It’s been a surreal couple of months, where everything and nothing have changed. The range of experiences individuals will have had…there’s no summing it up. For some, life largely as usual. For others, complete disruption and worse.

So, football’s been just about the last thing on my mind, to be honest. And it feels very strange to be coming back to the keyboard to write about a resumption of sporting hostilities when so much else has been going on.

But here we are. In just eight days (at the time of writing), Villa will trot onto the pitch at an empty Villa Park and play the game in hand with Sheffield United. We all know how it works: Win, and we’re out of the bottom three.

Obviously a massive game. Getting clear, even if momentarily, could mean everything if there’s another suspension in play. Getting clear of the drop zone from the restart with arguably one of the more winnable matches we have left is perhaps the only realistic way of staying up should all the games be played without interruption. I know, Sheffield are no pushovers, and they’re playing for Europe. But we at least know them, and what we should be doing differently.

You could point to Wolves, maybe. Newcastle, Crystal Palace, and Everton a bit more confidently. West Ham, but final day, which could either decide everything or come too late.

Chelsea, Liverpool, United, Arsenal? Well, you never know and we won’t know what they have to play for given they’ll be three games in, and we assume Liverpool will have clenched the title by the time we visit an empty Anfield.

Just as obviously, there are so many variables in this resumption that it almost defies analysis. This will not be a continuation of the season in any meaningful sense beyond it involving a football, 11 a side on the pitch at a time, and most of the established rules of the game intact. And, naturally, Villa’s position in the table and the remaining fixtures are unchanged.

What we’ll get is anyone’s guess. We had the friendly with the baggies and Gareth Barry saying Jack was class. McGinn got 30 minutes in, scored two, conceded two. There might be some other details out there, but that’s what I stumbled across. Sounds like we’ll do another session with Leicester (if we haven’t already by the time this goes up), which would be a good test.

Sheffield Utd? No idea whether the layoff will affect their tenacious style of play more than it has our approach. Which is probably the most pertinent aspect. No idea what set pieces will be like, how anxious players will be to get to grips with each other. I’ve not watched any of the Bundesliga matches for insight. Again, could be a double-edged sword. If players are not crowding and fighting as usual, does it help or hurt us? Since things weren’t brilliant in that department for Villa before the suspension, hard to say. But I doubt the layoff will have improved our defending.

That said, with a thin squad, I’m hoping the time away has allowed any niggling injuries to heal that might’ve played any part in said defending. Guilbert’s knee comes to mind, but I’m sure there were others. McGinn clearly will have benefitted the most. I know he’d have wanted to come back as soon as possible, but psychologically, he’s got to be feeling better about the ankle than he would’ve four or six weeks ago.

And really, while there are all of these variables for Villa and the game in general, SJM is probably the one that could save us. If he contributes anywhere near what he did when fresh and flying (all in relative terms, of course), he could improve the midfield dramatically. He takes pressure off Jack and the defense by being able to carry the ball (and fight for it), and create a little more space for him. But he’s also been out a very long time.

Keinan Davies could also be an important wild card if and when Smith were to change things up. Can’t say he’d go 4-4-2 other than late on and chasing a result, but since he’s had time to think, there are worse ideas than giving Samatta a strong link-up man to play with. And I wouldn’t mind seeing Nyland between the sticks, to be honest.

As far as the thin squad goes and the increased number of subs that seemingly will be allowed, Smith has had Louie Barry and Aaron Ramsey training with the first team, as well as Tyreik Wright, Mungo Bridge, Jack Clarke, and Kaine Kesler. No idea whether we’ll see any of them, but I can’t say we won’t need to try and wring a few minutes out of one or two.

And to state more of the obvious, the fitness curve will be all-important as it’ll improve as the games go on…along with fatigue. My head tells me that players will be easing into things, and managers eyeing strains and energy levels given the crowding of fixtures. I can see Smith wanting to go all-out against The Blades, but while the heart may be willing, we just don’t know who’ll have the better legs and risk-taking mentality. By the time we get to Crystal Palace and Everton, you’d think we’ll be closer to full speed. Could also be knackered. Same for everyone? In principle, yes.

Anyway, that’s me easing back into football. God only knows, and fingers crossed that the unprecedented situation somehow works to Villa’s advantage.

Over to you.

