So, three games in, two points and two goals to show for it. Tension is running high, and supporters keep calling for a 4-4-2. Dean Smith responded ahead of today’s clash with Wolves.

“People keep talking about playing two up front, but it’s very difficult to play two up front and keep Jack Grealish on the pitch. Jack’s one of our talismans, so we worked a situation [at Newcastle] where Jack could play behind Keinan and Ally.

“You have to be careful because there’s a big shift for the midfielders then. Their out ball will always be to the fullbacks. It’s funny. You put two up front and you go from back to front too quickly. I still thought we needed to go through our midfielders, and once we did that, we were much more of a threat.

“What we’ve got to do is convert our chances.”

Too right.

Villa have been creating chances. And if anyone thinks gilt-edged chances are easy to come by in the Premiership, they’re delusional. Liverpool, City? Sure. Chelsea are getting there. Everywhere else, it’s about converting one or two crucial chances to take hold, and one or two others to see it out. Goals change games, after all.

Creating chances hasn’t been Villa’s problem. Converting them has been. Defending them has been.

Smith, in calling out the the mini-league, confirmed my suspicions about the way he’s approaching the run-in. He’s not trying to go all guns blazing every game like a cup final. The team would never last.

Instead, he’s been trying to pace the side against opponents across the slate of fixtures. Big fish? A draw would be lovely, thank you. We’ll try to tighten up, concede less. Teams that we can play with? We’ll do it differently.

Smith has, in fact, been trying the Big Sam against top sides. The tactics and approach haven’t been the problem. It’s the talent.

Against teams Smith believes Villa can realistically grab three points, he’s thrown the most attacking options on the pitch. He’s simply refused to play 4-4-2 because it lessens the contributions of the best player we have. And he firmly believes, right or wrong, that Villa will live or die on how much Jack can influence a game.

Think about it. How many quality distributors do we have? How many players who can hold the ball, dribble, set the attack or draw fouls and keep possession and slow things down?

One.

I’ve written before about whether the Davis-Samatta alternation was based on fitness, and only having two experienced strikers.

But Smith now is directly addressing the calls we’ve heard. It’s not about fitness, he says. It’s about a system that he believes gives Villa the best chances.

Agree or disagree, Smith, once again, has been honest and said what he thinks. It might be different if he had Guilbert. We might go back to some version of 3-5-2. He obviously doesn’t want to start Elmo, and he wants to tighten up. He’s betting on, and planning for, Villa clawing more points out of the remaining fixtures than the teams around us.

So, does he leave substitutions too late? Maybe. He did bring Elmo in, and he scored the equalizer in a game where we shouldn’t have been behind. There wasn’t much to say anything was going wrong until the side went to sleep and allowed the barcodes to get in front. But did it call for something to change things up before that? Could be.

My guess is that, if we sat down as a group and put the hard questions to Smith off the record, his candor and knowledge of the players and game would probably silence us. He sees what we see. He just knows more, is making his bets, and working with what he’s got. For us, it’s a hobby. For him, it’s his life. And he bleeds claret and blue.

I truly don’t believe he’s an idiot or clueless. I truly believe he’s trying to best employ what he has. He knows the pros and cons much better than we ever will. He lives this 24/7, sees the players continuously, has someone like JT whispering in his ear, a player who’s seen it all. Does that mean we’ll stay up? No. But it’s easy to say, “C’mon Terry. Get them sorted.” But JT is also working with what he’s got. At this level, so much of it is mental. They either have it or they don’t, and you won’t know until they’re under fire. Worse, you can’t just sack them if you don’t have anyone to take their place.

McGinn: ““It’s so important that we cut out losing silly goals and, at the other end, we can’t wait until the other team score to show a bit of belief and cause problems.”

There you go.

Based on the matches since we’ve been back, the failures I see have much more to do with the players and execution than tactics. The chances have been there. They haven’t been taken. The defensive frailties? They’ve been reduced, but we’ve still tuned out at critical moments, despite setting up to do better.

Fact is, you can only take certain players so far. After that, it’s up to them. Work rate, fight, concentration, busting a lung…You either have it or you don’t. Mistakes were made. We’ve got who we’ve got. It’s not changing now.

So, Wolves. They can play rings round us on their day. Better recruitment, simple as. We just need another result to put pressure on the others in the mini-league.

Over to you.

Comments 128

  1. Let’s be honest I don’t think we stand a chance today if getting a win, which is whag we need

    I think it could be smiths last game, and if we don’t win, it should be

  2. A great article John.

    I appreciate Smith addressing the tactical situation regarding 4-4-2.

    Except for the Chelsea performance, we have been OK.

    We should have beat Sheff UTD and we were better than Newcastle.

    Today is another tough game. Wolves have some quality players. They have made outstanding investments with their transfer budget. They have demonstrated how a Club should operate under wealthy owners. It is a fantastic achievement.

    However, I believe that our luck will change today.

    We need 3 points.

    We simply have to win.

    We will win.

    Won’t we?

  3. JC- Top drawer mate, pretty much my thoughts. I’m afraid that because the manager is the one variable people can lash out at and change they will do it.

