Today we go again against Chelsea following the 0-0 draw with Sheffield United to restart football. I’d written up a review, but didn’t manage to get it posted. As usual, good observations and comments covering most of the bases. All of the talk around the team seems to have picked up exactly where we left off, and I have to say, whether I agree or not, it is restoring some sense of normalcy in my world.

Obviously we wanted a win and didn’t get one. Me, I took encouragement from the game despite the disappointment over the points. And about as many results went right for us as they could, which softens the blow, makes it worse, or both.

Anyway, we know where we’re at, what we need to do. I agree that if the legs are there, we should be a bit ahead of Chelsea in having already got a game in.

And for all the criticism leveled at Smith, he doesn’t seem to care much. He’s named the same starting XI:

Nyland, Konsa, Hause, Mings, Targett, McGinn, Luiz, Hourihane, El Ghazi, Davis, Grealish

Make of that what you will.

Me, I’m often being politely accused of being a happy clapper, or simply too optimistic. Which of course is fine. I am optimistic by nature. But I’m also a realist.

If I take a step back, I think I’d have to say that if the season hadn’t been interrupted, we’d have taken a scoreless draw against a top-half team to follow up the Leicester result. Sheffield are having their best season in years, have something to play for without fear, and sport the league’s second-best defensive record. We’ve all bemoaned our defending, and it’s what’s let us down the most. Wednesday we kept a clean sheet, whatever caveats we attach to that.

Tactically, I understand the calls for 4-4-2. Wouldn’t mind seeing Davis and Samatta together, myself. But I think the question of fitness plays into that decision, along with many others—we weren’t going to become something we’re not given the circumstances. The squad is what it is. Nothing’s changed. The players supporters didn’t rate before are all still there. The players are used to their roles in 4-3-3. Jack, Conor, and SJM have clicked very well at times.

My guess is that Davis is starting in the 4-3-3 because Dean wants Villa to get established and settled. Get some confidence. A player like Ally is going to want quick through-balls, and players are going to try and feed him. While his upside is high, that kind of play always runs the risk of it coming right back at us, especially given the layoff and lack of sharpness. Going 4-4-2 with limited fitness means both are probably off late in the game, leaving Vassilev and Baston to chase a winner. This way, you’ve got Ally late on when defenders are tiring. The back line, as least the centerbacks, are the least likely to be substituted, along with the keeper.

Villa created chances, more than enough to win, and always looked the more likely to score. We also kept a clean sheet, allowing The Blades just one shot on target. Technology finally worked in our favor. The effort was good, and the fitness didn’t look too bad, all things considered. When Sheffield grew into the game, Villa were able to reassert themselves.

Failing to convert was what did us in. The chances were there, and they were good enough.

The argument about Jack in the middle will continue. Me, I don’t think it really matters where he lines up. He’s all over the place in the end, just starts left. I also think it’s his preference, and actually does play to his strengths. It gives him more room to operate laterally than being sat in the middle. Because he can regularly beat more than one man, it means that where he starts isn’t where he ends up.

He didn’t play the ball to Ghazi from the left, for example, and when he gets it deeper, he’s often taking it straight up the middle. When he is wide, he’s almost always taking it inward and distributing. He doesn’t just stay wide and lump in crosses. He’s pulling players toward him and opening things up for others in the center and on the far side.

Basically, he has a very free role, likes to work left to right, and I don’t think it matters much.

Anyway. It’s Chelsea now, and we’re going to hope we pull a Brighton and get four points out of the first six on offer. Judging from yesterday’s results, it’s going to stay tight to the finish. And even if we come away with a draw in each of our first two matches, that’s a far cry from the form we were on when play was interrupted.

Over to you.

Comments 105

  1. Yes Frem we are s**te,
    but somehow we have gone in at half time in front, thanks to Kortney Hause!!!

    JG needs to sharpen up and stop wasting corners and free kicks and make them count. He is putting in effort, but he and McGinn need to be building attacks, instead of sitting so deep. Maybe second half we will be more positive, we so need to win this now, and it could change everything going forward.

