Rather like the spirited 10-man victory over Rotherham in April of 2019, Villa found themselves down a man against Crystal Palace and took the game by the scruff of the neck to sweep aside the Eagles 3-0 with two second-half goals. Hard to believe we were playing Rotherham just 20 months ago.

You never know which results end up being defining moments in a season, but this match might turn out to be one. Heading into a more difficult stretch against Chelsea, United, Everton and Spurs, Villa needed to convert and they did. More important, the side showed a strength of mind, character, and body that says something about this squad. They’re not just here to hang on. Last season, we’d have conceded two or three and been under the cosh the entire half.

Instead, regrouping at the half, Villa came out aggressively, closing down and winning the ball, stopping Palace from gaining any momentum or cohesion. The approach seemed to fire up the players, who launched attack after attack with Palace looking for the equalizer. But Villa did it much more smartly than we saw last year. The counters weren’t sprung from panicked clearances. Players didn’t overcommit up the pitch, and Luiz and McGinn were there to support, and also slow, hold the middle, get it back, and shield the back line.

Palace looked the side a man down, and by the end, they were dispirited and well beaten. A little shell-shocked, even. They couldn’t find it in themselves to match Villa’s intensity.

No one switched off, no one stopped running. Cash and Targett were outstanding against a lot of speed and size, Hause and Konsa assured and mobile. Luiz was everywhere, McGinn was the terrier of old, and Grealish, Watkins and El Ghazi were both terrorizing the Palace back line and also getting back and defending. Emi’s biggest contribution was his early save, but his command and distribution were excellent throughout.

What we’ve ended up seeing consistently now is that Villa are very dangerous in space. When you have a player of Grealish’s quality on the ball, never mind his speed, you don’t need to lump it long. When you’ve got a strong, clever, and quick striker like Ollie in the middle, he’s going to get chances and pull defenders. He’s also opening up space by presenting a long ball threat. When the forward opposite Jack is playing well, he’s going to get a lot of chances given the attention Grealish and Watkins occupy. When you’ve got two midfielders like Luiz and McGinn, you’ve got tenacity and more quality on the ball. It’s a lot when everyone’s on song and the fullbacks are doing such a nice job defending and picking their moments to join in.

Now of course, it doesn’t hurt that right now, Jack is just about unplayable. He’s dominating game after game and wrecking defensive shapes and assignments. He’s an almost foolproof outlet, and he’s carrying the ball unbelievably well. The understandings are coming together. But everyone’s being much more clever and playing within themselves. Players have outlets and know where to look for them. The patterns, expectations, and resulting anticipation are settling in.

Now it’s Chelsea, and the 48-hour turn. Lampard’s men looked sluggish and devoid of ideas against Arsenal, which, unfortunately, means Frank will be demanding a response. With the deeper squad, Chelsea might well handle the short interval better. I’ll expect Chelsea to line up in roughly the same formation as Villa. I’ll also expect Tammy to try and break our hearts. I’m guessing Werner might be on the bench. Frank’s got more options than Smith to freshen things up.

At the same time, Smith’s said he’s got a squad where no one’s going to want to rest. They’re enjoying their football, believing in the system, coming together, and a couple are fighting for their places. Smith’s getting performances from everyone, and for players like Ghazi and Hause, we can see that not getting starts hasn’t meant they’re not improving. There’s some excellent work going on on the training ground. It’s also a young side, and they’re all used to working hard for 90 minutes.

So, an intriguing match-up, and one that I think Villa can look forward to after learning so much about themselves Saturday. Having taken 10 of the last 12 points on offer, they’re not under any pressure, and it looks like they’re starting to believe they’re worth their place in the top half. Given the scalps Villa have taken already and the different ways we’ve gotten results, we won’t expect them to be cowed. We might have to be a bit cagey in this one. But I say that knowing this side doesn’t really want to sit back.

Whatever happens, I like thinking we’re in with a shout against anyone.

Comments 285

  1. JC, I too believe we’ll give a good account of ourselves now against anyone. As long as feet are firmly on the ground and the team just think about the next game, we will do well.

  2. apologies for posting this twice, but I’d already started writing it on the previous thread:


    I agree with you that the next 4 games can help set our ambition for the season. Whilst it seems most unlikely that European football was a target at the start of the season, if we’re still close to the top 4 then I’m sure you’re right that the management and players will be thinking that it can be an objective after all. Leicester managed it after their premiership winning season but then struggled to finish 12th the following season, showing what a drain the extra games can be.
    I can’t agree with you that “our bench is so bad” though.
    Ranieri used 20 players in their Premiership wining season and we’ve used 19 so far with Wesley, Heaton, Guilbert, Engels plus some youth players all capable of stepping in if needed.
    Of course our bench quality is well short of that of the Manchester clubs or Chelsea or Liverpool but we are steadily improving . . . . .it will take a bit of time but unlike previous owners and mangers I believe that we’ll only bring players in if we intend to use them. The finances of the club MUST be taken into consideration too. This isn’t supermarket sweep and we don’t want the club to suffer in the way it has in the past.
    Remember the excitement when Lerner came in because we finally had a wealthy owner . . . . .well his circumstances changed and the club was thrown into turmoil. We should all be grateful that we seem to be in the privileged position of having owners who are willing and capable of extricating ourselves much more successfully than the owners of many other clubs have been.

  3. thanks for the write up John and you are surely right that Lampard has more scope to freshen things up than we do. We’ve been a bit unlucky that we’ve not been meeting the ‘top’ clubs when they’ve been suffering from extra European mid week games. . . . .the fixtures have not helped us in that way.
    It was indeed enjoyable watching our style of play and resilience in the second half against Crystal Palace. We didn’t put 10/11 men behind the ball despite the sending off, indeed we often left both Grealish and Watkins in positions from which they could attack. That meant that Palace had to leave players back to protect themselves. . . . . . but that pair proved too good for them!

  4. Robbo

    But surely a good bench is only going to help us? And aid a push for European football

    There is a reason Smith dowse use our bench, and Wesley won’t be ready this season.

    I just think we can’t keep up this amount of work load on a very few number of players all season and carry on getting good results

    Smith doesn’t want to bring on the likes of Davis, hourihane or marvelous at any point in games even when the 11 playing could probably do with coming off with 20 to go.

    Plus the likes of Taylor who is just so poor and pointless. Guilbert will be off in January

    So most our bench are useless and not fancied by Smith so why not buy in January

    Lange could find players for cheap better than our bench

  5. We don’t even need to spend muvhtin January to improve our sqaud

    Looking at Lange records he could find a 3 million pound midfield ler better than Hourihane and a better left back snf s better a better back up than Davis for a few million

  6. Anyway i hope we we win so badly because our next 3 after are very hard games. This would be a huge statement if we win tonight

    But i think it might just be a game to quick since Saturday that will affect our performance

  7. On Lange

    How much input do you think he had in January and what type of player do you think hes been bought in to buy

    Because his records in Denmark, he always scouted and bought players in a for very little. Sometimes a couple of million. Sometimes less than a million and they went on to add value

    I can’t see his style being spending 15 million on cash and 30 on Watkins. I think that’s a Smith buy

    So I wonder if we will aslo be looking to buy players for a few million?

