Another week, another draw. I liked Deano’s appraisal, that he was angry but might see it differently with a bit of perspective. He liked the fightback, but thought the team, with a little help from the officials, had not done what was required.

Me, l liked the fight. I also disliked its necessity. Good and bad things to say about the team and/or performance.

A lot of folks have expressed puzzlement over certain lineups. I’ve seen complaints about continuing with a side that’s drawing and not winning. Complaints over this or that player. You’ve done the reading, you know the rest.

I’ve always liked a consistent side purely for the fact that the more they play together, the better the understandings. You don’t have to think as much. You can anticipate more. All the basics. And I do feel that players need runs of games to find their feet. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of bringing someone along. Sometimes you need to persist even if you don’t think you have the luxury. All part and parcel of being a manager.

So, we’ve seen Smith initially handle the midfield in Jack’s absence by sticking with the two he partnered with in the middle, while trying to find a third. It’s been a struggle. We’ve seen Birkir Bjarnason, Glenn Whelan, Tom Carroll, Mile Jedinak (to greater or lesser extents). We’ve seen Dean leaning to a two-man base to try and address the defensive weaknesses. Nothing has worked terribly well in terms of goals conceded. We are scoring one way or another, but when you have to consistently score two to get a draw, or find a way to score three in 12 minutes, it’s just hard to accumulate wins. Obvious stuff.

And of course Carroll, brought in to provide a deep-lying playmaker option, got a tweak in his first outing, and won’t get a chance to make his case this week. So, back to the usual suspects.

I can’t say I know what the answer is. Chester is getting time for his knee to heal, but I don’t know that Mings and Elphick is a problem. We can’t fix the fullbacks, it seems.

What’s left to Smith is to try and find the combination in midfield that can keep creating chances while stopping the bleeding at the back. While I certainly wouldn’t prefer Whelan or Jedi out there, I’m going to say Smith knows more than me. Whether Whelan changed the tide against Sheffield United, I couldn’t really say. It may have been every bit as much down to taking Jedi off. But since others are giving Glenn credit, I won’t buck the tide since I was constantly being interrupted during the match.

Anyway. Time’s running down for the promotion spots, though it sounds like a fair few of Villans are sanguine about remaining in the second tier for another year if that’s what it takes to get things right. I remain firmly in Smith’s camp, and believe he’ll make us a much better squad and team if that ends up being the case.

And, yes, I’ve also wondered about the various pros and cons of making our way back into the PL.

In the end, that will be out of our hands and firmly down to the players, Compass and the rest of the team. All I can really say is that, as always, three points would be massive tonight at Griffin Park. Brentford are certainly a bogey team for us, but you’d like to think we’d carry over something from the Blades comeback.

Over to you.

Comments 85

  1. Aside from the defeat, the match stats make grim reading for Villa.

    Anyway, I shall be joyous as the club slides into further decline. No place for honest appraisal of poor players and performances on this forum.

    He claps happily away….

  2. No real comments needed. Another mediocre Villa display. No real plan. No real desire to control the game and win it.

    Only plus point seemed to be that Hause was ok and did not give much away, nor did Mings, Hutton and Elphick were ok, until the final minutes, and then they cost us the winning goal, but our mid field and attack never really looked as if they were going to produce anything…

    Like I said before, if Dean Smith does not believe he is going to win the game, how can he expect his team to believe…….

  3. Paul,

    Plenty of room for criticism of poor performances and players, I’d think. God knows I’ve had my share.

    I’m still behind Smith, and I’ve seen him having us play some very good football. But they’re simply lost without Jack. I hear the Tuanzebe argument. I’m sure I’ll hear it again. But Jack’s the big loss.

    The reason I’m behind Smith is that I see what that Brentford team he put together is capable of. They outworked, out-passed, out-possessed and outplayed us.

  4. JC,

    As is being said elsewhere, the absence of Jack doesn’t explain such a poor **team**.

    One player is not going to change everything. Sure the team will get a lift, but Jack’s absence doesn’t explain to me why we saw that performance from Villa last night. And the previous several performances come to that … with the possible exception of the game vs bottom club Ipswich.

    No, John, something is endemically wrong at VP … and maybe it’s just that all the old players need to be dumped and the team re-built virtually from scratch. That will happen in the summer as I see it.

  5. Further thoughts…

    My whole argument about Axel being missed pretty well as much as Jack was tied with the aftermath of their absence from the team. At that stage we didn’t really see anything else dramatically wrong except the defence, which was an issue not to be sneezed at. And then it became clear that Chester was carrying a surgery which has proved to be somewhat more serious than it seemed.

    OK, so we’ve had something of a defensive overhaul, and I haven’t got too many complaints about last night’s defence other than Hause being ‘rusty’ and Hutton being strangely indecisive on a couple of occasions.

    But the midfield in general seems to me to have become virtually useless, and I don’t choose that word lightly. Even McGiven – probably because he tries to do more than his share – seems to have become less effective, though it’s generally from him anything good occurs. Conor mystifies me – he could be such a good player I feel but undersells himself i.m.o. At least he made one good tackle last night.