Comments 139

  1. Thanks JC, I was beginning to wonder if you had caught something, been out looting or been looted. What a s**t show 2020 has been so far. Stalwart? think I need to find a hobby 🙂

    As you pointed out if SJM is anywhere as good it just might open up for us. Marvellous will have less pressure, Samatta the odd ball to chase plus early crosses plus his own Goal threat, giving Jack more space too.

    Defensively? I’d take as good as we were early on with Mings and Engels, Reiner back fit (calf strain). Fred will be uninjured and Targett hopefully adding those forward runs too, could prove very dynamic or a disaster.

    Can’t wait to find out

  2. Hello JC. I don’t think we’re in a position to ease back into the season due to the reasons you state. We need to come out of the traps like a hare with its backside on fire.

  3. This time next week we will be up and running, running hopefully,think smith needs to take a leaf out Atkinson book throw young lad vasselv in from start,no reina in goals for me too casual,solid back 4 with safety first at all times,midfield nothing apart mcginn being fit to feel confident about
    Nyland Freddie target engels mings,marvellous Douglas mcginn jack samatta and vasselv

  4. JG- Hello mate, I think we could see Conor on the left and Mcginn on the right, hopefully marv in the middle. Can’t see vasillev starting but wouldn’t mind, think it will be Ghazi myself. Also would be surprised if Reina’s dropped not particularly on merit from the last few games just think he’ll start. If conor plays then it resurrects that Conor , Jack and Targett triangle that worked for a while but now with Samatta in the middle.

  5. MK,

    Yeah, it’s been a run these last few weeks at work. I don’t know what all these articles have been on about with what to do when you’re at home. Things have been busier than ever. And no time for looting. Don’t know what I’d try and pick up anyway. Got a nice TV, phone…Guess I lack imagination.

  6. Think you’re right, Plug. Not much choice but to treat it like a cup final—one we could conceivably win. Then park the bus against Chelsea, rest a little, play for a point. Then go full-bore (whatever that is in a couple weeks) against Newcastle. They’re not mathematically out of the woods, but I’d like to think we’d have more motivation.

  7. Can’t wait for Wednesday

    I think we will be much better behind closed doors. Some players like Ghaizi and Trez will perform better I believe

    Smith won’t change 433. We will start again with that. I don’t like it and would like to see Davis and Sammata

    Beating Lcfc 3-0 was a decent win.

  8. We will see some crazy goals as wlel behind closed doors, like Jack’s against WBA

    If we perform like we did against Southampton and Bournemouth though we wjll go down. Down forget how bad we have been so far

  9. Frem,

    I’ll be a bundle of nerves, I can tell you that.

    Like you, I’m hoping the lack of supporters frees the players up. Luiz and Nakamba might enjoy themselves more.

  10. Davis looking sharp with a goal against wba and back heel assist for trez goal.

    I really like him. He batters defenders and holds a ball up. He’s someone who will actually keep possession which we struggle to do most the time

  11. If there is one thing this lockdown has reminded me of its that it is possible to get drunk, sober up and then get drunk again during the same day and that day does not have to be on a pre season tour with a miserable accountant.

  12. Frem,

    I suspected it was Davis, good to know. I like him, too. I think he’d be a regular if he could just stay fit. He’s had terrible luck, and I wonder whether that stretch where he played so much during Bruce’s injury crisis plays into it.

    He’s the reason I wonder about trying 4-4-2. Even if it’s just earlier in matches, not starting out.

    I’ll say that I don’t expect Dean to change his approach. But. He has had time to think, consult away from the fray and weekly pressures. And if they’ve all had more ‘one-on-one’ time, lots of video review, etc., maybe he’s had a chance to suss things out, make some changes, get players focusing on certain things that will make a difference.

  13. Hi guys, I also rate Kenian. Would love to see him start with Samatta up top. Jack, McGinn, Marvelous and El Ghazi in midfield. I pray that Reina will not start.

    Dean Smith said he has learned from mistakes this season and we’ll be much improved. Let’s hope so. Let’s get some boring 1-0 wins

  14. The new rule on subs is great: 9 subs, can bring 5 on, but only allowed to sub at 3 times. My team and subs for Sheff U

    Steer (If he’s fully fit), otherwise Nyland
    Guilbert – Mings – Konsa – Targett
    El G, SJM, Nakamba, Jack
    Keinan, Samatta

    Drinkwater – read he has gotten super fit and has been screaming in friendlies, so he may start over Nakamba
    El Mo

  15. Good to see you again, VillaMD.

    I do think Dean is self-reflective and less inflexible than some might suppose. He owns up to things and has only criticized subpar effort. Seen it much the way we have.