  8. JC,

    Great write-up, agreed with everything that you wrote. So many great players at Villa these days that it’s hard to single players out. Obviously Jack is the Messi, but his supporting act is 1st class.

    R0bb0, good sensible thoughts. It’s also not just the fee of signing players, but their wages. Liverpool, Man C and top 4 get away with it because of their huge sponsorship deals and their marketing investments. We’re only starting that journey, so in my view it would be foolish to buy four or five 20M+ players to sit on the bench

  9. cheers JC

    I feel the palace game gave a gage of how far we have come and how suprisingly ood an outfit we are

    playing against the big spenders today with a deep squad , maybe a little too deep for me though ,,, its a bit like mahrez at citeh scores a brace then watch the next game isnt always the best fomula to success … love the deano way which is you keep your place if you do well and find it hard to get back in if you lose your first team spot

  10. Man city game called off

    They won’t be able to play there next couple of games either

    They are going to have 4/5 games in hand to catch up on

    One being us

  11. Frem- Lange found prospects that needed 2 years of work and were then sold for a profit. Finding players to cope for very little money in the prem is not the same as in the Danish League.

    If he is that good I expect him to buy 10 players for about £20m next season and we can turn them around for £40m whether they play or not.

  12. As for we can’t perform after two days? I don’t buy that, we played Burnley and WBA within three days and just had 6 days rest before Saturday.

    We used to play Saturday afternoon get pissed and play 10 o’clock the next morning then get pissed again. Very few of us trained in the week bar the odd 5 a side. This lot eat sleep and drink football, training and recovery.

    I think they will cope, especially as we are winning, it has a whole different effect to losing on recovery, literally, it raises your testosterone .

  13. Frem,

    Of course you’re right that we’d all like a stronger team, squad, bench, there’s no disputing any of that. It’s all a matter of timing. If our owners have the stomach for fast and heavy investment, it would make me feel uneasy (for a number of reasons) , but you wouldn’t hear me complaining.

  14. Leicester losing

    The results have gone perfect for us to win

    Please take advantage

    Mark. I’m sure he can still find players for cheap better than anyone on our bench

  15. Frem,
    You’re probably also right about Lange looking to bring in under-appreciated players who can develop. That does feel like a slightly longer term view which may not bring the instant dramatic upgrades that you’re looking for though but that will be partly because of our different views of the quality of some of our current squad.

  16. Well it’s not hard to improve on Taylor and hourihane is it Mark. And most the other players on our bench

    We go 3rd tonight if we win and Leicester lose

    So you just know we will fuck this up

  17. I would say that what we witnessed last season was more or less an attempt to buy cheap talent that may make an instant impact ( or that we needed to make an instant impact) we know also what that looked like.

    To improve the bench you need potential starters not professional bench sitters.

  18. Same 11 then our bench has 2 right baoa centre back anf left back

    I don’t get the point

    We have one attacking player

    Smith can’t like that?

    He must have mentioned it for January

  19. Mark

    Exactly. We need potential starters

    Not one player on our bench is good enough to start so let’s get rid and buy better players

  20. Frem,

    I’m going to disagree that Dean doesn’t go to the bench because he won’t play any of them. I think it’s more the case that Dean wants his XI to play out every game: fitness and mentality, as well as drilling them together in every circumstance, whether that’s seeing out a 1-0, scoring for fun, or trying to rescue a point. That’s why I think he doesn’t follow your substitution advice.

    You’ll have noticed the side have (I think as of Saturday) have scored as many or more than anyone else in the last 10-15 mins. And they often find an extra gear at the end when they’re chasing.

  21. My god, Frem.

    We don’t have just one attacking player. We have three-four in this set-up. It’s clearly not all on Watkins. Our “wingers” are wide forwards, and Ollie himself has played out wide.

  22. As I said last match you would be hard pressed to find a more attacking 11, to have an attacking bench in reserve would be a miracle at this stage. Truth is Davis, Hourihane, Ramsey are all attacking players too.

  23. Mark.

    Not sure Hourihane os attacking l. He can’t run. He isn’t exactly going to cause any problems

    We need game changers

    We need a CAM who can come on. A winger to come on who can change a game or rotate. A striker

  24. Frem are you nuts? Hourihane regularly gets goals and assists which you say are an attacking players only stats, both Ramsey and Conor make great runs into the box when allowed and Conor probably has the best shot out of the whole team for accuracy with power.

  25. One thing I will say for you Frem is that you do make us question the status quo. . . . .I just wish you’d only make each point once or twice.
    Ok. . . . .I’ll be even fairer than that. . . . . once or twice each new thread. 🙂

    I do feel a bit sorry for you though as you don’t seem to ever be able to gain any long (or even medium term) pleasure from our successes and always fretting about our next failure. . . . . . and sport has to have its failures

  26. MK beat me to it, but what we have is one central forward on the bench and cover for the other positions. Fingers crossed, but it’s been working out so far, and our aim this season was certainly not Europe.

    If we squeak in, great. But I really don’t think the squad is ready for the extra games yet. And if we get Europa, we’ll see how much Compass can spend. We still have one more year until we have a three-year average of PL money on our books, if I understand things correctly.

    (I haven’t gone and researched the FFP business with COVID, but I’d imagine it’s about not holding clubs accountable for decreased matchday revenue. I don’t think it means Compass can go spend £500m. I’m sure someone can fill me in, here.)

  27. John – can we establish some ground rules for the quality of content on this site?

    Your comments “Frem and His Weary Friends.” is beyond accurate. I am tired of the same comments, multiple times a day on this site. Other Villa blogs and YouTube channels have more intelligent, positive and intuitive debates. This site has become the Frem and Mark bitching channel.

    I have an idea – Frem and Mark – why don’t you start your own Whats App Group so you can argue with each other until your hearts are content. You can even have a Video Call so you can debate about Trez + Wesley + our bench until the cows come home. You would be doing us all a favour.

    You rants are becoming incredibly tedious and boring.

  28. I want us to br able to bring on a player where the opposition think oh no he’s coming on.

    We don’t have that

    Look what Chelsea can bring on

  29. Amen John Clark

    Congratulations and admiration to to all for their patience with frem’s hogging and desecration of an excellent Aston Villa blog. I had my frem meltdown a few blogs ago I assume there must be world shortage of ritalin .

  30. Funny isn’t it how people see stuff, now I can’t say frems comments are not repetitive but he sticks to his guns regardless so thats fair enough if Boring.

    Plenty of others comment on here and frankly They don’t stir up much debate they just make statements, thats ok too, everyone puts their thoughts down how they feel, none of us are keats or Shelley and most I would not get out of bed to read but I do because this is a community not a dictatorship.

  31. Last time we won here Petrov Bent and Ireland scored

    I’ll always remember the 4-4 in 2007 with Barry scoring a late pen to equalise

    Snd remember Clarks header late on to make it 3-3 in 2011 I think

  32. Two wingers and a striker on Chelsea bench

    Now that’s what should be on a bench
    They can bring two fresh wingers on to open up the game against tierd full backs

  33. Just thought I would butt in.
    When I can’t get to VP, I watch Villa on one of the numerous naughty streaming sites I’ve accumulated over the millenia. I tried to do things right today and took out the trial for Amazon Prime. All my streams do 1080p HD. Prime is 480p at best. Bummer!