    And Whelan is there because there’s no-one else who is willing to stand up and be counted in that department. He is getting old and shows it in his lack of movement, but he’s got a good footballer’s brain.

    As for the wingers. Well, dear Albert looks low in confidence. And that’s a pity. I do like him, and he showed last season that when he had the chance to pick up responsibility, he did, by scoring so many goals. Now he can barely shoot. El Ghazi has improved but still short of the needed quality i.m.o. Green must start versus Albion, surely – but he will need to be given several games to get going properly.

    Yes, Jack’s return should improve matters, but his absence has revealed that without him (and a forward moving c-b like Axel) we are devoid of imagination in midfield.

    Yes, a clear-out has to take place. And some will automatically be going anyway once their contracts are up.

    It looks as though we’re still hurting after those years of club mismanagement that started 9 (nine!) years ago.

  6. Good comments JL,

    Did just write a nice long piece on my thoughts about how and why we are where we are, and then the cursor moves and you lose the lot…… grrrrr !!!

    The other thing is once you have posted something and spotted an error….. you cannot correct it…

    Giving up for now, as I have stuff to do…!!!

  7. JL,

    What I’ve been saying is that this is what the team looks like without Jack. It’s pretty self-evident.

    Take Jack out, and you see the midfield shambles. Which is pretty much what you’re saying. You go on to say there’s something endemically wrong at VP. That may or may not be the case. I can’t honestly say. They may simply be feeling cursed.

    I can say I have seen a shocking loss deflate an organization. It may be the case that Albion’s late equalizer took the wind out of their sails, brought them down to earth, shattered their growing sense of ‘invincibility’. If they look like they’re playing scared, they probably are.

    Will always be hard to say because the downturn also coincides with Jack going out. It might have always gone downhill. But the inability to pass, hold the ball, win the midfield battle: That’s not down to Tuanzebe.

    Axel’s a good CB. Athletic, fast, and was becoming very assured. Why he wasn’t playing in the middle all along is an absolute mystery. Except for the fact that the fullbacks are poor, so he was put in at RB, allowing Hutton to play left. Last night, Hause was put left to see if he could do better than Taylor.

    A number of poor goals can be attributed to Axel’s absence. A decline in the cohesion in transitioning out of defense can be attributed to Axel’s absence. Having a CB that can move out of trouble and help beat the high press is a definite plus. Likewise, not being scared to play the ball up into the middle versus cycling it out wide.

    But we also remember Jack dropping deep constantly to carry the ball, wriggling out of double-teams and breaking the press. We remember opponents being drawn to him, hacking and fouling when he slipped past. McGinn was allowed to be an engine, not the focus. Hourihane was allowed to do the Westwood thing and provide a pivot and distribution point, and some quality set-piece balls. The wingers found more space. Defenders had to pay more attention to Jack. The game plan was simple: Stop Grealish. Want the ball to stick? Get it back to Jack.

    What this is all means is not that Jack is some magical being. What it means is that he’s a very good midfielder and we don’t have a replacement. He was an organizing principle, what you build a team around. He oozes confidence and gives it to other players. No one else (bar El Ghazi) has his quality on the ball.

    I’ve been going on for years now about Villa’s inability to handle pressure and play in tight spaces. The lack of quality on the ball. Jack helped with that. Passing? It works better when you have someone that rarely loses the ball, creates space, and makes a good outlet. He wasn’t necessarily creating a lot of assists or goals. He was providing the glue.

    I’ve also said that were we to go up, you’d essentially have Tammy, Jack, Tuanzebe and probably McGinn who you could keep in a PL side (just assuming we could keep the loanees if we go up). Chester maybe, too, if he’s fully fit. El Ghazi has the skill and speed, but is a bit of a headless chicken at times. One might or might not be able to coach that out of him. All the others? Simply not good enough or too old.

    When he comes back, it may not help. The psychology has been damaged, and you’re right, it will very likely take him time to get back into form.

    The only upside, as I see it, is that we know Smith can find the athletic, high-energy players who can play his system, and should be able to take it up a level given more money to work with.

  8. Couple other things we lack: Range of passing and ball winners.

    I lost track of the number of useless long passes that were easily cut out; brainless clearances; players panicking and playing it too hard to bring under control in tight spaces; players showing lack of control in receiving the ball when the pass wasn’t too hard. Players leaving it short or behind. Showing too much of the ball. The list goes on and on.

  9. JC: “What I’ve been saying is that this is what the team looks like without Jack. It’s pretty self-evident.”

    yes, John, I know full well that’s what you’ve been saying. That’s your well-vented view but that’s not my view – purely because it’s not one player that makes a *team*. Yes, Jack offers a great deal, but no way will Villa recover simply because Jack reappears. Not unless the other players have just been sulking these past few games.

    I agree with your points in the last 4 paras, but not the general view whereby you seem to be saying that Jack is the be-all and end-all of Villa. He most certainly isn’t, and in fact has been quite profligate in his shooting this season – like the rest of ’em. Except the last few games when we have not been shooting much at all – except vs Ipswich.