  2. What I’m wondering, with Sheffield and us, was whether playing that first game and then coming back so quickly given the layoff…might well be a disadvantage.

  3. PP,

    Like I just said, thinking we might be a bit leggy. Chelsea definitely wanted a fast start, got it. We did better after the drinks break, just like Sheffield with us. We’ll see how the subs, fatigue play out.

  4. JC…they’re a better team of course but the tactics were never going to get anything out of this game.

    The season was done either side of Christmas with shambolic defeats to Watford Saints and Bournemouth

  5. When we tried to play we looked decent. Parking the bus is asking for trouble. I’m going to cry if we don’t play 2 strikers against Toon. McGinn looked totally shattered after going off.

  6. A few takeaways from that, Our two players we really rely on are not at the races yet, Jack and McGinn both average for them. I know people think jack should be in the middle but all that happens is they foul him at the half way, if he’s not around the box he’s not effective.

    Thought Hause has been good both games appears to give a s**t. and Douglas Louis has improved his all round game.

    My other take is that compared to the other teams I’ve watched we are novices in how to run a game and of lesser quality. Maybe not individually but in our know how as a team, thats a young side for you.

    We will have to see what Uncle Spud wants to give us this week and I think wolves being a derby, Palace and The Arse are our best hope of wins at home and the wet spam game away, but there slim.

    Sack Smith if you want but I think its pointless and was at xmas and I think the Owners know that. If we drop we drop, they will take the prem money gladly as a huge bonus and sell a few and come back up. A few astute buys plus the crop coming through from the stiffs will pay off I think this time.

  7. It’s hard to diagnosis since we’ve played off a number of the top teams. But I do think coming out and playing most of the same players as Wednesday was an ask. Jack looked leggy after playing 90, McGinn, really asking a lot. But Villa don’t have many options.

    This, and the five subs, was one of the fears I had about the restart, and all the games coming so quickly.

    Doesn’t mean we aren’t in Chelsea’s league anyway, but it makes it that much harder to scrap and fight. It invites playing off even more.

  8. James G – agree, Luiz looks great. Also thought Konza looks good at RB. Target has improved, but they had 2 players constantly running at him. JT – why could u not see that and address it during 1st water break?

    If we go down, then let’s go down with 2 strikers up top and have a go at teams. I think 32/33 points will be enough

  9. VillaMD- Think how Smith must feel when he looks at what he has to change things 🙂 I reckon we could see the young Barry lad make an appearance before the seasons out .

  10. Mk
    If smith used the young lads I would respect him more,what’s point using same failed players look jota nearly scored today didn’t get a chance against a poor sheff utd during the week vasselv should get a run elgazi 2 matches what did he do ,conor strolling about

  11. JG- You answered that earlier when you said £140m spent. Several players he has played in both games have nearly scored thats the problem, you want the ones that actually do.

    VillaMD- If we drop at least Smith is has a promotion under his belt 🙂

  12. We also had Tuanzebe, and with his pace he looked like Paul McGrath. We should have given Man U 5M for Tuanzebe for the season. Imagine how much better we would’ve been with him cleaning up behind Mings

  13. A lot of the younger generation may not know Paul McGrath. He’s the best defender that I’ve ever seen, and be man of the match every week, then hobble around and not even train. Pure World class player and he’s a huge Villa fan

  14. Yesterday was an abundant humiliation

    Chelsea is a far superior team to Aston Villa. Their passing and movement made us look like amateurs.

    The game was embarrassing

    However, we can and have to beat Newcastle.

    Smith has to make changes.

    I would go 4-4-2.


    Konsa – Hause- Mings – Target

    Jack – Mcginn – Drinkwater – Dougie

    Davis – Samatta

  15. If Smith doesn’t change formation on Wednesday, then he truly has lost thr lle plot

    We have no good wingers so why play 433? I mean what an absolute twonk. Our wingers aren’t championship standard so why play 433?