    The hardest thing about being a manager/coach in any sport is knowing how long to persist with something. It can feel like things are just about to click, but they don’t. Or they did, and then they stopped.

  16. JC- yeah I’m hoping that the break came in time for Smith as it was all snowballing and thats hard to stop with a tactic, especially with a restless crowd on your back.

    People had lost faith in him which I think was harsh in the circumstances and with what he had achieved so quickly. Also his dad past away at 79 the end of May, contracted Covid in his care home, he had Dementia. Would love to see it all come together as I think if we stay up next season it will be a different scenario having laid the foundations. For once it won’t be all change.

    VillaMD, I hope Drinkwater has got fit what a bonus that would be with Mcginn back.

  17. John McGinn on the break, very honest and not really a surprise.

    “I honestly think the break has been good for us mentally,” he said.

    “I played with Douglas Luiz for the first half of the season before I got injured and he genuinely couldn’t understand a word I said.

    “I don’t know if he spent the lockdown with his tutor online but fair play to him because it helps so much when he can understand ‘man on!’

    “I don’t think they know what ‘man on’ is in Brazil.”

    Villa signed 12 players in the summer and McGinn has admitted that the high volume of arrivals meant it was a difficult transition from the squad that won promotion from the Championship.

    He added: “There were a lot of players all from different leagues and countries kind of flung together and because of the money that was spent, people just expected us to gel instantly.

    “But it really doesn’t work like that, especially in a league where you get punished for making mistakes.

    “The break has been good for us. It has made us appreciate the situation we are in and we have 10 games now to get ourselves out of it.”

  18. The more I think about it the more I convince myself that the break in the premiership has actually benefited Villa. I think we have struggled with the pace and our momentum was undoubtedly negative before the break. I think the run in is tailor made for football teams rather than athletic teams . I like Dean Smith and I hope the pause button effect has given him the time to reflect and address the basic issues which I think we will see us over the line. Finally, I’m looking forward to the last 10 games and the opportunity to prove ourselves worthy of the premiership.

  19. Prox- Dean Smith said we had to many training ground players that looked good until the real match, hopefully the lack of crowd benefits us somehow.

  20. Hi JC and MK,

    Yeah, hopefully DS has the players all fired up. The break can only have done us good, based on so many new players, overseas players, and also our 1st season back in epl. We were going down without the break. Hard to believe it has been 3 months! I also agree that behind closed doors will benefit our foreign players, as the crowd intimidation will be gone.

    By this time next week we’ll have a much better idea. Hopefully we’re not drowning our sorrows in beer!

  21. It will require real leadership to keep us up. Who will that be:

    JT needs to step up from the sidlines.

    Mings needs to cut out day dreaming and concentrate for 90mins as he will play every minute of all 10 games and is by far our best defender

    Drinkwater needs to really step up. We’ve given him another chance to resurrect his career after Burnley loan. Keep us up Danny and lead from defensive midfield.

    Other leaders we have that Im confident will step up, Jack, SJM, and a young lad but I think he’s a leader is Kenian and should be starting.

    Others – Conor goes quiet, El Ghazi?

  22. We are almost there!!
    Cannot believe how we have coped and got on with life with very little fuss since that fateful weekend when everything changed. Chelsea footballers falling sick with covid 19, and the cancelling of the fixture on March 13th. I was already in Birmingham and about to check in at the Premier Inn in West Bromwich!
    Here I am now three months on with a lovely garden with potatoes, runner beans and other vegetables beginning to appear, on top of weed free flower beds! Football is returning just in time to provide fresh entertainment!!

    Hope that all goes well tomorrow and we can gain three points and climb out of the bottom three.
    I think an awful lot will depend on McGinn and Grealish being able to find there magic together once again.

  23. Good to see you as well, PP.

    Glad you’ve got the garden in good shape.

    Agreed, those two clicking will be huge. I’m hoping they just get each other. Seemed like they had a pretty intuitive understanding.