    With Jack and Axel and McGinn we have the basis of a good team, but unless Axel returns soon, I think our season is finished as far as promotion is concerned.

    Having said that we’ll probably now go and beat the Baggies!

  10. I know what you’re saying as well, JL, and I quite simply disagree with the emphasis. If you want to go on and on telling me I’m wrong, you certainly can. But that’s only going to make me say it more.

    Both players make us better, but what’s wrong in the two-thirds of the pitch that aren’t a CB’s responsibility show what happens when your best attacking player is gone. And like I said, it might all have tailed off anyway. That’s one thing we won’t know.

    One player is not a team. Agreed. But one quality midfielder can make a bunch of others look a lot better, and that makes the team look better.

    Like I say, he’s not a magical being. He’s the one quality player we have in midfield, where games are won and lost. It’s not about his shooting. It’s not about assists. It’s getting us out of trouble and helping the ball stick further up the field. It helps the team keep its shape, and so on and so on.

    Will Axel help? Yes, of course. Any quality player helps. But he’s not going to make McGinn, Hourihane, Adomah or any of the others upfield better players.

    Smith has said more than once that the way attacks are breaking down have a lot to do with our woes. I happen to agree with him.

    If Axel makes us much more stingy at the back, then perhaps we will eke out more 1-0s or 2-1s. And that’s great. I’ll take it. But he’s simply not in a position, quite literally, to do what a midfielder does.

  11. Interesting points JL and JC and while I agree that one player doesnt make the team, Jack tended to be the focus not just for Villa but for the opposition too in the midfield. This probably meant a little less marking for McGinn and the rest allowing them to drive forward.

    When Jack leaves in the summer (and he will have to if we are to have any chance of avoiding FFP), we will need to recruit a team that supports Smith’s style of play. One player doesn’t make a team but we never hired players to fit a system, rather based on their reputation. It’s probably why DS is struggling in spite of having PL level players.

  12. Villalore,

    Definitely not Dean’s team. The window was certainly a stopgap, at best, but couldn’t get anywhere near what’s required.

    When watching Brentford, I saw a team full of energy, aggression, quality on the ball who knew what they were trying to do. For whatever reason, all the PL-level players we have (a lot of it due to age, I think) just can’t cope.

    So, I’m confident that real recruitment will bring in those kinds of players. And the random thought I had a couple threads ago about Villa going up to come back down might just be crazy enough to work/be true.

  13. Villalore,

    Yes, I agree with that, but at the same time let’s not overlook that the club have explicitly stated that they are looking to build from the ground u so my guess is that next season we’ll be looking at quite a different array of players.

    However, putting the focus on one player is not good for the team as a whole, though I maintain that if Axel had not also gone down, I don’t think we’d have been in the kind of difficulty we now find ourselves. Which brings it back to not just one player (Jack) but also Axel’s loss that has caused us to be where we are.

  14. This kind of absence is also what Bruce dealt with. While he isn’t the ‘progressive’ kind of coach Smith is, seeing what I’m seeing now gives me more sympathy for him. When Jack returned, the general consensus was that he basically carried Villa down the stretch, which is what raised Spurs’ interest.

    If we go with the proverbial “we were a goal or two/game away from promotion,” that says a lot. We had Chester, and Terry in his last year. We talked about the lack of pace, and all that, but Terry’s positioning, etc., made up for a lot and minimized exposure. We had the same fullbacks, by and large, and Tuanzebe was also injured.

  15. JC,

    I’ve been merely stating my p.o.v. in response to your argument. It’s not so much saying you’re wrong but that we see the issue differently enough for separate points of view.

    Where you say “what’s wrong in the two-thirds of the pitch that aren’t a CB’s responsibility” I’n afraid is the assertion that two-thirds of the pitch are not the c-b’s responsbility.

    Whey, then, does Axel tell us that Man U encourage their c-b’s to carry the ball forward and that he was very happy to adopt the appraoch that Smith set him so that he could play his natural game?

    I think we forget that the old centre-half/c-b game of decades ago was about that player being a defender as well as a supporting midfielder, and in modern football that approach has partly returned.

    So, in reality is’s only the top third of the pitch you’d not expect to see the c-b these days, except in dead-ball situations.

  16. JC,

    The quite big difference between us and Spurs as that they have other players that can replicate (at least in part) Jacks’ play, whereas Villa have nowt. And that’s the big problem for Villa and why really it’s best that Jack goes if we can’t find a player that replicates his style. Otherwise we’ll always be in this dilemma when he’s not available.

  17. JL,

    They do pinch up, and Axel, as I’ve said many times, has the pace and strength to recover from being upfield and snuff out a lot so he can get upfield. It isn’t that he isn’t valuable, or that we don’t expect some drive from the position.

    But for the CBs to get involved that way, the ball has to stick so that we can retain our shape, get forward in numbers, be in the right spots to press, do the ‘recovering on the ball’ bit, and not have it come right back at us.

    If Axel’s doing what he does and the quality in front of him doesn’t improve, the fact we want CBs to chip in higher up the pitch is not going to matter much. McGinn, Hourihane, whoever, are just going to keep turning it over.