    Go 4312

    Or go 442 with Mcginn playing wider and maybe Jota on the right with jack and luck CM, or mcginn and jack playing narrow wingers.

  16. Konsa needs to moved to central back with Mings. We have no attacking ability down the right playing a centre back there. Start Fred on Wednesday, or elmo

  17. This mighten go down to well but I wouldn’t start McGinn on wed it’s to much to expect from him my team
    Steer if any way fit
    Elmo/freddie hause mings target
    Luis marv
    Samatta davies vasselv
    Keep mcginn for half time

  18. Great comments,

    From, love Louie Barry shout.

    RichardS, I would side with ur lineup over JGill, but both are better than what DS is putting out.

    Looking forward to watching Jake Doyle-Hayes for Cheltenham in an hour.

  19. We need to me more direct on Wednesday. Get people close to Davis. Get Jack right on in toes so Davis actually has someone to pass to

  20. Frem- Worst football you’ve ever seen? how about the season we went down? the start of the 1st season in the champs? the rest of 1st season in the champs? quite a lot of the second season in the champs? 1st half of the 3rd season in the champs? I have omitted the seasons after mon for times sake, Think your getting Alzheimers bud 🙂

  21. I think it’s a bit late for new managers and formations with 8 games left. The team is what it is and they lack quality. Having watched a fair amount of games this week only Bournemouth and Norwich looked worse. Palace now seem like Barcelona compared to us. I think we’ll go down with 29 or 30 pts

  22. The prices being talked about last summer for the targeted players were eye-watering and designed to deter Villa. We came up with McGinn, Grealish, Mings and Tammy. You needed more than that as a platform to start adding to in order to survive in the PL. I read an article by Souness where he criticises the recruitment as too hasty and lacking in PL experience, but who was available last summer with the experience needed?

  23. Mark – Did you watch the Chelsea game? Did you watch the Bournemouth and Southampton games? And the Leicester game before lock down?

    The football in those games were the worst I can remember

    We had like 2 shots on target combined in the Bournemouth, Southampton and Leicester games.

    And the football hadn’t been much better than that all season

    We are dreadful. We have the worst wingers I’ve seen, we can’t retain possession, we can’t counter because we have no pace.

    It’s been nothing short of dire

  24. Boro have the balls to sack woodgate because they were going down

    It’s time for our board to act, or else we are going down

    I’d take anyone for 8 games. Big Sam. The football would be an improvement and we’d survive. Hughton. I would have had Warnock for 8 games

  25. And grow a pair and play a few youth team wingers.. Play Barry and who ever else

    Ghazi, jota and Trez. Awful

    Jota needs to start.. Better than the other two anyway

  26. Frem, agree about the prior recent performances. Most were utterly embarrassing.

    Smith’s selections have become Lambert-Esque in their randomness. Suddenly Hourihane is a starter and Nakamba isn’t? Nakamba is a one-footed crab but there seems to be no plan. I’d take Allardyce for the last 8 games but the players are beyond help from anyone. What will Allardyce do with Trezeguet, El Ghazi and Davies?

  27. Frem – yes mate I watched them and although cr*p it still wasn’t as bad as the year we dropped with 3 wins and some of Bruces dross. At least we have 7 wins and final appearance. We lack enough week in week out 7 out of 10 players for this league.

    I don’t care who you put in charge of the squad we have It would be a tough watch and no guarantee. Moyes has won two league games at wet spam since start of Jan, when your teams s**t its s**t.

    Might just be that the owners know things were tight and that they are sticking to their plan, I know your desperate to stay up, we all are but thats life.

  28. PW- the U23’s have been revamped and any that haven’t broken through have gone out on loan for a last chance or to raise their value. Personally I would of kept Green and Ohare around at least but most will be sold or binned , Ohare and Doyle hayes have done well on loan and are decent and Ramsey on loan too. Vassilev and Mungo Bridge are with the 1st team. If your over 20 from now on and not looking to be in the 1st team by 22 your offski.