    Frem – so you are saying that if we don’t win today its over and we shouldn’t bother playing the rest? or maybe any other club should also sack their managers?

  4. Hi JC,
    Thank you for your thoughts on the way things are, in reply to my earlier comments about American attitudes. I was very pleased , as you confirmed exactly what I was talking about.
    Footballers are not created in a small time frame between 17-20 years of age. They start being prepared from the age of 6-8 years old and this continues throughout their young lives, with the outstanding ones being tracked by clubs from around the age of 12years old. The truly outstanding ones will be signed to top academies by this age and will continue with them, but many young footballers may not reach their true potential until much later.

    Even when these outstanding players are blooded and introduced into first team football, they still have a long way to go, players like Raheem Stirling playing for Liverpool , did not become a great player. That happened under his coaching with Pep. The same is happening with Ollie Watkins at Brentford, where Franks has turned him into a goal machine by getting him to watch 25 videos of Stirling and how he operates in the box.

    Look at the players that have become top players after leaving Villa, George Graham, Danny Blanchflower, Jordan Ayew, Jordan Veretout, Marc Albrighton, Mark Walters, James Milner and so many more.
    Franks has made a huge difference at Brentford with two crucial signings he made in the summer, one Pontius Jansen from Leeds, and the other is his goalkeeper, and the third part of his spine was making Ollie Watkins into his striker to replace Neil Maupay. Franks was actually the mastermind that found the young players and coached them for Smith to use in the first team.
    I personally feel that the desire to play everything through Grealish is the problem, and not the answer. The boys need to play as a team, need to step up to the plate, win balls, move them on , and need to improve 100% at closing down, stopping the opposition from passing the ball freely.
    Our level of defence and movement is amateur level.

    We can hope we do better today, but not with Dean’s methods and tactics. Adama Traore will destroy Targett.

  5. Have you seen the lineup?

    Davis and Samatta start

    Is Smith now playing a 4-4-2?

    Or is this a tactical master class.

    Confusing after his comments?

  6. Do we actually train and work on attacking or do we just turn up and run about and make it up as we go along?

    We are so so poor. We have no idea when we have the ball

  7. Not to shabby so far.

    PP- I read into Brentfords methods years back. They use a system which identifies the most dangerous and likely places to score from, very much like the XG system. It was the owner who made his money from Gambling that wrote the book on it, Brentfords methods are based on his research.

    Franks was chosen by Smith to bring in and be the next manager if needed. They use the exact same system with their players so they have replacements. To my knowledge this was not down to Franks. They have complicated computer programs that crunch the numbers on players and a feeder club which I think Franks came from. No one person has the decision on players and the coach is literally the coach. This is done to provide continuity in the way they play regardless of the Coach.

    Last Season Brentford were 6th when Smith left and 11th at the end, This season they raised £30m from sales and for the first time spent it on players having built and moved to a new stadium paid for by player sales. Smith had an average spend of -£’s. No doubt franks is a decent manager but he by no means made Smith look good. Smith is unlikely to not be using the same system at Villa either that Franks employs at Brentford imo.

  8. Unfortunately – that is game over.

    2 points from our last 6 games

    Liverpool and Man UTD next

    Smith cannot influence our results

    Terrible recruitment in the summer

    We are relegated.

    Wasted £140M

    We have done a Fulham

    Game over.

  9. Well if smith has any pride he will walk away,absolute shambles,if this team today give there all it might be different, target couldn’t wait to get off,jack head is stuck in his ass,taylor played hide and seek when he came on,conor setpieces was he drunk hitting them,nylan tried to throw one in ,
    Our recruitment has been shocking for years and now we are going to have to start again

  10. Fortune was not with us on the subs front today shame we could not hold on for a point but not exactly an unexpected result. Nice to hear that if Wolves don’t get Champs league then they will likely lose their best players, sounds familiar.

  11. Change manager? Who will do precisely what with Trezeguet, Davis, El Ghazi, Hourihane, Nakamba, Hause, Konsa, Samatta, Nyland, who will never be good players as long as they have holes in their arses?

    talent outweighs formations every time and Villa have very little of it

  12. Frem – it is too late for a new manager

    We don’t have the quality

    Target is a disgrace – I don’t understand why we paid so much money for him

    Taylor was afraid to be on the pitch

    Davis and Samatta doesn’t work

    Our free kicks were a disgrace

    Jack is awesome but he slows down the play

    Quality dictates results

    We lack Quality

    It is such a shame

    We will lose Jack – Mcginn – Mings – Dougie in the Summer

    One Almighty f**k Up

    We have wasted £140M

    UNBELIEVABLE

  13. I wish all forum members all the best going forward, and most importantly the best of health. I’m done expending negative energy talking about a very poor team.

    Keep safe

  14. A new manager will get is paying with some tempo and desire

    We have walked around the pitch since the restart. Its a disgrace. Today we played like we were safe already

  15. Frem – it is too late

    You have said on numerous occasions how poor the squad is.

    We do not have enough quality players in the team

    The Premier League is brutal.