  18. JC,

    Well we are talking specifically about Axel by the looks of it, as our other c-bs don’t seem inclined to move up. And so if it’s just Axel I would say that the ball does “stick” with him and that he generally makes good use of it.

    I think you’re agreeing, in reality, that Axel’s play did make a significant differnece, as we certainly do not have other c-b’s that seem inclined to take on that role, and maybe don’t have the ability to do it reliably.

  19. JL,

    We’ll absolutely always be in this dilemma if we don’t have a midfielder with quality on the ball. We need three, in reality, but every good side has at least one standout midfielder.

    I really like McGinn, but he’s just being forced to try and do too much. He’s overrunning the ball, and just can’t hold it like Jack. But he’s a terrier, a ball winner, and has good delivery when he’s got a chance to play to his strengths.

    Hourihane is very lightweight. He works well with positioning, etc., provides an outlet and is pretty good with quick, short passing, but he’s a terrible ball-winner and isn’t really an aggressive/dogged player.

    Whelan knows the game inside and out. But there’s obviously his legs. He contributes more when we can hold it upfield, but just can’t cover much. And his passing is very hit or miss. Sometimes great, but often not. Jedi, well, he’s just past it, and his range of passing was never good. Lansbury, it’s just a shame it seems like we’ll never get to see what he can or can’t do given a good run.

    Carroll might be part of the answer, but again, he’s going to be a lightweight player, and I just haven’t seen enough of him. Maybe there’s enough time for him to make a difference, but I’m afraid we’re going to keep looking so ragged until we regain some composure and possession.

    Like we were saying over the summer, I don’t even know that Jack would be good enough to earn a spot in Spurs’ XI. But, he’d also be surrounded with a lot of quality, so you never know.

  20. A good debate boys, and which there are merits on both sides.

    I am probably closer to JC, and the influence that JG had over the opposition, especially the constant two man marking, which he could handle, but McGinn struggles to, while at the same time lacking Jack’s composure on the ball.

    I will at the same time, give JL the credit with regard to Axel and state that if Steve Bruce had made his centre back pairing Axel and James, rather than trying to convert Jedinak, he would still be in the manager, and Villa would be in a much stronger position. We are in the present position a) because of Bruce failing to replace Terry with a first class cb, b) because Dean Smith has failed to manage the players he has at his disposal. He should have been preparing players like Doyle-Hayes and O’Hare from when he took over, as they are capable of playing in his system, and can hold up the ball. He also could have brought back De Laet to cover cb/rb with the ability to defend and attack (as he is showing now by playing cf).

    I no longer buy that this is Bruce’s team and not Dean’s. He is a Villa fan who has studied Villa for many years. He knows the players as well as Bruce did. He knew what he was taking on when he agreed to be manager, and he should be capable of organising the players at his disposal to produce satisfactory results, and not be saying…. “I did not see that coming”. He is a professional and he should be oozing confidence before EVERY game, to pass on to his squad, but since the West Bromwich game, you can see the confidence draining from him. Maybe he is just too nice…

    These payers would not want to be playing under Darren Moore and not performing, but he has only one love, and that is West Bromwich, West Bromwich. Win, win, win.

  21. JL,

    What we’re saying is similar…You’re saying Axel will make a huge difference in an either/or scenario, I’m saying Jack makes a bigger difference.

    Ideally, we have them both. But if I were forced to choose, I’d obviously choose Jack. And I’m betting that if Smith had the chance to sign/keep only one of them permanently he’d choose Jack. Now of course Smith also has an eye for a player, and he might well think, “I can find a combination of players who will do all that, so I’d take the money for Jack and use it to build a midfield.”

    As far as what we have, Mings is big and aggressive. Not seen enough of him to know what he’ll do further up once he gets comfortable, or what kind of overall game he brings. We know Elphick doesn’t have the range.

  22. Paul,

    I hear what you’re saying, and I don’t know what’s happened to the players overall since the Albion game other than Jack and Axel being out. Smith had us flying, and now the side seems to have no confidence.

    What it seems like to me is that it’s just a set of mismatched parts (once again). I see lots of poor decision-making, poor passing, lack of composure. I don’t know how much Smith can do to fix that. Those seem like player issues to me.

    But, it could be the case that he’s being obstinate and trying fruitlessly to get a set of players ill-suited to his system playing his way. It might well be time for a tactical rethink.

  23. JC: “What we’re saying is similar…You’re saying Axel will make a huge difference in an either/or scenario, I’m saying Jack makes a bigger difference.”

    Well, no, I’m actually broadly in agreement with what you propose there! I wasn’t really trying to say one was any more of a loss than the other, though, as both fitted the situation of applying pressure, and both – to me – are essential to the team for that reason.

    That is, Jack may be a bigger loss, but that in reality I see the loss of both as being just as an important issue if we were talking about gaining sufficient points to get promotion. Otherwise (as I see it) one returning without the other is not likely to make a lot of difference, though I accept that Jack’s play just might make it more likely for Villa to gain confidence.

  24. Paul,

    Yes, you make salient points there, I think.

    And what you say about Dean Smith’s confidence level seems spot on, particularly in the light of the Mail quote (above).