  34. Geek interruption alert.

    Apologies for slagging off Amazon Prime. Picture is fine in Firefox and Google Chrome. Not so good in retro browsers Waterfox and Pale Moon.

    Back to frem.

  35. It’s been coming

    We just don’t have the sqaud to play 2 games in 2 days

    Unfortunately this could be the start of a bad run of games

  36. In fairness Frem we hadn’t looked leggy prior to the goal. Chelsea have started playing some good football.
    We are looking exposed down the left though as Traore doesn’t enjoy the tracking back duties
    His fault for the goal I’m afraid and it’s putting huge pressure on Matty Cash

  37. No attacking threat so far. Everyone looks leggy.

    Watkins struggling up front to keep the ball amd just running aimlessly

    But wr have absolutely nothing on our bench to chance anything so

  38. Yeah, it is heavy down our right.

    I can see Smith giving Traoré a bit longer, then see Elmo coming on to help shore that up. Traoré’s been good on the ball, but that space behind him is big.

  39. Cash not the same after his concussion. Team struggling with energy. Maybe Dean should have freshened the squad up a little. Maybe rested Luis or McGinn, and had them on the bench and given Ramsey a start with Nkamaba.
    Traore, apart from his one mistake has been doing ok.

  40. Watkins needs to stop running towards the corner flag anf save his energy

    We certainly need to get better going forward that half

    Games like this you see we lack quality in depth

  41. we started well but not putting it together in the final third chelski have grown into the game due to this , hopefully we can put it together and get the next goal

  42. Brilliant despite the fatigue, could easily have scored more I’ll taker the 1-1 but feeling a bit disappointed as we could of beat them and clearly they are not on another planet to us.

  43. Probably one of the worst displays of the season and to get a point is brilliant

    Things to work on but for our second game in 2 days and no rotation that’s brilliant

    But we need to help this team in January

  44. Utterly fabulous performance and result. SMG reminds me of a mini Dave Mackay. Had a mock dig at Traore but I could see him learning from his mistake. Produced some Merson like outside of the foot passes. Villa in a good place. TFFT.

  45. 1-1 a good result for both teams. Of course 3 is always nice.
    I’m no completely sold on Villa’s bench being complete shite. Sometime in the next four games the first 11 are going to need a rest. Smith is going to have to pick a game to sacrifice. To help prevent injury from over exertion and rest up players I’d go with the next one. Most likely one to be a loss IMO.

  46. Jbd,

    It was really good. That was all mental toughness and belief. You’ve got a team taking off a Giroud and bringing on Werner and Havertz. But Ramsey came as close as Timo.

  47. Gosh that sh*** player El Ghazi with a lucky shot and thank goodness he got subbed…

    That McGinn hits the bar and should have scored….

    What a rubbish bench and team…..

    Or , actually do we have a brilliant manager in Dean and a team to go with it……

  48. Konsa and Hause excellent again. Will be difficult for Mings to get back in.

    Luiz and McGinn the best CM partnership in EPL.

    The fight and belief in the team is unreal. We could have nicked it, but a fair result.

    I thought there were a few tired passes during the match, but 200% effort against the fresh Chelsea. MAGNIFICENT

  49. I also liked the way we saw it out. Again, didn’t overcommit looking for that winner, played it safe, defended corners well.

    Was great to get an equalizer, obviously, but just as nice to hold onto that point on no rest.

  50. Frem, i thought Chelsea had the better chances but there is a lot of trust in Villa’s defence and keeper so Smith feels he can give a team those chances. I think he did the game right. Better players against a tired team what did we expect?

  51. I know this team os good

    The first 11 are good

    But let’s get better sqaud players to help them in January

    Give ourselves a better chance

  52. Bringing on David at the end showed again the intent from Dean Smith
    Had expected him to come on for Traore but El Ghazi did look spent
    In fairness to Traore he did track back much better in the second half but that did mean that we lost his creativity and flair up front

  53. That was a tough point to win. Our guys looked out on their feet at the end. I’m delighted with the result. Main concern now must be injuries to the players due to the amount of effort put in. A 48 hour turnaround with a small squad is hard. We really do need to rest three or four. But well done everyone especially SJM.

    The suggestion above of Guilbert at RB and Cash in front of him sounds appealing. Hopefully Barks will be back too. And Ramsey is definitely worth a run out. He did OK when he came on. Maybe get Naka on too.

  54. They had a field day down our right. Feel sorry for Cash. But the bottom line is……we are still above Chelsea. That’s magnificent. Emi took everything out of the air. And they’ll need to check that cross bar for cracks after SJM smacked it with a missile.

  55. Well it pretty much panned out how I thought it would, Traore less effective against a better team but not terrible but also not working hard enough tracking back which cost us. Missed some good early chances which was a shame.

    Also turned out Ramsey can play at 10 who’d of thought? 🙂

    Mount saying we only had one shot and it was all Chelsea and goes on to point out they have 4 players for every position, still got pegged back at home by a tired Villa side though eh, wanker.

  56. That was a FANTASTIC performance from Villa

    We were unlucky not to have won the game

    Chelsea spent 250m in the summer.

    Well done Dean Smith and the boys.

    Including the utterly BRILLIANT and SUBLIME Jack Grealish. That was for you Mark.

    Signing off from me. Enjoy the rest of the season Aston Villa Lifers.

    John – you have been Amazing.

    Frem and Mark – you really should think about getting a room together.

    You can whisper sweet nothings about Trez and the lack of squad depth as you get jiggy with each other.

    And then you can rate each others sexual performance with the same level of enthusiasm as Villas expected goals – enjoy.


  57. Yes at some point these guys need a rest, but when?
    And Smith obviously doesn’t trust the players on the bench apart for av few minutes

    I hope we aren’t run into the ground for the final push of the season

    That’s why I really hope January we improve this sqaud

  58. Mount can Foxtrot Oscar.

    Ramsey just missed the post. SJM rattled the cross bar. Four players for every position is a schitt set up. How is Pam Lard going to keep that lot happy?

  59. Plug- I would go the other way around and keep cash at RB Guilbert or Elmo in front. Traore improved though so right now he is likely to stay put.

    Hopefully Barkley back next match so he will probably be benched.

  60. MK – I agree with Frem on Elmo/Fred RB and Cash winger if needed. Cash is great at attacking. Traore has come on leaps and bounds. His close control is quality.

    Unfortunately it will be hard to rest players with so many big games, but maybe for Man U
    Freddie Konsa Hause Targett
    Luiz Nakamba/Ramsey
    Cash Barkley El Ghazi

  61. Agonised over what to wish for against manure on Friday. Like the idea of playing the same team with only necessary injury driven changes but our record at Old Trafford is sh!te so might be a good opportunity to try an experimental side eg the Cash – Freddie combo, Ramsay for one of the wingers, rest Watkins – give Davies a run, Would love to experiment with Hourihane as a support striker. NOT all at once! Just some of my Football Manager 2021 fantasies.

  62. We won’t rest anyone against united either

    Smith said he was thinking about resting players but they wanted to play so he said they’ve earned it trust

    They will all want to play on Friday

    But I would think maybe Watkins, cash and Luiz need a rest ig anyone?