    We could bring in Fireman Sam now and make us tougher to beat.

    But who is going to score?

    We are not capable of scoring goals.

    4 games since the restart. 1 goal.

    We are hapless.

  16. RichardS- we have scored two, Heres a stat. Since the restart we have scored twice the amount of goals than all of the rest of the bottom 5 put together. There are also only three sides outside the top seven with more goals than us.

  17. If we keep Smith we are down

    I guarantee you if we sack him the players will get a lift. Its obvious they aren’t playing for him anymore

  18. Mark – we are rooted in the bottom 3.

    Our last win was in January

    2 points from the last 6 games

    Liverpool and Man UTD next

    We have spent £140M

    Second largest spenders in Europe last year

    Just for clarification £140M

    We have purchased some really poor players

    We are going down.

    There is nothing left to defend

    We have all spent our money and time on season tickets, attending matches and merchandise

    If you do not attend games and are simply an armchair fan then I do not consider your commentary or support to be relevant

    There are no guarantees in life

    We are going down

    It is a real shame

  19. Villa MD

    Unfortunately – we are going to be relegated

    10 Cup Finals – we are limping towards relegation

    It is an insult to all of the Villa Supporters

    This is a poor excuse of an effort to remain in the division

    Enough is Enough

    The owners should sack Purslow – Suso – Smith

    We need a strategy

    We need a vision

    Just like Wolves – unfortunately

  20. Wonder what the conversation was before match between smith and purslow, has there ever been two worse loan signings baston and drinky about 100 thousand a week

  21. Wolves have really done well manager ,player signings ,getting best out of players already there Matt Doherty what a pleasure to watch can defend but boy van he attack,what have we wasted on target (coward)taylor cr*p full backs

  22. It’s a big mistake investing in so many foreign players. Even if they come good, it typically takes a year. Luiz and Guilbert are the exceptions.

    Might as well play a few of the u23 lads vs Liverpool. Rest Jack as he looks shattered

  23. JG, yeah Wolves look class. Great manager. Traore looks amazing. At Villa he was always injured. Seems like Wolves know how to manage him better.

    I would still bring in Big Sam. Need someone that can intimidate the players

  24. When I look at Dean Smith I see a really nice man. Good speaker and always calm. I’ve never seen emotion or passion. I see someone that could be a great friend, great role model, but definitely not a manager

  25. I’ve seen more emotion from RichardS on one blog post than in 2 years of DS interviews. RichardS – any chance u can take DS down the pub for a chat?

  26. Had to be away and record the game, just finished watching. I can understand the reactions.

    It wasn’t bad to start, and Luiz looked good, once again. He’s turned a corner. Nakamba was combative as well. Wolves, who will be patient, didn’t really get going, and we broke up play decently enough.

    But we created virtually nothing. We don’t have a deep-lying distributor like Cody to hit Samatta in stride and put him clean in. We tried many times to go over the top, it just doesn’t come off. Ally also looks hesitant to go for goal. Not that he had much to work with, but his head doesn’t seem to be saying, “turn and shoot.” He’s looking to pass. Davis did what he does, but the two weren’t clicking. Maybe more time together would help, but I’m just not seeing either being dangerous on their own.

    Overall, we weren’t bad defensively. But the game never really got stretched, and I have to think we might well have conceded more if it had. Wolves saw no threat, and were content to see it out and not really take any chances. They’ve got a great defensive record for a reason, and were up tight to both strikers.

    Jack’s contribution was limited, and he didn’t have his best day. But I’ve long thought that being central doesn’t play to his, or the team’s strengths (such as they are). It’s easier to mark him, and it’s harder for him to pull players out of position. Without anyone around who really presents a threat on his own, Villa create most chances by working it down the left, getting the defenders to shift, and then getting it across to trailers from the middle or backside.

    So while it seems like Jack is slowing things down (and sometimes he does), it’s more about working to create openings and width for others to take advantage of, and not having the ball come straight back. The back line can get up and the shape can get set.

  27. Villa MD – thank you.

    I would love to give Dean Smith a motivational talk.

    I truly don’t know what we would achieve by sacking Smith now.

    This is a collective cluster f**k.

    A 140M + disaster. Absolutely shambolic. An incredibly wasted opportunity. Things are about to get Ugly.

    I have never liked Purslow and seeing him in the tunnel before the game questioning the tactics and formation was indicative of his self sycophantic beliefs. If that guy was a lollipop he would lick himself

    Suso should just go now. He has been paid handsomely for his failings- signing players who are utter dross. This money ball project has capitulated. Billy Bean he ain’t . Disaster. Indefensible.

    And Dean Smith – life long Villa fan has been given a hospital ball

    Nice guy – but he will now be classed as the guy who could not make the step up to the Premier League. It has been a difficult year for him personally so I will respect that.

    The board will probably act. They have to. This COVID situation has been detrimental financially and Purslow needs a scapegoat.

    Let the shenanigans commence

    Liverpool next. Hopefully they have a hangover.

    And then Man UTD who are on fire

    Oh man

    UTV

  28. PP,

    Back to the exciting conversation everyone else will love! And apologies, this will be long, again.