    As for Darren Moore … there we have a determined man if ever there was one.

  25. Don’t know that I’d say it’s so much a question of ‘confidence’ with Smith, but clearly he is frustrated, and I think it’s simply because he doesn’t have the tools to work with. Me, I’d have been feeling hopeless after watching Villa outclassed by my old side all day. We huffed and puffed, but no composure in front of goal or anywhere else on the pitch.

    So I’m sure he’s feeling like he’s failing, and that nothing is bouncing right for him or the side. Got hard luck with the injuries, and some bad calls, and he’s seeing he just doesn’t have the right players to get through it.

    Probably even more galling because he was able to get them looking so good and playing with such confidence pretty quickly in spite of the limited options.

    Alan Sheehan’s comments sum it up for me:

    “For me he is the best player in the Championship. When Dean Smith took over, before he got injured at West Brom, they were starting to dictate possession the way Dean Smith sides have done in the past.

    “You can do that with Grealish. They had good wins against Middlesbrough, Derby and Birmingham but then he got injured and they’ve won two in their last ten without him.

    “For me, if Aston Villa are going to challenge, they need him back as soon as possible.”

    In short, he knows he’s fooked in the short term. And even more so when players don’t take chances like Hourihane and Adomah had, and the calls go against you on top of it. Those were two I would absolutely expect pros to finish.

  26. Jc- I agree grealish is the catalyst for this team to work. How much can one player matter? See Real Madrid without Ronaldo this season, went 4 games without scoring and have struggled, they are hardly a talentless team . Our team is workman like and without jack keeping possession especially in the final third we can’t get up the field in numbers. Our free kicks around the box have dwindled too, he served the same purpose for Bruce and snodgrass.

    I heard through his mate this week that he could feature on sat he’s kept fit as he lives with the physio/trainer now and he’s had him training all Hours. Get him back and we might stop the recent hoof ball and reluctance to receive the Ball.

  27. Jack

    No one is arguing about Jack’s particular talent, so I don’t know the need to keep re-iterating the topic. However, I will also reiterate that despite his talents, he has been wasteful with his shooting. A bot more than Ronaldo, I’d say!

    But the fact remains that to have a [player that can bring the ball out of defence (whoever it happens to be) is essential for Smith ‘s preferred system of pressing upfield. If, that is, we want to get promoted this season .

    If we don’t get promoted then we’ll be having largely a different team next season as I see it – with or without Jack.

  28. And MK actually makes it clear that a team relying on one player can be making an awful mistake. It can – and does – make them vulnerable when he’s not available.

    In fact in our case it’s an argument for not having such a player but instead to rely on a system of football of the quality that the Blades and Brentford have shown us over the past week.

    That way it’s (obviously) much easier to replicate one player when the star is missing.

    But that is the direction I think Smith wants to take Villa in, anyway. But it will take a bit of time while he injects our young players into the team.

  29. John L – tongue in cheek here – you said ‘’. Even McGiven – probably because he tries to do more than his share – seems to have become less effective, though it’s generally from him anything good occurs. ‘
    I didn’t see him contribute anything!!:)
    I must admit as I watched the game I was thinking this Brentford team is what Smith built whereas this Villa team……..
    I wonder if the team selection was DS’ message to the board that we need a clear-out in the summer and early please so I can build a team like the one I left for Brentford.
    El Ghazi ???? I think Elmohamady, Green and Bjarnason would have been a better choice when he knew we were going to be under the cosh from the start.
    Oh well onwards to face the Baggies – let’s hope they all walked here in baggy pants.

  30. JC has nailed it for me. We need 3 more in reality…….he was talking about midfielders. We have Jack and McGinn and need 3 more minimum who are not lightweights. Until the engine room is sorted, we’ll struggle like we did against Brentford.

    A big clearance is required this summer. It will offload millions from our outgoings. Young and hungry for me.

  31. Plug: “JC has nailed it for me. We need 3 more in reality…….he was talking about midfielders.”

    Plug it’s all a question of perspective. Yes, JC’s conclusion would be right if we were just talking about midfielders, but I happen to like the idea of a c-b that comes out of defence and passes the ball to a midfielder rather than hoofing it or passing from such a distance that accuracy is likely to be affected. That currently happens a lot.

    Yes, of course how you get the ball out of defence can be dealt with by a couple of means, but to see a player carrying the ball through to the second third is class football to me. That was the play favoured by Villa fans 80+ years ago and the fans really got upset when Villa changed the centre-half’s play to being purely defence, as was becoming the standard in the early 30s.

    Seeing a centre-back playing with attack-supporting intentions does make the game that much more enjoyable for me. It’s a pity that Axel will most likely not be at VP next season, but it would be good of the next generation of c-bs at VP play with that style. If they’re capable, of course.

    If that was to be the trend then simply piling in more midfielders is less of a need.

  32. JL
    If you think that if you repeat it enough times we will have your view, you’re mistaken, the words stubborn & battle come to mind instead, as no one is disagreeing except that it is more than that, rather obviously.

