Something. Anything. Normally I’d be asking for three points, but based on what I’ve seen lately, I’d settle for a draw as the Baggies come calling at Villa Park.

But, perhaps there’ll be something in the air since it was the fateful stolen victory at the Hawthorns that seemed to have stalled Villa’s resurgence. Well, that and some key injuries. But however it all came to be, I don’t think any of us saw the run after following the run we’d been on before.

We’ve hashed it all out through the week following the Sheffield United fightback and Brentford loss. With Villa sitting in limb at 10th in the table, seven points off the playoffs with 14 games to go…well, today just about anything will do.

Far as the team goes, Anwar El Ghazi and Albert Adomah will make way for Ahmed Elmohamady and Andre Green. Neil Taylor has recovered from illness, but Kortney Hause will continue at left back for at least one more match. Grealish is apparently working on his conditioning, Carroll is looking to return to training, and Chester has had an injection.

So there we go. Albion, 10 points ahead of us (which really should be just six), are not going to make things easy. We were handling top-10 sides with ease. Today, whatever we get, it’s not going to be easy.

But we’re looking for some fight, grit and desire, and let the chips fall where they may.

Over to you.

Comments 92

  1. Kalinic, Hutton, Elphick, Mings, Hause, Whelan, Hourihane, McGinn, Green, Elmohamady, Abraham.
    Subs: Steer, Taylor, Jedinak, El Ghazi, Kodjia, Adomah, Ramsay

  2. Smith has said we have lost confidence and these one on ones we missed recently probably reflect that, to add to that it appears it never rains but it pours when things don’t go your way, not had a decent reffing decision for weeks.

  3. MK,

    Yes, it does seem to be pouring right now. Wouldn’t disagree about the confidence on the one-on-ones. What’s discouraging is that it was a bright start, and some nice passages of play. We actually looked composed and well in it.

  4. Good comments on the Villa Facebook page:
    “How can Elphick and Hause be considered footballers?”….
    “Get Hourihane off, absolute waste of a shirt”….
    “If this was Lambert, you’d be calling for his head”

  5. Riddle me this…the only reason to sack Bruce would be to bring in a manager who can get a better output from the squad he inherited; Smith seems to be reverting to random team selections every week with players being moved in and out of the team for no apparent reason. Does he think they’re all s**t (which he would be correct about) and so drawing lots beats any selection strategy. I think Smith was brought in as a means of getting Bruce out and that he will be moved on in the summer – he was not first choice if I recall correctly

  6. The transfer window didn’t change the midfield at all (Carroll not fit FFS), brought in another Mr Bean goalkeeper and no competent fullbacks. Director of Football…more like Director of f**k All

  7. Paul…

    Always possible. Me, I look at how we were playing with the full squad and would think Compass will keep him on. If AEG and Adomah were subpar, as many said last week, then Green (building match fitness) and Elmo are about the only options to change things up there. Mings has been a good addition, don’t think Hause has really done any worse than Taylor, especially. Mings and Tuanzebe would be a formidable pairing, and then Jack in the middle. Think things would look different.

    Today the final ball has been lacking, but looks to me like a better showing than against Brentford.

  8. John, I get your point that it might not be overall any worse, but it isn’t any better by any useful measure on the pitch so why sack Bruce.

    Recruitment continues to be sub-standard apart from Mings. Nyland dropped and now Kalinic subbed.

    Sheffield and Norwich 4 up with no goals conceded.

    The only crumb of comfort is that they can’t get relegated this year.

  9. Paul,

    I think, to your point about the squad, Smith will be given a chance to recruit and rebuild. Could always be wrong, but still not a set Smith would’ve picked.

    Bruce had the same poor luck with Jack and Adomah when we were going good. Smith more a nod toward the future. But right now, you’re right, not going any better for us than it was.

  10. Paul Whiting
    Because we didn’t want him in the first place, & he was extremely annoying, & he was as good as he was going to be.

  11. Long time folks
    Has he retired jl if he has take that shower of s**te mascerading as villa footballers with him,Smith turning into a major disappointment making Hutton captain ,recalling Elmo then subbing green,no to mention a poor transfer window

  12. Heyo, JG.

    Don’t think Green really has 90mins in him at the moment. Seemed to be waning in influence.

    The rest of them? Better delivery and decision-making would’ve created better chances. But to JL’s point, this has been a stretch where there have been good chances that just haven’t been taken. Not a lot, but you’d like to see better with the ones we’ve had.