    The development doesn’t start at 17. The kids start playing like they do in football, organized, school-based leagues throughout all the age groups. The same observation and winnowing occur. Because American football is so structured, specialized and violent, a lot of things change as kids age, and not a lot is asked of them at the younger end. You don’t have QBs throwing 50-yard passes, etc. There’s a lot more running. As they move up, the game starts mimicking the professional game more in terms of complexity and physicality.

    High school, where kids are 14-15 coming in, that’s where you start to have the arm-strength and accuracy to truly pass. Size, speed, strength and position specialization start to take hold. There are hotbeds around the country, like Texas, where high-school football is really, really big. 20k-30k seat stadiums, full floodlights, all of it. In the big metro areas, kids are being ‘recruited’ out of middle school (11-13, roughly), and parents will move to get their kids into a particular program. They’re in the spotlight and under pressure playing in front of big crowds baying for blood.

    When they step up to college, that’s where they get into multimillion-dollar football factories. They have their own dormitories, cafeterias, gyms, indoor and outdoor training fields, entire complexes. College coaches will often make more than Smith. There’s a lot of shenanigans with grades, courses, recruiting violations, etc.

    So, the development is there all along. The nature of the game, though, evolves. In high school they really start the physical development because you can’t really lift weights before you’re 12 or so. Most are multisport players (QBs, for example, are often also baseball pitchers in high-school, while players that end up being wide receivers, tight ends, defensive backs, are often playing basketball).

    Anyway, the analytics, grading, film study, etc., will start in the competitive regions at that 11-13 range. But again, it’s tough because they change so much. Once they go to college, there’s a huge step up. Positional complexity and responsibilities, offensive and defensive schemes, they get close to what the pros are asked to do, but it’s still somewhat simplified.

    Anyway, this system occurs across all sports. Basketball, it’s often physicality first, and I think it’s more like football/soccer because it’s as much about innate talent (and height) as anything. And in basketball, kids are now increasingly jumping to the pros after one season in college, so 17-19. Because of the quirks where all this is tied to school, there are rules about kids’ grades, graduation, how long they have to stay in college before going pro. They changed it, and that’s why they can now go up earlier and sidestep college. So Edens will know you can have a starter in a 17-18yo body. In baseball, kids will often skip college and go play minor-league baseball (three levels). But this is why development isn’t tied to professional teams.

    Soccer, curiously, is the one big exception. Talented kids will go to specialized teams that often play nationally and aren’t school-based. This happens from a young age, too. The big knock here is that it costs a lot of money, time, and travel to participate, which excludes a lot of potentially better athletes of lesser means. It’s the one sport that truly lags in the pressure-cooker stakes, crowds, media attention. The development is there, but the talent pool isn’t, and there’s no international football culture to draw on. They also aren’t tied to professional clubs.

    Anyway, all a very long way of saying that Edens will have no trouble understanding development. He’ll just have seen it occur through a different structure. The metrics, stats, analysis that have only recently really become widespread in football/soccer have been entrenched in America for decades. The things Smith implemented when he took over for Bruce have been givens for a long, long time. I’m sure he’d love to build an academy like La Masia.

  29. Hi JC,

    I understand all that you are saying, and yes soccer has changed in the UK to a more athletic sport, but the skills and ability are still an intrinsic part of what happens on the pitch.
    Unfortunately, I do not have a huge knowledge on the Villa Academy, but at one time it was one of the leading academies in the country and has produced many good young players over the years.
    Villa has for many years had a problem, like a lot of clubs, with integrating the youngsters into the higher levels of the club.
    I am very sad when I see youngsters who have had great potential end up elsewhere, or on the scrap heap, because we no longer know how to look after them and nurture their development, which is where clubs like Man Utd, Soton have the ability to do just that.
    Time after time, I have listened to the stories of young players who have been failed and not guided properly at crucial stages of their development.

    The other main point is that players mature in their roles at different ages and do not blossom into fully grounded professionals until they find their best position, which may not even be the role that the club has been playing them in, or even the system may not suit them.

    You will also get the players like Vardy who may not even be discovered until they are spotted playing at a mature age in amateur teams.

    The rumour has it that the board were meeting tonight to discuss Dean Smith’s dismissal, with a view to appointing a new man in readiness for the new season.

  30. So Purslow is full of s**te. Remember what he said at the start, that we will compete and try to win every game and play football.

    Smith is staying and I’m gutted. That’s us relegated

  31. Free,

    I don’t blame the owners. They trusted Suso and best recruiting. Turns out they are sh$&te.

    Get a British manager with balls and recruit from English/Scottish leagues. Forget about mainland Europe.