    Question for me is that I know SJM will be raring to go, but it’s been far longer for him than the others since he’s been match fit. Dunno how many minutes he’ll have in him.

  24. VillaMD,

    Drinkwater? I’ve read he’s gotten into much better shape. I hope it was that rather than just being finished that was making him a liability. I’m assuming that the need to rotate and get everyone up to speed will give him chances he might not have gotten otherwise. Which means, yes, we’ll probably need him at some point.

  25. Well it’s on the wireless, not that it will interest the upwardly mobile round here.
    We all seem to be in broad agreement that it could work out fine or go tits up.
    I will be listening to the match in my extended bubble, so I hope it doesn’t affect the reception.

  26. I’ve not the faintest idea what the team will be beyond the usual suspects.
    It’s like the start of the weirdest season.
    JG – If it’s a 10 game cup competition, it’s the final tonight.

  27. Football is back. Let’s be honest, the break did us a massive favour. A time for reflection. And a time to regroup.

    Delighted that we are the first game of the new mini-season

    We simply have to win tonight. It will be a huge psychological lift if we climb out of the bottom three.

    Having John McGinn back is MASSIVE. It will make an incredible difference to our midfield. He brings drive, determination, passion and quality.

    And Super Jack will bring the class we need in the final third. He will relish that the whole football world will be tuning in to the first game. In my opinion, he is the best player in the Premier League.

    I am looking forward to seeing Samatta and Davis upfront. Two contrasting forwards.

    And even Drinkwater looks ripped. He could forge a solid relationship with John McGinn and Marvelous in midfield.

    Hopefully, we can start the next 10 games as we did at the start of the season in August. We had quality going forward. We just need to learn from our defensive errors and take advantage of winning positions.

    Looking forward to three points.


  28. And good to see you again, as well, RichardS.

    I like to think having this pause certainly won’t have done any harm. The worst thing about bad runs and results is that you get in a downward spiral mentally, and it can be almost impossible to pull out of that, whatever quality you do or don’t have. You get enough time to regroup, distance yourself from it, maybe you lose some of the fear and just get to grips with putting things right.

    And I do think that while supporters can urge you on, in Villa’s case, the lack of supporters might well free them up to just play.

    As we’ve read in other comments, players excelling on the training ground and failing to hit that level in matches: That’s the sort of thing that might be different. You don’t have quite the same fear of making a mistake when no one’s watching.

    Then things like apparent language issues, certain cliques that develop and breaking those up, Smith talking about getting very black-and-white in his thinking/approach…Fingers crossed.

  29. JG,

    I was looking and thought, well, if we’re making a lot of subs, I see Nakamba coming in for Luiz, Guilbert at RB, Samatta, etc. But then I saw no Guilbert on the bench.

    So, god only knows.

  30. Hi folks Ready for a huge win after a speedy return from work. Not the expected lineup but hey a very attacking side. Engles has a knock no idea about Gilbert.

  31. JG,

    I’d think fitness, subs come into it. Davies may be there to wear down defenders, let Samatta’s pace, etc., get at them in the second half.

    Smith might also have figured the hold-up aspect from Davies could be important in getting a settled start, possession, etc.

    Again, who knows.

  32. Yeah, they’re asking about VAR…Guess it’s there, but Oliver pointed to goal-line. Excellent malfunction, would’ve been a terrible way to concede.

  33. So, started well enough, United with the upper hand after the water break. Very curious to see the changes now, etc. SJM got more involved as the half wore on, Grealish didn’t see enough of the ball (looks a bit rusty).

  34. Samatta and Trezeguet coming on…Shame, we probably deserve to be up one or two based on the chances created, even accounting for the goal-line dispute.

  35. See Smith hasn’t learnt anything

    Same s**t. Same s**t system. No creativity

    Sticks Jack out wide. Twat

    We are going down

  36. JC
    You are more easily pleased than me,,probably our easiest game and we should have lost it,Smith’s team selection his subs really poor again

  37. We looked, solid

    We should have scored in the second half

    UTD didn’t anything against us in the second half.

    However, considering we have 10 cup finals to save our status we lacked intensity and desire to win the match.

    We need to get into gear soon.

    Do we have Chelsea this weekend?