  13. Ian g
    This is worse than under Bruce because we didn’t expect any different from spud,from what I seen of smiths teams I liked,we started of fairly good under him but since grealish got injured it’s first class shtie, one player especially when it’s not ( Messi,ronaldo) doesn’t make a team,Smith hasn’t changed formation once our/his choice of fb (even after window ) is staggering, signs 1 injury prone midfielder crazy other sides were fit to get players in ,yet we spend millions on a keeper who frankly doesn’t look good,more money on French lad that won’t play to august this when we still had a chance to get up

  14. Thanks for the header again JC. Appreciated as always. Like you I wasn’t confident about today and so the fears were realised.

    The wheels have well and truly come off. Our spectacular form now seems a distant memory. We seem to be going backwards at the moment. Considering our state of affairs last June, maybe we should be grateful for mid table.

    But I must say that promotion is off the table this season. A big rebuild is needed. I’d start by rebuilding the midfield. We have Jack and McGinn and that’s about it. We need another 3 quality guys in there. McGinn picked up a booking so I believe he now gets a 2 match ban.

    As you said, it never rains….just pours.

  15. Why replace Bruce? I can think of a couple reasons. One we looked like we were going nowhere and someone lobbed a cabbage at him. Two the owners like to see attacking football.

    Why employ Smith? well certainly not for his promotion record, so that leaves his record in producing attacking sides and rebuilding clubs with young players. All on the owners wish list, along with they want to rebuild Villa the right way to be sustainable. That doesn’t mean Smith is not tasked with trying to get promotion this season if possible we’d be mad not to try.

    The problem we have as I see it is this is mostly Steve Bruces attempt at an attacking side not Smiths and it was done in a hurry. And of course this bunch haven’t fared well without Jack ever, I’m actually beginning to believe that SB actually meant it when he said he was building the side around Jack.

    Smith now has an idea of what he has for good or bad. So far Mings looks ok and from what I have heard Hause is looking the part now, shame about Carrols injury and shame about the other very decent targets we missed in the transfer window so I like the calibre of players looked at.

    We were unlikely to waste our powder in Jan when the summer heralds a massive overhaul either way, and the good old FFP spectre looms. Going up would afford better players staying down another bunch, at least Smith has an idea now if any are worth keeping and can go about a rebuild with certainty, the French RB is a start.

    If we somehow manage to go up would they sack him? maybe, if we don’t I think he gets to rebuild.

  16. I want Villa to win every game.
    I am a realist so I know they won’t.
    I can also see that they have a squad that simply isn’t good enough to get promoted. There are three players that are contracted to the club that might make it in the Premiership – Kalinic, Grealish and McGinn. The rest are near retirement or have found their level. I don’t want to see them walloped every week, it’s no fun.
    Smith has inherited a squad that is not fit for purpose, not one that is talented and under performing. It needs a MAJOR overhaul and that will take time.
    Today I thought Albion were better and deserved their win but Villa had no luck at all. Both Albion goals had a touch of luck about them. Yes, Robson-Kanu produced a neat flick header but that ball could only take one trajectory and end up in the net, which it duly did. I don’t care how tall Kalinic is, there was nothing he could do about it. The second took a wicked deflection off Elphick (I think) that imparted the perfect spin on the ball so that it unerringly followed the one path that would take it into the net. Holgate got away without a booking despite nearly taking Abraham’s head off before getting booked for a trip later – he should have been off. Sometimes it just isn’t your day.
    I like Smith’s ideas. I like what he wants to do. Give him time to do it and get off his and the players backs. He needs to build a squad that is capable of playing the way he wants because the current one isn’t.
    Oh and if Albion go up they will come straight back down for exactly the same reasons. They just happen to be a better Championship team at the moment.

  17. Hi, Steve…

    Well, I dunno. Today, bad luck more than anything. I don’t know that you can do much with a crocked Chester and Elphick. Losing Tuanzebe was obviously a big blow, but Mings is looking like he’ll be an able deputy.

    Then you still have Hutton and Taylor. I’m hoping Dean is seeing enough in Hause to keep Taylor on the bench.

    I’ll confess I’m a bit puzzled about Bree and De Laet…But seems like Smith thought Bree needs playing time elsewhere (not surprising since he’s seen precious little since we bought him), but De Laet I think is an upgrade on Hutton. Maybe it’s the fire Hutton brings. I don’t honestly know.

  18. MK,

    Good summary. I really do understand the frustration, atm. But, yeah, it’s not really a Smith team by any means, and we were all puzzled by what we’d accumulated (or not) prior.

    So, nothing to be all that happy with at the moment, but I still think the right set-up is in place. If Compass just see it through, we’ll probably end up with a cohesive attacking side at long last.