  63. Frem – Martinez is amazing at everything- crosses, saves, and kicking as well as quick counter attacks.

    I would like to see Hause keep his place, but I think DS has loyalty to Mings. Mings scares me as at times he’s so casual on the ball. It’s like since his England call-up he feels like his has an extra yard.

    RichardS – hopefully we see more comments from you.

  64. I’d like Davis to come on more. He’s such a unit and won things on the air when he came on. I think Watkins needs a rest. A few crosses came in he should have been on the end off

  65. I’d agree that Watkins could do with a rest. He had some set of lungs with all the running that he does.

    After the ManUre game, we don’t play in the league again for 2 weeks. So do you take the risk and go full strength knowing that a break is coming?

  66. Thoughts turn to Man Ure on Friday. I’m definitely in the rotation camp. Not many, 3 or 4. We have 4 days rest. After that it’s the Bin Dippers who will probably bring a second string team to play our second string as it’s the FA cup. After that, it’s full steam ahead again.

  67. Plug ,

    Yeah, 5th is great especially with the style of football we play. Spurs also have 26 points, but their fans want Jose out as they play such boring, defensive crap.

    UTV and DS

  68. Ye i think Friday we have to rotate

    I think marvelous, Guilbert and Davis should all come in

    Watkins definitely looking leggy. I think that might be part as to why he’s not scoring. Maybe he’s tierd when the chances are falling to him. Save his energy so when he gets a scoring position hws fresh.

    Davis is absolutely fine to lead a line for one game. He’s quick and strong

  69. We are 5th and come middle of January still wontbe far off hopefully

    The club would be mad not to add players to push us on

    I think we will. Smith said after we are looking at things

  70. jbd656,

    I did say over 50 years, but I was being conservative, as it is actually 0ver 63 years, starting when my Dad introduced me to the Villa, watching the 1957 FA Cup Final, and then taking me to Villa Park on several occasions afterwards, and I started watching regularly as a schoolboy in 1958, when it cost a shilling for kids and a programme was 3d. Eventually ended up paying 2/6d for the schoolboy entrance in about 1964/65. The old sixth form scarf came in handy, but hid it on going in the pub!!

  71. Ian,
    I think we discovered that a while ago.

    I am now old enough for a free tv licence, but as they say, I was born too late. I missed out on National Service too!!

  72. A year ago today we lost 3-0 away to Watford

    Elmo, Hourihane, jota, lansbury anr Wesley all started. Not one of those good enough really at this level and wouldn’t get near this current 11

    Targett, Luiz and Hause also started that day, Grealish to

    How much those 4 have improved since a year ago is amazing really

  73. And you know this Hause/Mings headache on who plays

    That’s the type of dilemma we need in every position. We need every position to have 2 good players competing

    Unfortunately we don’t.

    Every position picks him self

    Left back and right back we only have 1 player. Konsa only RCB we have good enough.

    Luiz, Mcginn and Barkley when fit picks its self

    Traore will always play RW now over trezeguet. Watkins has no competition or cover

    Grealish will always play LW when Barkley is back. Maybe Ghazi can rotate a bit but no chance really

    So we literally only have one position being fought for in Hause ir MINGS for left sided centre back. This is why we need this depth in every position

  74. Ian
    You poor sod potentially being exposed to my warped character. My F/B page is a football free (i.e. Villa) zone. Still don’t get a free TV licence. Look at that birthday in July. Always the youngest in class i.e. the class whippersnapper. The only time when I more than half know what I’m talking about is when I’m obsessively droning on about Villa.

  75. It’ll be interesting to see how many U23 players DS plays in FA cup, as we know the moaner will play mainly U23. Surely Louie Barry and Carney Chukwuemeka must start?

  76. Walking along the Kings Road after our 8-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge back in 2012 I’m glad I didn’t know back then that we’d have to wait another 8 years before we could feel this proud of our team again.
    The over-spending of the O’Neill era, on players we rarely used, saw us on a slow, steady decline, with 8 changes of manager ( excluding caretakers) over the following 8 years.
    It’s easy to forget that Dean Smith joined us only 2 years ago, when we were 14th in the Championship, and in that short period of time he (and Compass) have built a squad that were able to genuinely compete at Stamford Bridge last night despite the absence of several of our regular starters.
    They say that emotions make memories, and back in 2012, I remember, as we walked away from the ground amongst a sea of silent Chelsea fans, the Villa fans continuing to sing “I’m Villa till I die”, and despite feeling sad about the result I still felt proud of my club.
    Today we can begin to dream again of returning to the pinnacle of English football. We have owners with a vision and financial clout, a manager who is being described as the best English manager in the game, a captain who, like the manager is Villa through and through, ( and possibly the best English player in the game) and a squad who seem to all know their roles, are enjoying playing together and will run through walls for this club.
    The pride is well and truly back and it feels good.

  77. For all his evident talents, it’s going to be interesting to see whether Traore really has what it takes to regularly fit into a Dean Smith team.
    I saw this passage in a review of last night’s game, quoting commentator Jim Beglin.

    “Chilwell now knows that Traore doesn’t fancy doing the ugly stuff, doesn’t like tracking back.” “Chilwell indeed here allowed to gallop proud and free in the area of the pitch where Villa’s right midfielder should be, and deliver a cross. Surprised Dean Smith is letting Traore get away with that to be honest. It was noticeable in the first dig as well.”

    At various times last night we had up top, Ollie Watkins, Jack Grealish, Jacob Ramsey and Keenan Davis. Dean Smith seems to appreciate hard work and flexibility amongst his players and for all his talents, I’d guess that if Traore wants to thrive in this squad he’s going to need to show some of these other attributes.
    To be fair to him, he was clearly working at it in the second half and if he sticks at it we could have found another real gem.

  78. Why wasn’t Pulisic cautioned when he kicked Matty Cash in the head?
    I remember one World Cup where they severely punished any such dangerous play with an immediate red card, and whilst it would be a shame to outlaw the bicycle kick, it surely is the responsibility of the attacker to make sure it’s carried out safely.
    The rules say “Reckless is when a player acts with disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, an opponent and must be cautioned”
    Keep the bicycle kick in the game by all means, but a player could be killed if it’s used recklessly so it should be made absolutely clear that if a player uses it unsafely they’ll be sent off.
    For Pulisic to escape even a caution was clearly wrong.

  79. Dean Smith after last night:

    ‘It’s only our second season back in the Premier League. You have to build gradually. We had 13 new players last season but only five this year. They’ve settled in quickly.”

    That says to me that the club is unlikely to swerve away from their strategy of building steadily as a result of our current position being better than expected, so those looking for a whole new second 11 are going to be disappointed . . . Hurrah!
    It’s not to say that there won’t be ‘any’ signings, but just that they won’t be pushed into becoming reactive as a result of our current league position.

    As Rudyard Kipling wrote:

    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master”
    “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same”

    It seems we have calm, rational heads within the club who, most importantly, are prepared to patiently build a sustainably successful Aston Villa.