  38. JG,

    Dunno. Don’t think it’s our easiest game, but I do think on the chances created, we should’ve won. Couple very good saves for Utd, and nothing dangerous for us apart from Nyland running into Davies.

    I wanted three points as much as anyone, but Sheffield don’t concede a lot, you could see the rust, and we at least kept a clean sheet and had long stretches of the game. With Hause at RB, even.

    And after 14 weeks off, the inability to really train a team the way you would over a summer, I can’t see Dean going and changing a lot. We could play 4-4-2, but no one to bring on after those two tire. You could see Grealish, who probably has to be our fittest player, fading down the stretch. Not easy from a managerial standpoint.

  39. Frem,

    We did create the chances in the game. Good saves, Davies not getting in on the end of a perfect cross…Don’t think those are formational problems.

    Like I just said to JG, it’s all different when you figure players probably have only 60mins fitness, max. Given the number of subs allowed, but our relative lack of depth, that’s tricky to manage.

  40. John, very few good chances. 1 or 2. It was the same before lock down, in games we were lucky to create a couple of chances in matches

    I don’t get why Smith insists on playing Jack wide. Absolute waste. At leat move him in the middle with 30 mins left and get Jota and trez wide

    Unpopular opinion also, Jota is our best winger. He can create things unlike trez and ghazi who are by the the worst wingers in this league. I wouldn’t even want them in the champ if we go down

    Sammatta is useless on his own. Why not go 442 with Davis .

    Smith drives me insane. He’s a championship manager

    We should have made a change in this lock down

  41. Hope everyone is well!

    Will never get a better chance to beat SU but they don’t concede many goals or lose many games. All of their chances came from the usual kamikaze defending, which is why we’re in 19th.

    Plenty of better sides than SU lie ahead. No bounce back from McGinn as he just isn’t match fit.

  42. Ian g
    Hi mate it wasnt bad it was more annoying, we had great chance to get 3 points but smith bottled it,from is right same old same old trez for elgazi ,conor prancing about ,we had jota and vasselv on bench something different, last 20 mins I dont think we had a shot

  43. It was frustrating. 3 points was vital today. It would have taken us out of the bottom 3. Premier League survival has now been taken out of our hands.

    You can understand why all of the Premier League predictors see us getting relegated

    And we have Chelsea on Sunday so we really have a challenge on our hands. It is vital we obtain points from our home games.

    We just don’t have enough quality In the side to remain in this division. Which is incredibly unfortunate given then amount of investment in the team in the summer. Buying potential will be our downfall.

    Hopefully McGinn get find his fitness soon.

    Move Jack back into the middle.

    Maybe play two up front.

    We need to try something different on Sunday. 1 or 2 points return from the first 6 points is not going to be enough.

    Oh well. We go again on Sunday.

  44. Frem,

    I had four decent-to-good chances, maybe five: Davies’ header, Davies’ (saved), Ghazi’s cross Davies didn’t get onto (probably the best move of the game), McGinn’s shot (saved), and there was another straight at the keeper from close range. I really thought Davies’ shot was going in.

    Anyway, none of them did, but we looked far more like scoring than Sheffield. Vintage? No, was never going to be. Enough to win a match? Should’ve been.

  45. John yes he’s slow but he can thread a pass unlike Ghazi and trez. Those 2 can’t do anything

    Why can’t we move the ball anywhere as quickly as Man City can in the final 3rd? It’s depressing how slow we move the ball and our link play is

    Look at KDB in the centre pulling strings. You don’t see him out wide

  46. RichardS,

    It was very frustrating. The game was a bit ragged, as you’d expect, but was there for the winning. We didn’t take the chances. The encouraging thing was that it was there for the winning.

    Did I see enough to save us? Can’t say I did. Can’t say I didn’t. Don’t know that it will come down to the last day, could be decided well before then, but there’s us and then the rest around us.

  47. John –

    I am resigned to relegation. Which is a shame. The team has my full support until the end of the season.

    Today was just another typical Villa performance, had some decent chances but just didn’t have the quality to take them.

    I just hope that we go for a win against Chelsea. Treat it like a cup final. Give it everything that we have. Try and put them under pressure. Throw two forwards on for the last 20 minutes.