  19. Plug,

    Agreed. We looked the business there for a bit, but…Just don’t have the ability to get past a couple key absences. All teams have injuries—it’s a shame Jack’s have been so lengthy, Axel’s too.

    However, it was inevitable he was going to be out at some point given the thumping he takes week-in, week-out. Just wish it weren’t for so long.

  20. JG
    Better he plays proper football with intensity, on loan.He needs to go through a transition to be able to dominate a match, even in the Championship.
    They will be keeping a close eye on his progress.
    Probably better than the U23’s & an odd game in the first team.

  21. Pete, a really good summary.
    In Chester, Tuanzebe and Jack we’ve lost 3 of our 6 or 7 players who look capable of operating at a decent premiership level.

    I’ve not seen the game but from the various reports I’ve read it seems that we played ok again, Tammy missed a good chance again (that may have changed the course of the game), but ultimately justvfell short.

    We have some decent players in the squad (I’ve added Mings, Abraham and Chester to Pete’s list although now he’s been injured, Chester may be wishful thinking). Let’s hope that a few of the youngsters (Green, Ramsey, Doyle Hayes for example) deliver on the promise hat they’ve shown and Smith may have a core that he can build on.
    Of course that will become more difficult if Jack moves on, although the money will come in handy for the rebuild!

  22. Whilst we may not have many players who could compete at a decent premiership level, the squad Is good enough to compete at the top of the Championsh, but only with everyone fit.

    Let’s face it, our chances of play offs now look limited . . . 20%?

    Looking at it from an optimist’s perspective, once you’ve accepted that we will be in the Championship again next year, this gives Smith the perfect opportunity to start the rebuild early. Surely the introduction of Ramsey is an indication of this.

    Remove the weight of expectation of promotion and it gives us a chance to start imagining the team and club that smith and the owners are planning to build.

    Will he be able to do it in one season?

    Personally I doubt it, but I do believe that we’ll end up with the vibrant young side that we all would like to see.

    The advent of social media exposes young players far more to abuse than ever before so I just hope that they have the support to ride the waves of abuse that will inevitably come their way during this rebuilding phase.

  23. JG,

    It’s a funny one…We know Smith has worked with a lot of young, unheralded players, and creates good teams with what he has. Fast, furious, quick passing, all that. So, as opposed to Bruce, I tend to give him more credence when it comes to evaluating young players.

    When he doesn’t look toward Bree, or O’Hare, it just makes me wonder. I don’t know what it is they don’t bring that he wants.

    So, I guess sending younger players out loan makes sense. There’s just something that doesn’t tick the boxes for Dean.

  24. Jc
    Recalling Jedi,Elmo Taylor doesn’t fill me with confidence with Smith,Ramsay looked nice yesterday, if Smith was trying youth out and failing it wouldn’t be as bad as failing with what Bruce played

  25. Great leader again JC,

    Like you, I did not have a lot of faith in Villa yesterday, but hoped that we may manage a draw, and at least give a much better account of ourselves than we did at Brentford. We started reasonably ok, and had a couple of chances which should have brought better results, but once again not to be.

    Mings was impressive, and grows with each game, Hause also showed his potential, and will improve as the WD40 removes the rust! They also worked well together, and Elphick is also blending well with Mings. I am still totally unhappy with Kalinic, as he just does not really look comfortable, probably because he is used to far more protection in the past, which he will not get in the British game.

    Interesting that Elmo was picked to play on the wing, as I had suggested that he should play, but with Hutton in front of him instead. In fact the team in the second half was only really missing Bjarnason from my original suggestion, and we played better, and with more confidence, with Steer in goal.

    Sad that Hourihane substitution was greeted with cheers, will not exactly help his confidence levels, but he needs to understand the fans’ frustration with him, and his failure to step up to the mark. Whelan gives all that he can, but still lacks the speed and drive, and Green still not ready for 90 minutes, with Tammy starved of service, and too many poor crosses from Hutton, there was not much to cheer in the final third.
    The atrocious refereeing goes on, as has been mentioned before.
    I have serious doubts about our recruitment, especially with regard to goalkeepers, when you look at Nyland and Kalinic under this present board, and the money spent, when for an extra couple of million, we could have not only bought Johnstone, or similar, but a good young midfielder or winger.

    I watched Brentford v Swansea today, and you see the same problems that Villa are suffering, the football may be more exciting, but a well drilled side can tear them open on the break, and that is why Dean Smith may struggle to win anything above what he has already achieved. Teams are smarter, fitter and better trained today now. You need the quality of the top teams to be able to operate this type play successfully…!!!