  33. It’s not really either/or. The CB situation, and defense overall, has been a shambles. We could also point to much more effective two-way fullbacks as an equal need to a certain kind of CB.

    But philosophically, yes, you want the best, most versatile players you can get at all positions. And ideally you want some redundancy. But midfield is the key to controlling games, and Jack is the key to our midfield.

    The trick with players like Jack is that a like-for-like replacement isn’t generally going to be warming your bench. Just like a top-tier striker (or anyone else for that matter), they’re going to want to play.

    Perhaps we do have a ready-made replacement in O’Hare, but Smith doesn’t seem to think he’s ready, if nothing else. Given the fact he’s worked to great effect with young, unheralded and unproven players for years, I’ll trust his judgment here.

    I think the real truth of the matter is that unless you’re in the CL, you’re always going to be at risk of being over-reliant on a couple of players. I think Smith can work around that with wide-spread recruitment to fit his style. And like I said in response to Paul, it may be the case that Smith has been a bit obstinate not changing the style. Though he has changed the midfield positioning/responsibilities.

    This is simply a problem facing this team, this season.

  34. JL, A CB who can carry the ball out of defence is a minimum requirement for that position. Currently we have Tuanzebe who can do it but I haven’t seen much from the others.

  35. said it when deano took over.

    you wont see his type of style until you have 2 flying full backs and a quality number 6.

    full backs are such an important part of the game and ours are shocking.

  36. Thought I saw a decent range of passing from Mings in his first outing. Don’t know that anyone looked good Wednesday. So, we’ll see.

    If he can play FB, he should be able to carry the ball in the middle, as well. Again, we’ll see.

  37. JC: “We could also point to much more effective two-way fullbacks as an equal need to a certain kind of CB.”

    Yes we could! I’m just stating my preference. As I said, I think the forward moving c-b adds something to the game and in my view is what the game was originally all about until Herbert Chapman came along.

    But – there again – I prefer the game as it used to be played in my young days and summise from that (and what my Dad said) that the old game was the real game. But I’m an Old Fogie … what do I know?

  38. Clive,

    McGinn is working hard, but as you say, it’s not coming to much, atm.

    Dunno if the selection was a message or not. I’m hoping the lines of communication are good enough that he doesn’t have to resort to that.

    I’ve long been puzzled by Bjarnason and how managers see him. Like right now, I think he adds more than Whelan. Maybe he seemed a bit over-eager and was undisciplined when he got a look-in, but he’s still got running in him and provides a lot more coverage. Maybe Smith sees Whelan as a cool head and someone who helps keep things organized.

    El Ghazi…He’s got talent, but you can see why he’s been put on loan (discipline, decision-making, etc). I’m thinking with Green on the other side, it makes a good dual threat on the wings. But you’ve got to have a threat down the middle to take advantage.

  39. JC: “Maybe Smith sees Whelan as a cool head and someone who helps keep things organized.”

    Yes. I think Whelan has a really good football brain with experience to back it up. Pity about the legs.

  40. The sad thing I find about AVL (and other blogs too) is that no-one speaks as though a purpose of football is to entertain and not just for technical analysis (TA) with a results bias.

    People will say I’m nuts for thinking that, but the game for me is taken far too seriously. And that seriousness leads to attitudes of political correctness, as I found out at VP. But that’s getting to be how life is in general, perhaps. In which case I don’t call that ‘life’.


  41. JL,

    He does know the game, and I see him trying to marshal players. He does all he can, gives all he’s got.

    But the Championship is obviously a very high-effort, scrappy league with a lot of youth. Have to fight fire with fire in this case.

  42. I’m having difficulty thinking of what team tomorrow, as I keep falling asleep.
    The Brentford game was an improvement on the SU game, & I expect another improvement tomorrow.
    Whether it’ll be enough is another matter.

  43. JL,

    I think the consensus is that Villans want Villa to play exciting, entertaining football. That was a huge knock when it came to Bruce. So people do want entertainment. And there’s nothing more entertaining than playing well AND winning.

    But there’s a lot that goes into modern, entertaining football. The players and managers all take it much more seriously in terms of preparation, training, diet, etc. And the emphasis on all these points is just the reality of how a modern fan regards the game. And any game.

    I was skiing this weekend, and of course I enjoy just being on a mountain, but I’m always trying to advance the tiniest pieces of technique to improve, advance and enjoy it more. Just me pushing myself.

    If they were to go back in time, and play as-is, any of the top teams now would absolutely slaughter teams of past eras.

  44. I think you need a less static back line to play the Viking over Whelan.
    Again the subs bench will be indicative of how much work still needs to be done.
    I hear that Taylor will be fit to play, this doesn’t fill me with confidence

  45. JL – I have banged on for ages about the entertainment value down VP and lack of it under Spud as have plenty of other Lifers. Take those blinkers off and acknowledge it buddy.

  46. I agree with JL about the great ability that Axel showed before his injury, to carry the ball forward and the huge difference it made for Grealish and McGinn, and yes, hopefully Mings is a similar sort of player. I am wondering just how good Hause can be if he gets a few games under his belt, and will he make a difference to.

    referring to fullbacks, was why I was surprised that Smith did not bring De Laet back, as I have said before. Perhaps he should try playing El Mohamady as the rb and Hutton as awing back, as Hutton can still be very good going forward, but not always so good on recovery.