    Man City wanted Douglas Luiz and he was player of the tournament in the last U23 World Cup. Even I knew that. However, I knew Trezequet is useless and Wesley was a waste of money. I would also never have signed Nakamba as he cannot pass the ball. Total liability

  32. So instead of
    Wesley 25M and totally useless

    Nakamba 10M and rubbish. Cannot pass the ball

    Trez 10M biggest waste of motif the lot. Totally useless player

    For all that 45M, I’m sure we could have gotten a trusted story, Mitrovic, for 30M

    And there lies the problem

  33. The recruitment was poor,we should went for a few loans and some experienced players but Bruce has an awful lot to answer for millions wasted in championship on loans old players, selling Baker to pay for 1 season of terry
    Squad we were promoted with
    Nylan steer elmo taylor chester bree birr lainsbury houirane mcginn jack green Hogan McCormack ,has there ever been a worse assembled squad,

  34. RichardS
    Yes it’s s**t, with no sign of the relief column!
    Like your description of Purslow, [If that guy was a lollipop he would lick himself]

  35. JG
    Yeah, when you look at it in retrospect it’s amazing we never ended up in Div 1 with the owners we had before compass, along with the lunatics they employed.
    The managers were the least of this, but for me Bruce in the EFL was worse than Lambert who was given far less equivalent wealth to get players for the premiership.
    And we thought it couldn’t get any worse.

  36. Iang
    Just look at all the clubs bruce had a free hand
    Blues,wigan Sunderland, villa his time at palace sheff utd huddersfield his managerial career is like a bomb field

  37. Just after watching Leicester v Chelsea and the difference in all the basics is unreal, everyone working, tracking back,in fact at one stage chelsea captain cesc won a throw up at Leicester box from closing down and instead of running back he waved teammates forward to press Leicester back
    Smith was handed golden goose last season and almost blew it,this season we started of with his 433 formation without enough options especially with untried players and still 30 odd games he still hasnt a clue and no idea how to adapt

  38. RichardS- so it looks like virtually nobody on this sites comments including the owners JC are relevant to you. Who’d of thought the ability to buy a ticket and attend a game ( which you can’t at present and therefore are also irrelevant) makes you the font of all villa wisdom.

  39. Watford lose to Southampton at home 1-3 dear dear , that’s brought the teams in the bottom 5 level on goals with us at 2-2 since the restart. I keep seeing how we can’t score ( and we can’t) but as I pointed out we have scored more than half this league which says goals are hard to come by if logic and reason exists at all. So with a s**t team poorly put together and badly coached we have out scored half the league.

    Of course with our magical hindsight we would of all done it differently but actually being there and having that responsibility? Sorry the dream looks like ending lads (unless our useless manager wins a couple ) and the owners haven’t got it perfectly right 1st time of asking to your satisfaction but life’s like that sometimes things are not a Disney film 🙂

    There is nothing left to do but grip your arm chairs and shout at the tele and try not to take it so hard being a fan has no guarantees.

  40. MK and RichardS,

    Let’s be fair. I attended Villa games for 20 years, but now live in Washington DC and I’m lucky to see a game once a year. It doesn’t matter, we all love the club.

    Rumor coming out is Dean Smith will be sacked in the morning. Let’s bring in Big Sam on 1 year contract

  41. MK,

    I’d disagree with you on one point – doing things differently in hindsight.

    We brought in Suso and Purslow for their experience, not to make blatant mistakes that anyone who knows anything about British football would not make. Who is to blame? I don’t know, but I know would have put together a better squad and I have zero EPL experience!

    For me, that is what is disappointing. We didn’t need to be in this position

  42. VillaMD- Sorry bud you would have zero chance of putting together anything other than on championship manager, this is real life with real money.

    Theres a lot of difference between wanting and getting, Nobody on the web or the stands has the contacts or knowledge that those in the game do. At the end of the day Very few have been faced with the position Villa found themselves in so good luck finding that perfect combo straight away. Cheap foreign buys was the order of the day and thats suso’s market.

    The guy that scouted the recent Huddersfield side is at Norwich at present who spent £8m and you would say they had a decent side last season and his records good but.

    No player can look his best without a functioning side and we haven’t had that since Mon, even he was hit and miss. Blending a side is an art and from what I have witnessed at all levels managers have their go to’s that they trust Smith has what? Konsa. , best I have seen is Warnock for getting instant results but it doesn’t last for him.

    I don’t think Suso didn’t try to get Smiths players they were just to expensive, the players we could get? not the best (yet) and to many were straight into the 1st 11. At the end of the day this rag tag of players have out scored over half of the prem and are still in with a chance thats the reality. All around us are teams with experienced prem managers that are in the same boat that have vastly more expensive and more experienced sides. Yes its not been perfect but its not that far off either.

    Injuries have played a massive part, limiting Smiths chances further. One player we have missed is Wesley, love him or loathe him we won 22 points I think with him leading the line. If him, McGinn and Heaton had stayed fit ?

    It will be what it will be.

  43. Mark – please refrain from insults regarding my Mother. She is a beautiful soul who has enured a difficult life. Your comment is insulting and churlish

    I am more than happy to maintain my position in my high chair.

    And you can stay in your armchair.

  44. I mean, when we drop, it’s going to me another mass turn around

    That’s why I think the only reason we keep Smith. He knows what we need and who will go

  45. Frem
    Why would anyone think smith can build a future ,never done to before,we need a manager like wolves huddersfield or norwich have or had someone to build something solid

  46. With rebuilding or recruiting, I don’t think the approach changes. It just has to be done better.

    If sticking with Smith, it’s clear the way he wants to play. And the players we got were weighted, positionally, to fit those needs, as well. But we had other holes, not just trying to bolster the attack. Brought in CBs, DMs, RBs, wingers, a ‘striker’. But it didn’t work.