    I would of supported using some youth and buying some upgrades rather than 12 nearlys but as we have seen with injuries we would of been up against it very quickly. There wasn’t an easy option either way.

  29. JG- I agree I think McGinn will be dropped, question is do you move the best midfielder so far in luis to accommodate Marv or drop Jack out at RM? Also think Samatta might start if Davis is still knackered from two tough games. Frem will be happy because I think we might start both Trez and ElGhazi.

  30. The reality of the situation is tough. Nerve-wracking. Amid all the optimism, I said at the beginning, even over the summer, that I’d be happy with 17th. And I’ll hold with that.

    If we stay up, it’s going to be by the skin of our teeth. As PW pointed out further up, the Christmas period was a disaster. And that’s basically why we find ourselves where we are. There were points there for the taking as easy as they ever are in the PL, and we bottled it.

    Right now, I think it’s going to be as much about fight and fitness as anything. You can see when we really press and battle for the ball, we can get momentum. We have to do that when we aren’t chasing the game. 1-0 up would’ve been a good time for it against Chelsea.

  31. JC- what are your thoughts on Smith? I think after watching us all season that he’s been badly let down by Pitarch.

    I have seen to many teams throw a decent enough side together quickly to know its possible ( not in the prem I must admit). We look more like a team of punts than a logically put together side. Prices in the Prem are mad though and I think we might as well have spent less and looked to next season. Maybe its the hope of keeping Jack that prompted the spend or it might just have been the cost whatever we did.

    That said I’ve not given up yet, uncle Spud wants to give us points they are safe.

  32. JC- also I think they lack the bottle to play their natural game, like you said sometimes they press higher up and it looks better but more often than not its a low press that causes us a much bother as it does the opposition. From what I have seen we can’t sustain that sort of effort, its a side with next to no Grit, even Mings has stopped getting angry.

  33. MK,

    Smith’s tricky for me. I can understand calling him stubborn, but I don’t think he’s clueless. Like you say, the recruitment wasn’t great, and he’s got what he’s got. We’ve seen flashes, but I just don’t think many have the requisite mentality. But we all know players often struggle to adapt to the PL. To me, he seems most upset at the effort…the lack of grit, the timidity. We’ve tried to attack, but we don’t have more than one or two with any real bite.

    I think FFP limited the spend, the money had to be spread out across a number of positions, and the targets Smith really wanted were too expensive to cover all the needs. All stuff we know, but I think it’s that simple. Was always a big ask, promoted a year too soon, etc. I think we had to spend every penny that we did just to field a team. The real question to me was why we were so quick in on Wesley at £22.5m. Should’ve spent that on Benrahma or Maupay. Phillips would’ve been another. But we couldn’t keep going for players in that range.

    They buys were logical (Jota and El Ghazi didn’t cost much), insofar as they were all covering the positions of need, and were priced at an average of £11.5m/player. Something like that. Very cheap by PL standards, but we couldn’t spend more, on average.

    So I think Compass spent all they could, and the idea was always just to stay up any way possible and consolidate. Whether Pitarch did a good job choosing the targets we did get…well.

    Luiz is showing something. Nakamba’s had flashes, even Ghazi. Trez has been a bit of a bust, headless chicken mostly. Jota hasn’t worked out. Wesley a development project, in the end. Konsa, Engels, and Mings, all decent buys. Guilbert has strengths and weaknesses. Targett, too.

    But I think back to all the players we’ve bought who didn’t flourish immediately at Villa, got slated left, right and center, and have gone on to be quite decent. Don’t think that was Villa, moreso the learning curve. We’re depending on a lot of newcomers to the league. That’s probably the biggest issue for me.

  34. And yes…we sink back until it’s too late, then they try to get to grips again. I think many are intimidated, but if they had time to adjust, I think they’d get over that. Think they’d also do better if they’d been introduced one or two at a time into a more established squad with the experience.