  80. rOBB0,

    Traore is still learning. He’s not yet in the Deano mould. For me, the difference this term is that, of our 5 signings in the summer, 4 were from the English leagues. Only Traore came from overseas so it’s going to take him time to settle as it did the Suso buys from last year.

    As Suso was on his way out, and Lange was a late replacement, most of our transfer business last summer was reliant on Deano and that’s why I think they’ve settled more quickly than the one “import”. Think we might see the best of Traore next year.

  81. Anyways, an excellent point last night. Pam Lard is coming under pressure in the media this morning. He spent 200 million last summer on 5 players and he’s suffering the same “settling in” issues that happen when overseas buys are first exposed to the EPL.

  82. I think the difference between this season and last is the quality has risen. Not just because we brought in Quality its the make up of that Quality.

    Martinez is a winner that has struggled to make it for ten years, we saw his ability sure but I will bet my house Smith wanted his will to win and hard work just as much. Cash? what can you say, got England RB written all over him, works his nuts off, Watkins the same, those three have brought the team up way more than the addition of Traore and Barkley imo.

    Put that lot in training and others have to work harder and have by the look of it. So I am not bothered by the bench as we are not fielding last seasons team. Putting Taylor into a well oiled machine is a lot different to putting him in a sink or swim situation.

  83. Watched Smith interview again, he said we are not desperate to add players in Jan more or less, of course if something comes up thats a bargain or makes sense yes but we are not under pressure to buy.

  84. Excellent thoughts MK on Martinez, Cash and Watkins which I am in total agreement with, and how they have added to Jack and Super John McGinn’s love and desire for this club.
    I am so proud at long last to see a squad of players who are willing to put on the shirt of Aston Villa and run through walls to play for it.
    We are also producing young players willing to do the same. Was so impressed with young Ramsey when he came on, and what a dream start it would have been if that shot had curled a fraction more!!
    eager now for Friday’s game and what it may bring. Perhaps we may see a couple of changes on the bench, but not much change to the current line-up.

  85. Excellent thoughts MK on Martinez, Cash and Watkins which I am in total agreement with, and how they have added to Jack and Super John McGinn’s love and desire for this club.
    I am so proud at long last to see a squad of players who are willing to put on the shirt of Aston Villa and run through walls to play for it.
    We are also producing young players willing to do the same. Was so impressed with young Ramsey when he came on, and what a dream start it would have been if that shot had curled a fraction more!!
    eager now for Friday’s game and what it may bring. Perhaps we may see a couple of changes on the bench, but not much change to the current line-up.
    Was impressed with McGinn’s statement about the privilege of footballers , and should be happy to play everyday!!

  86. Tried commenting a few times but its not coming up, one more time for good luck might be the link 🙂

    Traore struggled against Chilwell, gave the ball away 18 times completed 15 passes and three crosses that went nowhere.

  87. PP- Linekers comment on playing games makes a mockery of resting them.

    “Well said Dean Smith after playing his strongest side again, ‘I’ve never had to take a player off for exhaustion.’ Loved playing games, more the better. The vast majority of players don’t want to be rested.”

    Some great comments from Pundits about us now, I love this from Ian Wright who would come here to play over city. Just shows you that Smiths attacking play can attract players in the next few windows.

    “I need that freedom. Villa are a team now… if they were walking down the street, they’d be wearing the coolest trainers, the coolest trousers.”

  88. MK,

    Yeah, good point on the 3 signings. I would also add SJM as a new signing and now he’s better than ever at #6. Shows what a class lad he is as I’m sure he would prefer #8. I also see Targett as a new signing as he has matured and is now an excellent defender and takes up much better defensive positions

  89. So happy with the villa right now this surely is the beginnings of something special … we already seem to be at a level were we will go out and attack every apponant from the off … its all about our own game

    yes troure was at fault bib time first half but after deano got hold of him at half time his 2nd half defensive display wasa top notch … its all very encouraging imo … i certainly dont agree with the view that troure is any type of weak link ,, fab attidude fab skills fab footy braIn

    SJM was fantastic last night

  90. Lots of good thoughts…

    Traoré will get the hang of it, I think. If nothing else, that sort of running and responsibility is essential in the PL. If he wants to stay, he’s going to have to get there. I’m guessing there’s a lack of fitness with him, that he wasn’t asked to do that much running in France.

    But he listened, took it on board. No doubt they’ll dissect that goal (probably did at halftime). He’s fast and lean, so he should be able to run himself into shape. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but he’ll need to look at Ghazi and Trez.

    On the ball, undoubted quality. The thing to add there is running into the channel and driving at defenders. Right now, he likes to ghost sideways looking for a shot. He’ll need to learn to do what Ghazi is doing.

  91. MK,

    Yes. I think what Villa have shown should be enough to attract players. Can’t hurt that Jack’s profile has grown, either.

    On the window, I don’t expect much, but like I’ve said, there could be some activity. Dean’s being cagey, and good on him…He doesn’t want to ruffle feathers by telling a team sat fifth we need more quality.

  92. Oh, and meant to say about the window…

    There are players who will be out of contract. Whether we still, or ever did, have any interest in Josh King, I’ve no idea, but there’s one who’s price will have come down since the summer.

    That said, Smith won’t want to upset the balance too much, and I’d think it would also depend on some outgoings, as well. King would want to play regularly, and I don’t think Dean would to want to get in Ollie’s head by bringing him in if he doesn’t feel that he has to. Smith will be looking for cover more than competition there.

  93. And McGinn’s comments were excellent, Dean’s, too. From, “It’s a privilege and I’d play every day,” to “I’ve never seen a player taken off for exhaustion”…Quality.

    Everyone’s tired of the big boys whinging, and let’s not forget it was Liverpool and United who wanted to run the league, cut teams out, start their own European closed shop. Six changes for Chelsea. Maybe Frank needs to figure out his best XI and stick with that. Hearing “Chelsea need Ziyech back.” FFS. They’ve got Abraham, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Pulisic, and Werner, atm. Ought to be good enough, I’d think.

    Also quite pleased to hear people telling Christensen he should’ve gotten up. Sherwood was excellent: Not good enough. You’re not hurt, get up. Tayls, too.

    Controversial, my arse. While I completely disagreed with nothing being given for Cash getting kicked in the head, the ref was right to let play continue on this one. Christensen knew they were fooked when he was beaten and wanted to stop play. More decisions like that, and it might clean things up a little bit.

    I also like Ghazi having a go at Giroud for coming in with a high boot. He turned and avoided because he saw it in time, but that was dangerous play, and he had no problem telling a legend what he thought. Not intimidated, this side.

  94. And one last thing while I’m holding the stage…

    Dean saying he didn’t draw up the team sheet Sunday, waited til Monday, asked his players, they looked him in the eyes and said they were good.

    Fantastic management. He trusted them, and they repaid that trust by leaving everything out on the pitch.

  95. VillaMD- couldn’t agree more about Targett, clearly he has worked hard and it won’t hurt that his team mates are now better and fitter to test him in training. McGinn, yes its easy to forget they are being asked to play in positions that they have to adapt to in a very hard league, last night he was superb and not a goal or assist in sight 🙂

  96. Runtings I think Traore has not really featured against the better sides and being new to the league will take time, if that was Robertson and Mane last night?