    There’s been plenty of legitimate criticism of the recruitment. Signing Mings worked, Konsa has been good enough, as has Engels at times. Hause, been up and down. Luiz has come good, Nakamba has had his flashes. Guilbert and Targett have also been up and down, but Targett’s gotten steadier.

    Trez, Ghazi, Wesley, Jota…This is where we’ve failed worst, and at DM until Luiz kicked on. The lack of defensive cover, along with individual errors that I would generally put down to nerves and communication failures, is a big part of what’s seen us shipping goals.

    In the end, I feel like a broken record. With the age of players like Whelan and Jedinak, and the loans necessary to cobble together a competitive side previously, there were always going to be a lot of holes. And only a certain amount of money to cover them.

    So, yeah, there were better, more ready-made players we wanted out there, but we couldn’t spend the £25-£30m each it would’ve required to sign them given the numbers we needed to make up. If we’d only needed three or four reinforcements? We could’ve done it.

    Does it show? Yes. Does that mean that after a house-cleaning, selling players, freeing up wages that we can’t do more of a Sheffield? No. But I’m guessing Suso would not be here to guide that.

  47. Well said, John.

    It is just a shame. The position we find ourselves in.

    If you look at our recent results, we have not won a game since the 21st of January. And our form over the Xmas period was dreadful.

    Relegation form. We simply have not been good enough.

    I accept that we have suffered from injuries.

    I am amazed we are not dead and buried.

    I still have this hope that we can pull off a freak result.

    A point or three against Liverpool and Man UTD could spark a survival push.

    The last 4 games are all winnable.

    I like Dean Smith and I don’t hate the players. We just lack absolute quality and depth.

    And when you throw in other factors such as the fixture congestion, no fans in the stadium and 5 subs we are at a disadvantage.

    We really are in the last chance saloon.

    Can we muster one performance to create a belief in the players?

    I also found it interesting to read that Man UTD will not pay more than £50M for Sancho.

    I am now expecting an insulting offer for Grealish

    UTV

  48. RichardS.

    It is a shame. And like you, I continue to hope for a miracle. It seems like we’re due, but maybe it was always a bridge too far.

    The arrangements of restart have not been helpful. I agree with Dean there, and noted earlier that us playing first, then playing again quickly (against a much fresher and on-song Chelsea) appeared to work against us. And Sheffield, too. Two games later, and watching the players, I can’t fault Dean’s frustration. And I don’t necessarily agree with the common wisdom that it was demotivating to say it out loud. On the contrary, I think you can say it gives the players cover, and perhaps offers a source of unity and fight.

    One big result out of the next two would be huge, and might just get us over the hump. It hasn’t helped that a number of teams are still in with a shout for Europe. I’m hoping for a huge Liverpool hangover, but the way they clinched may well point to them coming out and wanting to put on a champion’s performance. I’m also hoping Klopp has an eye on the upcoming season and starts resting players, despite what he’s said. He can always point to fixture congestion and a need to spread out minutes.

    With Grealish and United, it’s a funny one. We’d almost have to agree a sale before we’re mathematically down, or the amount on offer will drop dramatically. What effect that would have on the team? No idea.

  49. JC- I agree on the whole but as far as the likes of ElGhazi and Wez being failures? I’m not so sure.

    Disappointing most definitely but a quick glance around the bottom Dwellers tells me that there are not many double figure goal scorers/assisters to be found. Their overall contribution might be poor defensively, (actually Wesley was back for most corners at one point) but they actual don’t compare that badly.

    Elghazi has 6 goals 7 assists better than any Watford, west ham, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle players numbers as far as goal involvement. whether thats league or league and cup (numbers were all for the BBC’s site).

    Other than the odd one or two like Ings, Pukki or Ricarlson there are not many that have bettered Wesleys 6 and 1 either.

    To me by far the biggest problem has been the Fullbacks, Fred hasn’t been properly fit since early season and is erratic and Targett injury prone and defensively poor.

    For me if those positions had been steady and maybe one DM come good we would be ok as in a few more points better off. If I had to choose It would be two solid FB’s. Of course they would probably want some cover in front of them I accept that 🙂

    We will never know but I think if we had not hit January without McGinn, Wesley and Heaton then the Transfers would of been totally different and maybe the dynamic of the season, instead of buying to stand still.

    You can’t odd injuries but we have had 4-5 different CB pairings and even more unlikely 4 keepers.

  50. MK,

    It’s a fair point. We’ve created chances and scored goals. Ghazi has always shown flashes, just not enough consistency. But we have to acknowledge it’s his first season in the PL.

    Wes, shame we won’t know what might’ve done down the stretch. I do think there’s a player in there. And yes, had we not been hit with such key injuries, January would’ve been different.