  48. JC
    Yes we had chances but have you any confidence in davies to score,his last chance you hit it down or up not waist high,would have back samatta to score one of them

  49. Well, I think their goalie was by far the best and busiest player. We need to practice corners. Never felt confident of scoring from one. I dont understand why Jack played so deep at times. At times he played DM, with 5 or 6 Villa players ahead of him. Madness! If we only play one striker, then Jack needs to be in the hole behind Davis or Samatta.

    Selection of subs was really poor. Is our squad really this limited

  50. Still annoys the hell out of me that Smith didn’t change system at any point

    Why keep the same formation if it hasn’t worked after 60 mins, change it

    Or at least put jack in the middle at some point

    Smith will relegate us. Isn’t tactically good enough

  51. Frem, the chance to remove Smith was lost before Christmas. Having said that, there was never any credible plan when you need 10-12 new players and are constrained by FFP

  52. RichardS,

    Not sure what we’ll see with Chelsea…No idea how much the game took out of players. Luiz looked very fit, Jack tired, by the end. Wonder how McGinn feels after logging 60-some mins. He looked like he was starting to get the feel of things again, though, as the game wore on.

    I’m not resigned yet, even though relegation is the most likely outcome. It’s still too tight, and you never know.

  53. JG,

    Davies’ conversion rate is not good, agreed. Shame, since he does most everything else right. That said, I think that was his first start in roughly two years. Obviously wish one had gone in for his confidence (and the three points).

    Think the chance where we missed Samatta the most was the cross Davies didn’t get to.

  54. VillaMD,

    Well, we all know the squad by now…It’s not deep.

    Jack ends up dropping further back on his own, I think. He’s just looking for the ball. Also tends to happen more later in games. He covers a fair amount of ground, and fatigue starts to factor in. So seems to me he holds his defensive responsibilities and tries to kick-start counters, not get caught upfield and unable to track back.

  55. Not a good start, but not a terrible one either.
    I agree with Frem that Smith lacks any tactical ability, and we lack a real leader on the pitch to get a grip of the game.
    I thought Hourihane showed some good touches and determination. Jack and John M were very quiet, but then that was to be expected of McGinn, after his injury, and if he had been up to speed, I am sure he would have placed his chance better and scored.
    Anyway we came through it unscathed, and live to fight another day.
    I also feel that Mings should definitely have had a penalty shout, and maybe El Ghazi.

  56. Worth a look at the stats in fantasy league, all the top point scorers were defenders or keepers in our game. Henderson got the 3 bonus points as man of the match and made 6 saves to Nylands 1. They didn’t really trouble us, as PW said we do that ourselves.

    On balance we should of won sheff goal or not, probably our best performance against Sheff utd to date but you could see both teams were not at the races and I suppose having no crowd made that all the harder.

    I think Samatta would of converted a couple of those chances but then again Davis creates his own chances which I haven’t seen from Samatta who in his time on the pitch didn’t get a sniff, maybe as the team changed so much? Then again he has not had many this season anyway.

    Frem- Jota is to one footed, he has to come inside and the prem defenders have his number, if he plays on the RW then they show him the outside and he hasn’t got the pace to get past them. Maybe behind Samatta would work but he is very lightweight.

    Debruyne has played on the right side of midfield and even the wing until city began to wobble and pep put him behind the striker more or less, he is probably the best midfielder in the league though and playing for city, not really the same for Jack. Any way the idea is Jack comes inside and conor floats wide, he’s not stuck there.

    As for Smith has no tactical ability? I think he built a team with a specific style in mind and got two players for every position more or less. He didn’t buy players to change things up, probably couldn’t even if he wanted to. £ 140m is nothing for this league.

    Still one game under the belt lets hope we catch Chelsea on the hop.

  57. We were very lucky. It makes up for the goal we had wiped out at Crystal Palace. But despite the Blades not threatening much, we still managed to drop a gooley and hand them the points when House ran into Nyland and pushed him in the net, only to get away with it.

    It’s clear home advantage counts for nothing between now and the completion of fixtures. That’s our bad luck with some many home games to go. We need 5 in the middle against Chelsea. Maybe 3 at the back and 2 up front. Deano needs to set up differently against the better teams.