  26. PP- I didn’t get to see the game but we are creating less and missing sitters now it seems which suggests confidence is low.
    The keeper situation may be a part of that, we have had several iterations of scouts and managers since we had Friedal so I can’t say why keepers look poor other than the obvious we defend as a unit poorly, just like Nyland,Kalenic looks poor then good from game to game.

    Brentford have always had the propensity to get well beaten every now and then as much as they thrash teams too, hopefully we can attract a better quality of players and Smith will have to learn on the job, that in my opinion was always the case for him coming to villa. If in the end he gives us a team and ethos that graft and can play thats improvement and a foundation to build on.

    Funnily in his time at Brentford they have sold their defenders over and over again along with mid-fielders for good money, he was a CB himself.

  27. roll on the summer and the clear out.

    Im not thinking of promotion this season or next.

    Lets just get the club right.

    I want to see the average age down, no silly money spent and a clear style of play.

  28. Heroes…

    I think you’ll see those things, one way or another. The thing that’s become clear is that even if we were to catch fire, go through the playoffs, Smith would be looking at a massive summer overhaul to give Villa a chance of staying up.

    Then it occurred to me that maybe staying up wouldn’t necessarily be the goal. The cash infusion would be the main thing. Clear up the books, go back down, have some financial breathing room and then keep working on the side for a long-term return.

    All sounds a bit complicated, but I can see where it might make sense.

    Otherwise, I think Smith will do exactly what you’d like to see.

  29. PP,

    Good summary. Agreed, didn’t think it was helpful to cheer Hourihane’s substitution. Brentford was poor, but we didn’t look bad against Albion. There was just no luck, and Villa weren’t clinical where they needed to be. Games like that turn on fine margins. Not saying Hourihane is shining at the moment, but…

    Like you, I think Mings is looking the part, and Hause didn’t do badly at all.

  30. Apparently Charlie Nicholas made similar comments about Villa’s defence and Kalinic, and their lack of confidence in him.

    Interesting facts on one of the blog sites that in the last nine years, Villa have had 9 managers, signed over 73 players and spent £220 million on them. No wonder we have been in such a horrendous mess.

  31. Disappointed to find out that we have no option to buy with Mings loan deal.

    On our wonderful goalkeeper recruitment, Moirera has been beaten 11 times already on his return to Portugal…..

  32. wide reports in twitter world of a bit of a split in the camp.

    Smith had them in training sunday and they wasn’t happy but the youth love it thinking they have a chance now.

    smith also makes them come in 4 hours before matches at vp for food and tactics.

  33. The turning point of Villa’s problems as well as a number of other clubs to varying degrees was the purchase of Manchester City, a mediocre club 13 years ago give or take. The influx of money into one club flipped the Apple cart into the ditch. Few clubs could match the infusion of over £1,000,000,000 in such short order. Lerner as we all know caved as more wealthy clubs gave chance. So did a lot of other owners. And really who could blame them. Owners started to change almost as quickly as managers do now. Stability has been lost. Clubs play not to fail instead of playing to win. Having a club with a star player is an anomaly now with most fans resigned to the fact that the star will be plucked. The same goes for youth, show potential and you will move on with no guarantee of playing in any meaningful games regardless of the league. Injuries are catastrophic now with teams left rudderless for what could be weeks at a time. Finances has created teams with no depth and a quick decent in the table can be inevitable.
    Playing to keep the status quo is now the norm. Make any ripples regarding a move to the top of the league is met with waves of impatience from the fans resulting in a toxic environment if their team falters. Factors beyond any contingency plan can ruin a team and fans won’t stand for it and want a head on a plate as an offering.
    The footballing system is broken and won’t be fixed as long as the top six are treated as untouchables with untold riches and a plundering mentality.
    Leister won the league a few years back. They didn’t call it a fairytale season for no reason.

  34. Ian, Football is well and truly broken now. The powers that be have let this situation materialise and the rich clubs have been ring fenced so that other clubs can’t touch them. They should change the system to that employed by the NHL where the highest paid players are traded and the new upcoming talent is spread amongst all competing teams. So it becomes difficult to predict the Stanley Cup winner each year and the fans interest in all clubs is maintained. But such a move ain’t going to happen in football because the greedy noses in the troughs won’t permit it. And football is the loser.

  35. Andrew, I think the older players have become far too comfortable. Bring on the summer clear out and let’s see some youth and enthusiasm next season.

    JC, I’m not in the cheering Hourihane’s subbing camp either. The guy does his best, has an off day and get’s hooked for the teams benefit. Standard stuff and having a go at him on the day is not called for. I’m happy to debate his effectiveness or otherwise in these pages but inside VP I only shout support. I have been known to give abuse to some opposition players though but that is called home advantage. Gobby Cabbage always got a broadside from my direction.