  97. JC- yeah, January we might, we might not, but we most certainly won’t advertise it 🙂

    Right now this seems like a bit of a dream for me as I have been asking for coach to be given time and a young side to develop for what seems like forever and gotten stick for it.

    Even up until recently (this season no less) the calls for Dean to go have been many, no plan B , subs you name it, he hasn’t been good enough, and its his fault. Sadly you don’t hear many saying they were wrong and the next poor run I am sure the boot will be put in again. Clearly the Owners are better judges than the fans.

  98. JC, It’s the Laaandan media that is doing the moaning. It must be a real bummer for them seeing Villa above Spurs, the Arse, Chelsea, West ‘Aamm, Palace and Fulham. And we have game(s) in hand on all of them.

    Move over moaners, there’s a new kid on the block.

  99. Plug- love it mate 🙂 best thing is we have lost that fear of playing in London, never really a happy hunting ground for us, lost them all bar 1-1 at spam last season, won 2 drawn 1 lost one so far.

  100. Mark, When a team loses a string of games, the manager/coach comes under pressure. It’s the name of the game and Deano is not exempt.

    Look at Pam Lard, a few poor results and he’s ready for roasting. They could have gone top 3 weeks ago. Spud is copping it at mid table Newcastle and familiar comments like “mass hysteria” and “batten down the hatches” are coming out. Pulis got 6 weeks at Sheff Weds. Lennon at Celtic has a big demonstration against him outside the ground and they’ve completed 3 trebles on the bounce. Fans moan. Villa are no different to anywhere else.

    Villa are never going to react to knee jerk reactions from fans. The cabbage episode followed a year of treading water.

  101. The one dread I have is that when the Covid mania ends that we will revert to norm, I hope not because the league has improved in my eyes, not just from a villa point of view.

  102. Disagree Plug, we have been far to trigger happy and had zero plan to boot (even under MON) . We now have a plan which requires continuity for it to bare fruit. Newcastle have no plan other than the owners exit plan.

    We used to be in their position and yeah I can take the moans but not since our owners have turned up, requires a bit of patience and sometimes unflinching support for this young side to come good.

  103. Ah, yes, the cabbage. That incident made me cry a bit. That someone would waste such a good looking vegetable chucking it at Bruce. Really though, that must have been galling for him.

    McGinn mentioned in the news that El Gazi can run with any of the big boys in the league and has been quite impressed with his commitment and quality as of late.
    I don’t fret when the opposition is in our backyard anymore. Nor do i seem to worry about the last 20 minutes either.

  104. yes Mark any player coming into this lge will need time to settle and Troare is not goin to produce his best football in the first few months but the tactical defensive improvement 2nd half from Troare is a bi indication of how quickly and willing this guy is to learn and help the team and as he said himself the fitter he gets the more he will be able to contribute

    i just do not buy into any suggestion that Troare is only going to do well against small clubs i actually think its a tremendous buy and talent and one of the most gifted players at the club

  105. Runtings- Believe me I hope so, so far that hasn’t been the case on evidence, the games he has shone in have been against Bristol and WBA and Palace that had just conceded 7, no fitness problems there, Chelsea posed a different problem to him. Those passing stats say he was finding harder to find our players or not moving it quickly enough? something they could all do better. He’s a smart lad though and he’ll work it out.

    If it was fitness surely his second half wouldn’t have improved? Having watched Jack become more than competent at tackling, heading and defensive work I have no doubt he can improve, Christ look at Targett.

    We will see what Mr Smith thinks on Friday, I suspect if Barkley plays he will be sat is my feeling, if not with Trez being side-lined he plays.

    Really want to beat manure 🙂

  106. Time for me to remind you all to get some Vit D3 down your gullets. Dosed my Girlfriend up to the gills before her vaccine and all she got was a temperature that night. A fair few of here peers had the week off afterwards. Japan who’s Vit D status is very good vs Europe fared really well with Covid. Testing shows that the Japanese got the virus in just didn’t die.


  107. On Deano and the supporters:

    Yeah, it’s pretty commonplace, criticism. I’ve stuck by him because I feel for once that a) I understand the method to his madness, and b) he’s not at all mad. Calm, collected, changed things up immediately, focusing on fitness, coaching and team-building, always gives good answers in his pressers…Just seemed to be exactly the sort Villa needed.

    I won’t say it doesn’t feel good seeing some have to swallow a few of their words. I just hope everyone can relax and enjoy where we’re at. From the squad that won the playoff, to last year and then this, it’s pretty remarkable.

  108. I also think Traoré will be a very good addition. We’ve seen glimpses already, but as he learns the league, Villa’s system and demands, and the players, he should only have more impact.

    The fitness bit is more about him just not being used to the demands of the PL. He may well have already built some up in training to get to the required levels week-in, week-out for the full 90.

  109. Ian,

    That was the least amount of dread I’ve had in a while against a top club going down the stretch. We’re looking more and more solid. You just never really know until you face that kind of attacking talent in search of a result.

    I will say again, though, that I think the lack of crowds is helping. Chelsea weren’t getting that extra encouragement, Villa weren’t feeling all that energy against them. Just XI v XI.

    What I hope is that the players have learned they’re good enough and can carry that through to when they go back into hostile environments.

  110. JC,

    Agreed on no crowds helping Villa, but with Chelsea on a ban run the fans would also be on their backs….so who knows. I don’t think we’ll see crowds for the whole season, if the season even completes. Seems like there will be a vote for a 2 week break in Jan! I just hope the vaccines work so this nightmare ends and we limit further deaths.

    To go back to an earlier thread and ‘reasons for Villa improvement’….maybe Shakespeare has also been a key factor. I haven’t heard any of the players mention him though, so probably not

  111. On transfer rumors, my thoughts:
    Rashica – no, will take 6 months to adjust so why bother
    King – no
    Buendia – yes please. Worth 30M. Would take him over Barkley if I had to choose, but ideally both

  112. VillaMD,

    Yeah, a break might well be on. Not sure how I feel. With a thin squad, probably can’t hurt us, but as Dean says we’ve got momentum.

    I’m sure Shakespeare’s having an influence. Not sure what he’s tasked with, but I can’t imagine he isn’t having an impact. We definitely look less naive for starters, seem to be nailing our patterns more frequently, and are showing better situational positional awareness. Not things Smith wouldn’t know, but it may be a matter of identification/breakdown, preparation, and hands-on work with the players, individually or as in groups.

    Amen on the vaccines.

  113. I should also say, doesn’t really matter how I feel about a break. If they can get everyone isolated and minimize future postponements and spread, hard to argue.

    I figured there’d be an interruption at some point. I’m just glad Villa are safe in case the whole thing goes tits up.

  114. Yep JC, if it does go tits up our status is safe.

    Allardyce is kidding nobody. He doesn’t want a break to isolate everyone and save the season. He wants it so that he can get 2 weeks work into them on the training ground whilst preserving their “games left” numbers. Too obvious Big Sam.

  115. VillaMD- I would seriously buy Some Vit D3 and take that, 90% reduction in fatalities if you get it can’t be sniffed at. Vaccines will take a long time to roll out and as there has never been a flu Vaccine with efficacy greater than 50/50 I think we will have a long wait.