  58. I understand we couldn’t do much with the money we had compared the amount of players needed, but we should have done better than yLTrez and Ghazi. What did they cost combined, 18 million? And they are useless. We all knew Ghazi wasn’t even good in the championship so why buy him. There are better wingers in the champ and league 1 than those 2

  59. Frem- unfortunately we needed numbers, we would not of got Bowen or Benrahma for what we paid for both those wingers, at least we knew ElGhazi and he has just turned 24.

    Shame Wesley got injured he was starting to look decent in the three at the back system. If his injury doesn’t bugger him up I think he will be ok. Remember Mahrez at Leicester vs his 1st city season? he was awful at city then this season he has improved or settled in. Its very easy to say we have bought 12 duffers but it won’t happen overnight.

  60. Ghazi *can* be a very good player. Fast, direct, strong.

    He can also completely go missing, and doesn’t always show on the defensive side. The inconsistency is maddening, and he hasn’t quite come to grips with the PL level overall.

    But. Even when he’s off, he often delivers at least one excellent ball into the box. If Davis had connected, that run and pass alone would’ve justified his inclusion.

    But I do understand the frustration. I feel it much more with Trez, myself.

  61. JG,

    Will have to watch again, see where he started/how he followed the break. It was quick, Jack’s pass covered a fair amount of ground.

    The lack of scoring from the second bank has been disappointing. My guess would be that they’ve not committed as much as they could for fear of exposing the back line. But that’s something Dean would’ve been counting on.

    I’d like to just see more shots overall, give us a chance to pick up scraps and blocks in the second phase. Luiz has a good leg, would like to see him go for goal more often, for example. Hourihane and McGinn are less shy. An in-form SJM would’ve had a very good likelihood of placing his shot where the keeper couldn’t reach it.

  62. Roy Keene making some salient points about our performance against Sheffield UTD

    And I agree

    If we have 9 games – 9 cup finals to save our status. We need to go for it in every match.

    We have to try and win every game. Draws are not good enough.

    Throw caution to the wind

    Play with two forwards for the last 20 mins (at least) and do our upmost to win games – score goals.

    Starting against Chelsea on Sunday

  63. RichardS- You have to see the irony in a team being told to go for it one game in, considering they are there because they went for it over being defensive from the start.

    I’m not going to place blame for that game, yes its urgent but its also 100 days without a competitive match, that quite likely was going for it. Even Sheffields usually high work rate was missing allowing us to keep the ball quite easily.

    Keene also had a go at Jack laughing on the pitch, he didn’t mention the umpteen times his shins were kicked, surprised he was smiling and not crying.

  64. Mark – i see your perspective.

    I call it game management. And we are, where we are.

    In the bottom three fighting for survival.

    We looked satisfied with a point. And a point per game isn’t going to be enough.

    And when you look at our remaining fixtures it is going to be extremely difficult to secure wins.

    27 points left to play for and we probably need 14 to be safe. And if you look at our points per game this season it is beginning to look like mission impossible.


  65. Brentford and Fulham both play better football than us, a year after being promoted

    This Smith ball is a myth. Even last season we didn’t ever really play good, flowing mobile football. I don’t know what our style is. It’s slow and predictible

    Watch tomorrow. How long our centre backs take on the ball. Look how slow our midfield take on the ball. They always take 2 or 3 more touches than needed. By the time we get the ball the opposition are back in shape and we don’t have good enough players to break through them

    Smith drives me mad and for me if he wasn’t a Villa fan, fans would have sacked him in December

  66. RichardS- when I saw the line up I thought thats an attacking midfield but also that the team was made up of those deemed fittest perhaps.

    Yep we are bottom three but still only 4 points off 15th, in truth I thought we could easily be down by now because of the enormity of the task pre-season. As it is we have got this far and could of been 4-5 points better, it is what it is.

    Frem- If smith balls a myth why did Walsall play attractive football? which then got him the job at Brentford who’s owner wanted entertaining attacking football and didn’t like Warburtons approach.

    Brentford have a great system for finding talent, better than most clubs I’d say. When Smith was there he spent £16m in three seasons and made the club £58 m which they built a new stadium with. Basically he had his hands tied. The new Manager (chosen by Smith to develop) has Raised £36m and spent £28.5m this season alone, I guess Brentford are on the next step of their evolution. Smith wasn’t sacked he left that says a lot.