    I don’t know how much I’d put down to the FBs. I do think it’s the modern game’s toughest position, and I do think they were brought in to help the attack as much as defend. For me, it’s always seemed like the middle letting us down most in all the familiar ways: possession, ball winning, aggressiveness, incisive passing.

    Seems to me like the defensive plan was to generally cede the wide ball, let Mings & Co clear the aerials, leave Guilbert and Targett more tucked in to address the channels outside the CBs with help from the MFs.

    But I don’t know.

    At the end, it’s only Jack who’s looked up to the league, and Tyrone. Now Luiz is getting it. Whatever experience the others had, not enough to matter, and I think there’s just been overall mental fatigue and lack of confidence once the quality of the league made itself apparent. Not saying there aren’t players I wouldn’t replace if we stay up, but curious how some would get on at the second time of asking supplemented by a bit more experience and nous, and someone more consistently lethal up front.

  51. A real statement of intent from the money guys is long overdue. The romancing of Smith was a ridiculous experiment in fan manipulation. We need a world class manager now, or we’re done as a top flight club…

  52. Good to see you, Jonny.

    Whether the swirl of post-Wolves speculation about Smith’s future was true or not, seems like he’s still in his job.

    Whatever you think of him, Hutton’s comments seem to sum up my thinking: Changing now won’t accomplish anything, he’s played under Smith, thinks he’s a good manager, and that it’s all about fight.

    That said, reading rumors like everyone, and one popping up is Sean Dyche if Villa stay up, with Smith in until the end of this season.

  53. JC- Yeah the FB’s are crucial to 433 and at the moment they are not getting forward anyway. The number of times they have been caught out plus the inability to shut games out I’m going for the most impact on points dropped. Bang for buck slightly better quality there could of seen us 3-5 points better off imo for what its worth.

    I also think ElGhazi was better early on when Wes and McGinn were fresh. One thing Wes did was attract those CB’s which is one of the main functions in a 433. The FB’s are supposed to keep theirs opposite FB’s busy and the wingers slip in between the FB and CB’s.

    Funny isn’t it that Dyche is being talked about, I think its unlikely because he does not fit the remit on the style the owners want and because Smith took 4 points off him this season.

  54. Bournemouth 3-0 down and below us on alphabet score. Wet Spam need to lose 6-0 and we will be out of the bottom three, forever hopeful 🙂

  55. JC
    Yes Chelsea were not at their best & let then in at the death.
    They ran out of steam in a London derby, we should’ve beat them.
    Let’s hope Liverpool will still be on the p*ss when we play them.

  56. IanG,
    That is a very big hope. Perhaps club will rest most of the team after the game against City.
    The only problem is that their youngsters will probably beat us, if he does!!

    We can only try and hang on, but the Championship is beckoning.

  57. IanG, PP…

    I figure if there’s a good time to play Liverpool, this will be it. They’ll want to beat City, and even if they rotate the minutes, top players should be out there in the middle and up top. We managed to beat their ‘kids’ before, we’ll see if we can’t pull off a minor miracle if that’s the way it lines up.

  58. Fat franks gift to his childhood club bugger. We are now in the position that those around us can do us some good.

    Bournemouths run in looks the toughest and on present form can’t see them winning any but you never know.

    Norwich look doomed but can take points off of or give them to Watford, Brighton and WestHam.

    West Ham can beat Watford and Norwich and be more or less safe by the time we visit which would suit us probably.

    Brighton should beat Norwich but if they don’t their run ins tough.

    Watford on paper have a easier run in but on form who knows.

    For us we need to get some points from those top six teams and beat Palace and West ham (or anyone). We have or have had since the restart 8 of the current top 12 on the form table.

    We have shown up at Manure and drawn, Arsenal we could of beat but lost, led Liverpool for 80 mins , we beat Everton, drew with Wet spam, lost at palace limply.

    Our hope mostly lies in Jack regaining form, by his own admission he didn’t show up early season so he may just fire up, If McGinn can do similar it would be a bonus. West ham have played well without reward and got something last night , we have done similar in a way, we might just be due our big team scalp for the season.

    If not we are off to the champs and a reshuffle.

  59. Further straw grasping but Wet Spam had already beat Chelski this season away. Sometimes teams just match up in a way that works for one side. We have taken 5 points from the teams we are about to play and led in two games we lost late on room for hope.

  60. Mark
    Yes a fairly accurate intelligent article from the mirror mail.
    When the going gets tough, the bull terrier attitude trumps a more skilful team.
    Remember Wimbledon?

  61. Mark
    Or they need a new pack leader of course.
    But in the state we’re in, that could easily result in the football league unfortunately, so somebody needs to give them a nip in a delicate place & give them a duracell.

  62. IanG- think we have to many Chihuahuas mate mings and Jack are about it and nobodies scared of Jack. Don’t know about DD’s personality but I get the feeling he’s a tetchy bugger.

  63. Iang- Yes a good article and pretty much the same conclusions I have drawn Particularly about Wesley. The only time we saw Elgahzi and Trez look dangerous on the counter was against Liverpoo with no Jack. I think it was Mings and Engels launching the long ball.