    Forbes registered 50 new billionaires from this pandemic, I don’t think the gravy train is about to stop any time soon.

    Sunak our chancellor cofounded a hedge fund of £500m in Moderna and refuses to say whether he will profit for instance, this stuff is going on all over the place, I doubt if many of the big political/medical players in this don’t stand to make fortunes. Politics and medicine are not good bed fellows.

    JC- I’d like to know how can they isolate further than they are? Every time we have a lockdown in this country its claimed we are not doing it properly, From my experience that just isn’t true. I cannot imagine the clubs are less stringent than the public, The Mrs care home has yet to see a case, Is that luck? I don’t know their staff go home every day to family’s etc.

    Cold weather and over exertion that lowers immunity won’t help football players because the virus is pretty much everywhere.

  116. This was shared on a Covid survivor group..With many people testing positive it’s worth knowing…


    No one ever talks about how to fight Covid at home. I came down with Covid in November. I went to the hospital, running a fever of 103, a rapid heart beat, and other common symptoms that come with Covid. While I was there they treated me for the high fever, dehydration and pneumonia.
    The doctor sent me home to fight Covid with two prescriptions – Azithromycin 250mg & Dexamethason 6mg. When the nurse came in to discharge me, I asked her, “What can I do to help fight this at home?” She said, “Sleep on your stomach at all times with Covid. If you can’t sleep on your stomach because of heath issues sleep on your side. Do not lay on your back no matter what because it smashes your lungs and that will allow fluid to set in.
    Set your clock every two hours while sleeping on your stomach, then get out of bed and walk for 15-30 min, no matter how tired or weak that you are. Also move your arms around frequently, it helps to open your lungs. Breathe in thru your nose, and out thru your mouth. This will help build up your lungs, plus help get rid of the Pneumonia or other fluid you may have.
    When sitting in a recliner, sit up straight – do not lay back in the recliner, again this will smash your lungs. While watching TV – get up and walk during every commercial.
    Eat at least 1 – 2 eggs a day, plus bananas, avocado and asparagus.These are good for Potassium. Drink Pedialyte, Gatorade Zero, Powerade Zero & Water with Electrolytes to prevent you from becoming dehydrated. Do not drink anything cold – have it at room temperature or warm it up. Water with lemon, and little honey, peppermint tea, apple cider are good suggestions for getting in fluids. No milk products, or pork. Vitamin’s D3, C, B, Zinc, Probiotic One-Day are good ideas. Tylenol for fever. Mucinex, or Mucinex DM for drainage, plus helps the cough. Pepcid helps for cramps in your legs. One baby aspirin everyday can help prevent getting a blood clot, which can occur from low activity. ”

    Drink a smoothie of blueberries, strawberries, bananas, honey, tea and a spoon or two of peanut butter.

    We always hear of how Covid takes lives, but there isn’t a lot of information out there regarding how to fight Covid. I hope this helps you or someone you know, just as it has helped me.

    Copy and paste please.

  117. The above was passed to me by a friend, and much of it makes sense. as a lung sufferer, I know the importance of keeping healthy and keeping my lungs and airways clear.

  118. PP- its good to see that and clearly its for if you have had it or already have it. I agree not enough is being done on the preventative side , wouldn’t want to give people to much hope 🙂

    Taking at least 5,000 iu of vitd3 a day or 100,000 in one go a month if you like plus 50mg zinc and quercetin everyday (a co factor with vitC that gets zinc into your cells ) will help keep you from it being that severe to start with, Not expensive either. Otherwise eggs, liver, cod liver oil, red meat etc contain D and zinc and a lot more. Get Vit D3 with K2 in it and that will keep your blood sorted too. All Fat soluble vits A D E K2 you can only get from animal foods have massive health implications for humans. And cut out the seed oils like sunflower etc, they raise inflammation massively.


  119. MK

    Your links are very useful and enlightening for Mongs and Shakespeare, but I did not bargain for the list of adds. I am now getting $500 worth of amino acid tablets, a years supply of viagra, a new car and 5 million songs on some machine!!!!!!!

    Seriously though, I was impressed with Mings interview podcast and his answers. He showed a very well balanced point of view, which is exactly what is needed.
    The Shakespeare article backed up most of what I already felt.
    There are some really quite good podcasts about at the moment on Villa, if people have the time.

    We must started getting some concerns now with the number of matches being postponed. I just hope that ours can stay on course for the time being.

    Saw a comment about Jaden Philogen -Bidace and how he has made the step up from the under 18’s to the under 23’s and shown some electrifying form, but we have not done anything about him yet, and could lose him, as he is out of contract at the end of the season, surely he is worth a shot on the bench??

  120. PP- Don’t look at me thats your browsing cookies at work 😉

    I think like Newcastle one game cancelled is often enough for a squad to get past one or two infections, usually most will have no symptoms. If not then those with a team and an opponent should rearrange and carry on with matches that can be played. We are one or two games behind anyway that will perhaps even things up.

    Yes I saw that about Bidace, I would not think he will be wanting to go seeing whats happening at Villa, if he’s as good as the articles say then I would think it will be sorted if not we move on.

    Good to see Frems absence today has seen record numbers of posters on here 🙂

  121. Frem is probably busy researching more stats….
    and getting ready to sign more players.
    Seen some interesting info on Rashica and how good he has been, and could be again, apparently has bigger quads than Jack!
    Impressed with Brentford again tonight, and a good game with Bournemouth.

  122. PP- probably 🙂 Can’t see Wes being ready so they might feel the need, hope frem has his dossier ready for Lange. Ivan Toney seems to have slowed up or is he injured?

  123. Mbuemo is the correct spelling…… The M out of last season’s BMW scoring team!!

    Brentford win 2-1 and move into second!!!

    Good display again. Amazing where they find the players from. Jensen, De Silva outstanding, and Toney was okay, but did not score. King looked ok for Bournemouth, but nothing outstanding. Solanke doing the business and scoring his 9th goal

  124. Just read that article about Shakespeare that you linked to Mark. I don’t know how it had passed me by that he’d grown up in Great Barr and was a Villa fan. First and foremost of course it’s essential that the management team are good at what they do and we’ve already seen the evidence that the current team are that. . . . . the fact that two key members of the team, plus the club captain are also lifelong Villa fans must surely help to build the passionate family atmosphere that we keep hearing about..

  125. P.P. I also saw an article about Jaden Philogen-Bidace and was disappointed that we may lose a talent that we’ve heard for a little while now was showing real promise. If the lad has real confidence in his own ability then you’d hope that he’d have the courage to stay and fight for his place knowing that the fans will love him for having come through the youth system.
    I guess it will largely depend on those around him and their own ambitions as much as what’s right for the player. . . . .we’ll see how it develops, but as Mark said, if he does decide to leave then it will be a shame (in my opinion for both him and us) but we’ll move on.

  126. PP. . . .interesting observation about Brentford. I remember certain people (naming no names as it seems unfair to mention those who are not here to defend themselves) criticising Bruce because they said his teams always declined after he’d left. Presumably they would praise Dean Smith because Brentford have continued to thrive after Dean Smith has moved on?