    You have to get your head around that he came to a club in crisis, he didn’t rack up to the finished article and take the plaudits, he clearly changed the way we play to get promoted but he had a team that had been together a while, this season its all change in a new league, it takes time to produce a team usually. Producing one out of the hat in the prem, never been done yet here we are with a chance.

    You might think it could have been so much better and Smith probably does too. He certainly didn’t get all his targets, probably not even half, Villa were in the deep do do mate it takes time.

    I think if we had got Tammy we wouldn’t be having this conversation but that was always unlikely.

  67. Frem,

    I worry about DS tactics as well. With the exception of a few good games he seems clueless when things go wrong. We should have payed the extra money for Wilder.

    I watched Trez in Cup of Nations and wondered what the hype was about, and then we buy him
    Wesley at 20m. Dont spend so much on a striker unproven in England. It takes a year to settle.
    Nakamba and Luiz. Pay the extra for Leeds lad. Already proven in championship

    Jota, Trez – why? Jota can’t run. Total waste of money and wages. Would much prefer to gave kept Gary Gardner

    Engels – really? The guy looks 6’6″, no pace, cannot turn. Total waste of money

    And Brighton just won

  68. Brighton wining. Something we won’t do late in a game. We will make arsenal look class at VP

    Unless we wjn tomorrow you might as well send us down because we don’t have the technical quality or tactical ability to survive

    We are such a soft, predictable side

    That Suso needs to go to. What awful recruitment

  69. MK,

    You need to take off your blinkers. Nobody cares what DS did at Brentford or the legacy he left. If he was that good, then why did he not get the best out of his star at Brentford, Scott Hogan, during his days at Villa? A player he knows. Instead Hogan is scoring for fun at Blue noses in a system that suits him.

    So there is the question. DS inherited a system at Brentford with Hogan scoring. DS has now put his footprint on how Villa play, and an established championship scorer is not a fit.

    Playing Kenian Davis on his own up top without an extra striker or Jack/McGinn in the hole is criminal. Davis quality is to make runs, win balls he had no righf to win, bully opponents and ultimately lay off a simple pass.

    That cannot happen when DS plays a lone isolated striker

  70. I am absolutely with Frem on his thoughts.
    Watching all the games on Sky so far and we have been the most lacking, now having a fully fit side.
    We are lucky tonight that Traore came on again and did his magic for Wolves….another Villa player that got away, and probably the crime of the decade. What must his stock be worth now, and what a difference he would to this Villa team.

    We had the chance on promotion to buy wisely, not spending huge amounts on Wesley, Luiz and Nkamba, Targett, but we could have spent it on the Jarod Bowens of this world.

    Nothing less than a win will do tomorrow, or we are definitely on the slippery slope.

  71. Fortunately IanG,
    Unbelievable that we are saved by more ex Villa players with Gary Cahill, Christian Benteke and Jordan Ayew, helping Crystal Palace to defeat Bournemouth. Can’t believe that they got Ayew for £2.5 million.

  72. PP
    That’s what I was thinking when I watched some of the game.
    Mind you, CP are not much better either.
    The variation in the conditions of teams makes Sunday interesting, as we seem to have prepared better than some.

  73. We should be sharper than Chelsea after playing a game already, but I bet we look slow and heavy footed, as usual

    If Smith starts Grealish wide again, he needs slapping. He need to change formation.

    Why not go a 4312 as we have no wingers? Try something because we are going down if we play 433 or the even worse 541 we attempted

  74. IanG,

    Don’t think that Crystal Palace have conceded many goals since Cahill teamed up with Scott Dann.

    Another great result for Cardiff City beating Leeds Utd 2-0, with Leandro Bacuna having a good game, and Joe Bennett still putting in a shift. Cardiff looking well drilled defensively, Bamford should have done better for Leeds!!

  75. PP
    I was thinking about this mini tournament & the effects of the layoff, rather than the season just gone.
    Little things go a long way in these situations.
    I thought Cahill had a good game.
    How quickly the teams come to terms with the lack of supporters should have a bearing, as it seemed to affect Jack who seemed a bit subdued, & he always drops too deep when he does that.

  76. VillaMD – My blinkers are in the draw mate thanks, DS sold Hogan to us, he was injury prone and for whatever reason maybe DS didn’t like the bloke, he coached the players at Brentford not bought them. Not every player decision at villa is down to him either and with your unblinkered eyes I’d think you would see that.

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