    We hold our shape and stay disciplined for good stretches, but there’s inevitably a mistake…Concentration, fatigue, ball-watching. Giving good teams too much time to pick passes and just keep us under pressure.

    Then we give it away cheaply upfield, often as not.

  35. JC- damn shame Davis wasn’t more reliable( and could score) then Maupay would have been a snip and has some niggle about him.

    I think Pitarch has gone for development over anything and to be fair thats the world he knows, Europe. Always marvel at some managers abilities to find competency in a player seemingly at any level. like you say if we had a solid base quite a few of our past and current buys could look the part.Big problem when everyone is looking a round for someone to take the lead.

  36. greetings lifers

    if anyone is to be blamed for our recruitment its the FFP we needed 15 player and are restricted by there rules to the amount we can spend and if the owners could have brought exactly what they needed we would have spent past the 300 mil mark for that amount of players which is exactly what you need to do if you are going to get the correct quality in imo

    would like to see nyland el mohamedy mings hause target … jack super john luiz ….. el gaz davies trez ….. think this is the team with the most attacking pace and about as good as its going to get for this season …. big game tonight I still think the lads will stay up tonight will tell us a lot about those chances .. we did outplay them at villa park earlier this season coyvb

  37. Interesting all the comments, but no-one has really talked about the change in mindset that has developed amongst the team. At one time we were playing well, and there was no shortage of effort or determination, and we played to almost the final whistle.

    This team now is lethargic and lacks desire, because it no longer is a team, maybe because you cannot build a team round one man, which is Smith’s failing. no team does well at this level by relying on one player. Dean Smith’s complaint about Jack not getting enough protection from refs now. What does he expect. He is already the most fouled player ever in the Premiership, and it does not help the game. Jack is constantly playing to attract the foul, rather than using his skills to move the ball on. I also think that the other players have got fed up with playing everything through Jack. He is there at every free kick, but rarely achieves anything, rather than being in the box to cause havoc. The total lack of getting between ball and player is atrocious. Teams can just pass at will to each other. No press, no closing down, no interest. I don’t want to be playing for this team stands out a mile.

    Dean Smith has lost his mojo with the team and it s clear, and he basically said so back around the earlier defeats at Watford, etc. You do not see any enthusiasm anywhere.

    West Ham played out of their skin last night until the killer blow from Kane, but they still didn’t give up, and on present showing, they deserve to stay up more than Villa. Spurs did us a favour, but will we react tonight?

    The trouble started with throwing away a winning side without a ball being kicked, and expecting a bunch of strangers to turn into a Premiership side overnight. They were told it does not work, and it didn’t.

  38. If, or more likely when we get defeated tonight playing dire football, Smith has tk go. Therr is no way the board can keep him

  39. HUGE game this evening.

    We have to win.

    Does anyone have any ideas on what the team and formation should be?

    I have been trying to think who we should play but I don’t think it matters. There is a dearth of quality in the squad. This COVID situation has harmed my mind and I thought the return of football would have a positive impact. The truth is quite the opposite. It has exacerbated my state of anxiety and increased my frustration.

    Dean Smith has to make changes. I think if we lose tonight he will have a real problem on his hands. He has to motivate the team. Another performance like the one against Chelsea and you would have to question what his role is, what value is he bringing?

    Although I do have a degree of sympathy because the players he was given in the summer have simply not been good enough quality.

    The transfer strategy has been a disaster. The director of transfers has made some horrendous purchases. We have done a Fulham.

    I remember listening to Fireman Sam on Talksport at the start of the season and he ridiculed our transfer policy. Where is the quality he said? Too many players from different locations and cultures. Villa will never make them gel.

    I was annoyed at the time. However, he was right.

    Would anyone take the Fireman now with 8 games left?

    I hate to say this – I think I would.

    Anyway – I will be supporting the team this evening and praying we can manage a victory.