    I see there has not been much response on here to my comments about our failure to recruit a decent goalkeeper since Friedel, which certainly does not inspire our back line, and my personal view of all the SU goals were a result of crosses that Kalinic should have gone for and cut out..

    I have yet to be impressed by El Ghazi, who loses the ball far too easily, and does not do enough with it. Adomah is still off the boil, and Davis having been on the bench ten times surely deserves a start. Green I have been happy with, and he just needs time.

    Hourihane I am not sure about, he should be producing much more, especially from set plays which we tend to waste more times than not. Bjarnason, to me, has huge potential, and was outstanding for Iceland, and he is just not getting the game time to show his worth.

    My team for tomorrow would be:

    Steer, Elmo Elphick Mings Hause, Hutton Bjarnason McGinn, Abraham, Davis, Green,
    Subs: Kalinic, Taylor, Whelan, Hourihane, Kodija, El Ghazi, Adomah

  47. PP,

    Kalinic? I dunno. Johnstone took a while to settle, but was obviously less experienced. I’ve seen a lot of back and forth between Kalinic and the defenders. So seems to me like it’s a question of everyone getting on the same page. He can’t be terrible if he’s an international #1, and there seemed to be a pretty decisive intent to sign him.

    So, I dunno.

  48. Just watching another poor “Press Conference”

    These AVTV interviews before the match, and the proper press conference are becoming a waste of time. Why can’t we be shown the proper press conference.

    The only useful information given is the update on injuries.

  49. JC,

    I appreciate what your saying, and he does have some good movement, but his ability to read crosses and deal with them is poor, but there is perhaps a lack of understanding. Just watching him now, he seems to be afraid to come off his line for crosses coming in.

  50. PP,

    To be honest, I’m often guilty of ball-watching, so you may well be right. I should be a little more obsessive about re-watching the highlights and focus on that.

    Which would also make clear how much traffic there is. When I just go with my gut memory, it seems like a lot of second- or third-chance balls go in and everyone’s deep and it’s clogged up. He did knock down Mings pretty hard coming for a ball Wednesday night, and Mings was quite alright with it.

    If my hunch is right, it just means we’re terrible at clearing the ball. Which seems to be the overall impression I have. Doesn’t mean Kalinic couldn’t do better, though.

  51. JC: “If they were to go back in time, and play as-is, any of the top teams now would absolutely slaughter teams of past eras.”

    Ah, well there we’re going back into a results oriented thinking again! It is actually difficult to decide whether a modern team would or not do as you say. Yes, if you were playing with current kit and methods against a team that had just arrived by a Wells-ian time capsule, but what would happen if the old team was given time to bring themselves up to the same fitness level and attune to the modern kit but retaining their attitude to the game and (probably) their physical strength.

    One of the things you note about the modern game is that they do not seem able to withstand the battering of a heavy fixture schedule, yet as recently as 1960-61 Villa played some 54 games in one season with the bare minimum of team rotation. And no-one complained. And the game then was played with heavy equipment as well.

    In any case it’s not necessarily whether the current game is superior from a technical point of view but whether the game is better from a sporting p.o.v. I’m very much an Old Fogey and brought up in the days when sportsmanship was as important as anything else (“It’s not the winning but the taking part” they used to say).

    It’s how the game is played that’s the big decider for me. The results side of things is secondary, though not unimportant.

    Plug: “I have banged on for ages about the entertainment value down VP and lack of it under Spud as have plenty of other Lifers. Take those blinkers off and acknowledge it buddy.”

    I don’t disagree with you mate. But I was not referring to that aspect but just the sheer issue of enjoying the sport no matter what is presented nor how difficult it may seem to accept what’s offered. In other words, the attitude of “oh well, there’s always next week”, when we once hoped to see something special – and very often got rewarded. Just like getting a birdie in golf, I suppose.

    I feel that what Bruce said about “expectancy” is dead right. Because Villa won the European Cup there’s that “expectancy” amongst many for Villa to go straight back and do it all again. But it just doesn’t work like that. It’s okay to “hope” that Villa do get back there, but not to treat it as though we have a divine right to get it. I think r0bb0 said something about that recently.

  52. JL,

    It’s not ‘results-oriented thinking’ like ‘results’ are some modern plague. Results have always mattered. That’s why they keep score, why there are champions and cups and all the rest. Hell, just starting a league and turning players professional is where it all began. Wars, elections, industrial output. Results have always mattered.

    What’s changed is television and money. It’s a global entertainment spectacle. Maybe results matter ‘more’ now because there’s so much money at stake. But supporters turn to football/sport for the same escape they always have. And players have always wanted to win just as much when they’re on the pitch. You don’t play if you don’t want to win. Well, you can, but you’re not going to get very far.

    I’m sure great footballers of the past might well be great footballers now (if brought up in the current environment). But. The point is that the game is just different today. The old team would have to approach the game the way modern teams do if they were brought up in the modern environment.

