No Green!

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