  36. Plug, the NHL has a spending cap around $80,000,000 for salaries and this keeps things fairly competitive. They also have a minimum cap on salaries So as Steve Miller sang, “Take the money and run” can’t happen either.
    Every year there is a draft for up and coming talent. Young players are evaluated over their last season or two in junior hockey and European leagues and are given a ranking for their draft year. There is a lottery amongst the NHL clubs for first pick in the draft which is weighted in favour of the poorer performers in the previous year. It takes a team two to three years at the least to develop into a contender for the cup. And still some teams fail in this pursuit.
    The biggest differences are the lack of promotion and relegation like football and a minor league affiliate owned by the NHL clubs. Without relegation the fear of losing financial security doesn’t exist while you rebuild and having an affiliate gives teams the chance to develop players in a highly competitive league and have a source of almost ready for the big time to draw on in case of injury or lack of performance of players on the big team.

  37. The set-up in the NFL is also designed to prevent dynasties. Which is why the Patriots have really accomplished something.

    The worse you do the previous year, the higher your draft pick. The better you do, the harder your schedule the next year (playing against more playoff teams, etc.). Salary cap, like in the NHL, being the great leveler. Free agency forces the issue with the cap.

    Lots of things that can’t be implemented in football, but the salary cap could be quite easily. You just have to want it, which the powers that be obviously don’t.

  38. Jc—no kidding. All FFP does is penalize the teams with limited income.
    I’m not a Patriots fan. They stretch the rules, don’t play fair, well, cheat.

  39. We’re currently fragmented as as team, but still within some stability of purpose & direction, & still capable of upsets.
    I think the VP toxicity needs to do one.
    The problem is that like all clubs we have some right nutters, but it’s still villa park.
    I think we need to expand the energy to envelop the toxicity, rather than be authoritarian.
    It would benefit the players & give them something to express maybe.
    Using fear as a vehicle obviously doesn’t work anywhere.

  40. Ian- I like the idea of a cap on expenditure it would be the only way of levelling things up effectively. The Problem England has is there are way to many clubs for some to not go pop at some point chasing the money hence FFP, get rid and lets cull the herd 🙂

    IanG- potential to cull the nutters maybe? the merry-go round of managers will continue if people don’t reel it in a little and be a bit more realistic.

  41. I know this guy who works in a supermarket, & we usually have a chat about the current Villa stuff.
    He said that he is now quite relaxed about where we are, & as we are unlikely to get promoted, he just wants to enjoy the football with now.
    He is looking forward to next season & the rebuild with some enthusiasm.

    I agree with a large part of this as the alternative seems to be self harm presently.

  42. IanG- Might as well enjoy it for what it is as next season it will be a completely different bunch/team and no doubt its not going to be a 100% smooth ride either. Carry on as we are at present and it may not be Smith in charge, we are just making the task harder.

  43. IanG- There would be from me mate but I’m amazed how many are knocking the bloke for anything from Tactics to a poor transfer window and Carrols injury. This really is the age of angry people with unrealistic expectations. I’m looking forward to what he brings in this summer, it will be a massive clearout long needed.

  44. Mark
    Yes we’ve bought loads of players, sold all the one’s worth anything, & tried to do it on loans, & now we’re full of players we can’t give away.
    I hope they don’t sabotage the rebuild.
    That’s the doc for you, but the new owners have been reasonably positive in doing what has to be done, as the bent FFP won’t let them speed it up, but they appear to know how it works, which is an enormous change in my view.

    It’s pointless having a go at the players, as they need encouragement & support, & as the pack of cards has finally come into the light & half fallen down, I see encouraging signs from the owners & management of forward thinking, & actually having a practical workable plan, & the means to carry it out.

    We also don’t need to go too far down the road of giving them away either, as no one gave them to us, we paid top dollar.

  45. Iang- yes mate I think owners are of a different level so I’m not worried. Dean Smith also seems to bare up well under stress, he’s always said he try’s to stay on an even keel it’s even part of his football philosophy. A calm reaction to overreaction from him this week, others have got visibly angry or shrank and hastened their departure, it bodes well I hope.

  46. Well said IanG. My thoughts too.

    The state of our midfield for the Stoke game is looking threadbare. Hope DS can pull a rabbit out of the hat.

  47. Off to Oxford to watch the rugby and a band today so will be listening if poss to the game. Can’t see how smith can play the same formation unless green plays in mcginn’s spot and elghazi comes in? 442 looks likely with hourihane left green right and Thor and wheelan central, not expecting a great game as Stoke are pants too.

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