    Over to you, Jack.

  40. Richard–we have to go 4312. Get Jack behind Sammata and Davis

    If he goes 451 agaon he needs sacking as soon as Purslow sees the shape

  41. And yes. Get Big Sam. What ever it takes so stay up. We can’t go down. Especially now we can spend what ever we want in the summer

  42. IanG- good article and pretty spot on. I don’t think Cahill would of come here , just a hunch but I assume his family are in London and he played for England under Hodgson, maybe he hates JT as well 🙂

    I do think Sundays game was an attempt to keep us fresh as he could for this game. Its ok saying they have to treat every game like a final but A: they are not match fit and B: we cannot afford injuries at this point, they have killed the season as it is.

    PP- I’d imagine they are not quite as enthusiastic as they were coming to the big league, especially as they have been found wanting. I’d imagine theres a bit of a loss of confidence all round, as win tonight would help that.

    I wrote on another site that Jack likely will not of helped these players progress. He’s Great player but they will not be used to having a dribbler getting the ball a lot rather than pass and move. The only time I have seen Both ElGhazi and Trez look ok together on the counter was against Liverpool and jack didn’t play.

    Frem- I have the feeling that whatever he does it won’t be good enough, maybe committing seppuku in the centre circle? 🙂

    RichardS- no I don’t want big Sam mate and to Do a Fulham we would of had to of had a team to discard 1st then buy another.

  43. Mark – the signings have been shocking

    We have spent big money on the wrong profile of the player.

    Smith wanted Muapay – we got Wesley who was more expensive

    Smith wanted Benrahma – we got AEG and Trez.

    We could have purchased Muapay and Benrahama for £40M. Kept Green at the club.

    Smith wanted Philips – we got Dougie and Marvelous

    The decisions don’t make sense.

    Why buy players the manager doesn’t want.

    Look at the stats. They tell the true story.

  44. The least ineffective wingers I’ve ever seen. Who ever thought Ghaiz could hack it in the prem needs shooting. He wasn’t even good in the championship

  45. Frem.

    If we lose, Smith will have a major problem. Especially if we take a heavy loss. Can you imagine if we lose 3-0? It will prove to be a pivotal moment.

    Surely, the owners will act. They have lost a fortune through the COVID crisis and relegation will cost them an additional £100m.

    Suso should go now. He is beyond incompetent, hapless

    Purslow will look for scapegoats.

    I like Smith. However, this is a results business and the results and performances have not been good enough.

  46. RichardS- Trouble is when you come up with loans and to old for the prem players what can you feasibly do?

    We had no CB’s other than a crocked Chester, Strikers? an injury prone Davis, and the equally lightweight Kodjia, Imagine if those two had been ruled out pre-season? as it is they might as well been. I like Maupay but leading the line in a 433? nah. So while Wes was a gamble I can see the why.

    Add to that the silly prices bandied about for champs players, Phillips £30m, Benrahma £25m, Maupay £25m add Mings at £20m + add ons. Theres the best part of your £140m.

    To get any of those for cheaper we would of had to wait and call their bluff, Brighton were not in our position and got Maupay cheaply, the crows were circling for our money. The real problem we had was lack of time. Imagine a newly built team assembled in late july/aug with no pre-season, if you think this was bad?

    While I think Pitarch choices were not ideal, for the money etc what else could he do unless like Wilder you can pull league 4 players out of your arse and have the time to work with them?

    Why buy players the manager doesn’t want? sadly because they were all we could get I’d say. Maybe a different scouting system headed up by someone else would of turned up better players but we have literally just created one.

  47. Mark –

    No, it is a results business. We didn’t spend £140M to get relegated.

    A vision that includes failure is asinine.

    I have no patience for that.

    When you get relegated and then lose all of your best players and take HUGE financial losses you are in a perpetual downward cycle.

  48. Well we’ve got samatta tomatta to crucify now, with Davis on the bench.
    Other than that, same old same old, including here.

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