    Fred early season was the closest thing we had with any pace but that stopped with his niggle.

  64. Well Liverpool put out a full team but it didn’t help much, maybe they are already on the beach.

    I don’t know if anyone’s seen this last month but apparently ElGahzi is mustard at finishing in training.

    “The captain said on giving ElGhazi the penaltys: “Not just because he scored the last one, just the fact that when it comes to finishing drills (in training) he’s always like the best, he always wins them.

    “When he gets the ball on the edge of the box in training or shooting drills, his finishing ability is scary, it’s unbelievable.”

    So maybe if we stay with two up top its worth one being El Ghazi? I don’t think we will but you never know.

  65. Two good articles referred to earlier, and thanks for those MK and IanG.

    Well, a good thrashing from Man City for Liverpool is not going to help Villa’s case on Sunday, as for sure, Klupp is going to be looking for a response from his players.

    Apparently the deal is already done over Grealish with United. We will probably find that we are getting Tuanzebe as part of the deal, and maybe Ashley Young to come back as Captain for a year.
    May not be a bad deal.

  66. Wish that we had kept Callum O’hare as Jack’s replacement. I personally was very impressed with him, and Colin Adutayo, but many will probably not agree.

  67. PP- I’m puzzled by ohare going but I think it’s his choice he wants to play and we can’t guarantee that he will. Contracts are up and we don’t know where we are. I do have more faith in the u23 system now though.

  68. Anywhere Bruce got a Free hand disaster followed.
    As for our youth jack Gabby ,and albrighton who else in last 20 years have play consistently in place,
    Is it worth watching tomorrow will we try and at least beat c palace in that we get a touch in Liverpool s box, oo what for the days of Mon, Gregory little,Atkinson and Taylor 1st time

  69. Hopefully Louie Barry starts tomorrow. Throw a young lad in, nothing to lose vs the experienced wingers that are scared and do little …El Ghazi and Trez

  70. JG- Barry, Davis, whittingham, Robinson, Vassell, J lloyd Samuels , Clark, Hendrie, Cahill, weihmann

    Theres quite a few decent players that came through and played for us and others in the last 20 years. Don’t know what other teams hit rate is though but I doubt its really high.

  71. VillaMD – We have everything to lose bud, Watford now one goal better off than us plus a point we don’t want a tonking and undo all the good work lately. We are the only team bar Wet Spam with their late win that have gained on their rivals since the restart.

  72. Mk
    Barry little signed him in late 90s from Brighton,Samuels was early 90s ,Cassell must have been in 90s as well,and bar Clark did the rest managed 30 starts

  73. Considering most of us would of taken 17th at the start of the season I’m wondering what people thought that would look like over the season?

  74. MK,

    I just don’t know how you can make that statement when Purslow and Dean Smith were talking about winning every game and being top of the league, with Villa becoming one of vthe greatest club sides in the world!!!!
    Load of tosh of course, and yes we would all have just hoped to be able to stay up in our first year back, and it looks touch and go still, but to date most results have gone our way!
    Let us hope that Dean and the boys can pull something out of the bag today and grab three extremely precious points.

  75. JG- All played in the last 20 years mate it your gonna quibble over a couple of years out? 🙂 Vassell debut 98, Hendrie 94-2007 , Samuels 1999- 2007 , Davis 91 appearances, weihmann 113,……yes they made starts and in the end have had decent careers, so its not true we don’t produce some decent players at times like all academies. producing huge quantities all at once is quite rare from what I have seen mate. Hopefully they are fixing that, looks quite hopeful.

  76. PP- 🙂 Just asking. I can make it because we are still in the game. Others losing is there look out, Liverpool have only won the league because others have lost more on that score, at season end nobody will give a toss if we stay up, it will mean at least 3 other clubs were worse over a season. If we performed the way most seem to think we should we would be top ten but we know thats not the reality.

    Don’t clubs always big things up? who’d buy a ticket if they said its gonna be s**t? I love seeing how new players turn out part of the excitement of football. If we just won everything by default I’d get bored.

  77. So – no real surprises in the team line up. I do find it rather strange that Drinkwater cannot even make the bench with 9 subs. We are paying him £110K per week. Not that it really matters.

    Can we find the strength and resolve to muster one incredible performance to beat the Champions, hoping they still have a hang-over from their Premier League winning party. To be honest, I would take a point.

    Am I delusional? Probably.

    I remain positive in advance of the game.

    I am nervous in anticipation of the game Time for a bottle of rouge to calm/settle my nerves.

    Bugger. West Ham has just taken the lead.

  78. Yes trust Bruce, now it’s 2-2.

    Aston Villa XI: Reina, Konsa, Hause, Mings, Taylor, McGinn, Douglas Luiz, El Ghazi, Trezeguet, Grealish, Davis.

    Subs: Samatta, Guilbert, Jota, Nyland, Ahmed El Mohamady, Lansbury, Vassilev, Nakamba, Hourihane

  79. Spot on from the miserable scotch tosser, grealish needs to release quicker , might be the team but I think it’s become habit, when he gets the ball does he lift his head or not? Gonna watch closely today

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