    It’s still electrically exciting. The pace, movement and technique are sublime. There’s more diving, but there’s certainly far less thuggery than I remember from the ’70s.

    There’s nothing wrong with preferring the way things were to the way things are. But the way things are…Well, that’s how they are. Change is a constant, as they say.

  53. If it’s that supporters care now more than they did, we can also look at television and money and everything else that’s changed about life. Could just be the case that people had more pressing things to worry about then than they do now. So football/sport…It all mattered less in day-to-day lives.

    My guess is that at all the smaller clubs it’s probably still much the same. Doesn’t really matter because they’re never going to be able to scale the mountain.

    At Villa, as you point out, it does matter because we’ve scaled the mountain, tasted the success, and still have the means to do so again.

    One other thing is that there used to be much more fluidity. You went up and down the leagues. The entrenchment of superclubs and the CL (and the disparity it causes up and down the leagues), that does change the level of expectation/desire. There’s a mountain you’re hoping to climb that might seem hopeless but you want to climb it, and every little thing helps or hurts.

  54. JC: “Results have always mattered. “

    Sometimes I feel that people just gloss over what I write!!

    I did say ” The results side of things is secondary, though not unimportant.” That is how the game was once played … the approach to the game was always the foremost thing (though you always had dissenters). Results did matter but were subservient to the manner in which a match was played.

    These days no one thinks there’s anything wrong in a professional foul or time-wasting. But you didn’t see that 50 years ago, let alone the rank bad fouling that goes unpunished.

    And sometimes I feel as though your view is that I don’t know what is going on around me.

    I’m fully aware, thanks JC, but because of the Life Phhilosophy that I hold onto most dear I believe more in “Old is gold” than following modern trends, which usually lead to much more shallow values. Luckily my sons have evolved the same view.

    There’s change … and there is change. It’s a qualitative matter. The kind of change I see happening predominantly is one that leads to demise. There’s no future in the way we’re going in general: it is destructive. I see that the world needs to return to a different set of values, and “the world” here includes footie and anything else.

    But there are changes afoot which I hope to see the fruit of in about 10 years – if I’m around. After a lot more pain.

    The only worthwhile mountain to climb is the one inside yourself.

  55. JL,

    I don’t gloss over. I’ve just heard it (as you’ve heard me), and it’s simply the case that not everyone is going to see it the way you do, so I don’t see much point in telling people who like to dissect the game that they shouldn’t because there’s a better way of living.

    I don’t evangelize my belief system because that’s not what anyone wants to hear from me. On here, anyway. If anyone’s interested hearing about Life and How To Live It from me, they can always send a message. There’s lots of change I’d like to see, including Villa winning it all, but this is just the football fun (or lack thereof, depending on how we’re playing).

    Lifers and all the other posters on all the other blogs…They’ve all got their philosophies, ways of living, and on here (and all the other sites, apparently) part of what they care about is dissecting football.

  56. IanG February 15, 2019 at 11:53 pm
    As a villa fan for 62 years, all I can say is, we really need a sense of humour, with the Villa.
    I agree Ian – I too have supported Villa for that long almost as long as JL!!
    I saw them win the FA Cup in 1967 and have experienced the highs and lows throughout the intervening period.
    Of course with this lifelong devotion it is easier to gloss over the shortcomings just as it is similarly easy to criticise. A sense of humour is always useful. I remember going to a Sunday game at Bradford with 2 of my mates (one of whom is one the Holte Enders in the SKY here) We had a great lunchtime on the way along with a few Bradford fans – lost 1-0 and said it was one of the best away games we had experienced.
    Thank goodness we are not as desperate as some of the fans higher up the league ladder!!
    The Brentford game in my opinion shed a light on the potential of a team built by our current Manager and we have to support him in his efforts and trust a success story will evolve next season.
    Now to watch some interesting sport from down under – I am sure Iana will be watching as well!

  57. Well, I see that my last post has been erased.

    And all that was essentially doing was to state that my statements are my philosophy just as much as anyone else’s – such as JC’s own (to which I had responded).

    Meanwhile some others can come onto this blog and make assertions which are bypassed as OK.

    So now I’m being sanctioned that’s it. I’m out. And *really* out this time fellers.

    I’m not prepared to sacrifice truth for small talk and toeing to the blogmaster’s line.

    To think I was persuaded to come onto AVL in the first place. I didn’t want to.

    I wish you all well, and thanks for your company.

  58. PS

    I saw my first Villa game nearly 70 years ago. And can still remember the experience of the visit.

    For the main part I’d say that the old fans (like me) feel that footie is less enjoyable than it was. And not worth dissecting in the way it’s now done.

  59. Getting lively on here without me there’s a surprise 🙂

    On CB’s carrying the ball out into midfield, unless my eyes deceive me they are as rare as hens eggs. Can’t think of any in the prem, Tuanzebe either does it because the opposition is poor enough or he’s the new Franz Beckenbauer? But players doing that on a regular basis? great way to beat the high press which jack also does but also a great way to completely open yourself to being robbed and punished particularly if the FB’s push up.

    Heres hoping the WBA injuries make them worse than us.

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