  127. PP, I too watched the Brentford v Bournemouth game. Wasn’t impressed in the slightest with Josh King. Not for me.

    However, one of Frem’s other preferences, Billings looked very useful. He was very accurate with some telling passes.

  128. PP. . . if true about Jaden that’s a surprise, bearing in mind all we’ve heard, but I do have confidence that the current management team will know exactly what they’re doing. Maybe the lad’s agent is trying to stir things up?. . . . .surely not! 😮

  129. robbO…Deano had a tough job coming in after Spud. He not only had to address the quality of personnel available but also the age issue, the loans issue (not Spud’s fault) and most seriously, the defensive mentality drilled into the players. Think he’s done well all things considered.

  130. It’s essential that all members of a management team understand the organisation’s objectives and that every member is be committed to those objectives, and not trying to act in a maverick fashion in pursuit of whatever personal ambitions they may have. It ‘feels’ as if the current team know where we’re trying to go and are all acting in unison and that will flow down to the playing squad. It does seem that Dean Smith likes to involve the players in a way that the arrogance of a Mourinho type figure would not permit. I know which management style I prefer.

  131. Plug. . .absolutely agree on the task that Dean Smith took on. One of his most impressive achievements is that he’s gaining the current level of success despite having turned the current team into the ‘youngest’ in the premiership! This has to auger well for the future as the squad develops together.
    For many years (particularly under Martin O’Neill) we went for experience over youth in the hope of achieving quick success with players who knew the ropes. That strategy has clearly changed and it’s to everyone’s credit that this youth policy is working as it has the potential to bring both financial and footballing benefits to the club.

  132. The major problems at Villa developed after O’neill left when Houllier took over and then fell ill. From then in the rot seemed to start and sat around until the Lambert days, slowly getting worse, until Sherwood took over, and instead of managing the players became one of the boys.
    From then onwards, the power was in the hands of the senior players, with Gabby one of the ringleaders, and after that , Remi Garde and de Matteo didn’t really stand a chance, until Steve Bruce came along and started to fight, and dispensed with most of the troublemakers, and fortunately Dean smith came along and finished the job.
    The power is now back where it should be with the management. Probably one of the reasons that Roy Keane walked, instead of becoming manager, was the power of the players, having had a big fall out with Gabby, and not being backed.

  133. Watching Liverpool draw 0-0 with Newcastle really puts our 0-0 draw with Burnley in perspective, and have to mention that Keiran Clarke was almost a hero with a good header that is just saved.

    This Premier league is no where near over, and is still there to be won.

    Good article JC, but it does not really touch on the troubles at Villa Park that needed to be overcome, and maybe Tony Xia played some part in that.

  134. MK,

    Great research articles. Nice read on Shakespeare. Good to read about his training ethic, research of the opposition and being a nice guy. I prefer the arm around the shoulder approach vs the Mourinho bully tactics.

    I knew Mings worked outside football, but had no idea he was homeless at one point.

    A couple of big decisions for Deano vs Man Ure. Barkley said he’s fit and raring to go. Mings suspension is over. I would keep the same team though – all of those lads earned their places with the Chelski performance

  135. Plug – lovely to see Villa finishing 2nd in the league according to the Daily Express computer, but I have to wonder about its accuracy. In their remaining 22 games each, neither West Brom or Sheff. Utd. score a single goal! They may be bad but, surely, not that bad?

  136. JC- Yeah a great article that, One stat didn’t sit right and that’s the High press, wasn’t that long ago(this season) we were sitting in 4th in that area. I think more a case of change of personal and opposition accounts for that maybe and just goes to show that tactically we are getting it right mostly.

    Just think if the owners had followed the common wisdom and sacked Smith for a big Sam type where would we be.

    I tried the education route with Frem looks like the slipper was required, he’s a good lad 🙂

  137. Robbo- I think your barking up the wrong tree with Bruce v Smith, They are chalk and cheese. Bruce was more man management and rarely attended training, and the list of clubs he left with aging teams etc is long, in short they don’t work without him as such and reach a certain level then stop when he was there. That’s not where this clubs going.

    As such he would of never got asked to manage a club like Brentford. To them the coach is a part of the machine and replaceable. Smith knowingly brought in his replacement in his 1st year there and actually chose him. Like players they are meticulous about the qualities they want in a coach. The man management part is removed almost as character is seen as paramount.

    I don’t think we could of found a better fit for Villa, I think the owners grasp of what is required goes way beyond crowd appeasement and the fact he’s a fan. All that is nice and definitely doesn’t hurt but I think the owners want a better funded Brentford.

    I will always thank Bruce for two things, John McGinn ( presuming he spotted him) and asking the Villa Physio/trainer to beef Jack up.

  138. Villamd- I don’t think you will ever see bully boy tactics under smith, he lets them have fun but when the time comes to get to work he demands respect. Knows what great coaching looks like and is not afraid to give others the plaudits or stage.

  139. I do agree with PP that Bruce walked into a vipers nest of cliques and player power which he had the strength of character to break up . . . . .and he deserves thanks for that. He helped stabilise the club at a time when it could have continued downwards.

  140. Runtings . . . . .I feel the same . . . .and with Mings starting on the bench?
    A bit concerned about it being a cold night and Barkley just coming back from Hamstring injury, but I guess the physios know the best way pf preventing recurrence.
    It seems tough on Traore but against Man Utd we’re surely going to need two wingers who are prepared to track back, and both Jack and the newly inspired El Ghazi (Sky’s player of the month) seem up for that in a way that Traore hasn’t quite achieved yet .

  141. If Barks is back, it’s Traore or El Gassy on the bench. Deano can decide as he earns more money than me and knows better.

    Tyro though may have to wait. His replacement has been excellent.

  142. yes robbo would be surprised if the defence didn’t stay the same I think mings will have a fight on his hands to get a first team slot back which has to be a very healthy situation for us

    I think troare is very gifted and his 2nd half defensive display vs chelski was spot on so he learn quickly during the course of a match tactically … but AEG as you say is on fire even though he has been guilty in the past of not tracking back … a long spell out of the first team seems to have made him sort that short coming out

  143. It’s about time we downed Man Ure as it’s been quite a wait since last time. Whether we can or can’t, we will give a good account of ourselves.

  144. Its the first in many a year that we go in against man u and I feel we can fully compete with them…they have got some very good players its should be an interesting game … was watching Pogba playing in there last match thinking how absolutely world class he is and he isn’t even playing that well

  145. Robbo the bit about Brentford prospering after Dean left vs Bruces teams going down hill, I don’t think it is much to do with Dean Smith (although he likely had some positive effect) Brentford had a plan before dean and its still the same now. At Villa Dean is laying the foundations and helping to develop the plan rather than joining a plan imo.

  146. I definitely think it will be Traore to bench for Barkley if fit. Mings? he might well come straight back in, not because Hause has been poor, he has been better imo defensively. Mings is that voice at the back and better on the ball, toss up as to which we need more against Manure who are unlikely to bombard us with Ariel stuff apart from Maguire. The Excuse if Dean needs one is the amount of games played this week.

  147. I think, after much deliberation that Dean will start with Mings and Barkley back in the team against United, as he will want his most experienced players on the pitch, and is more likely to use Traore as an impact sub, and he can still use Hause, if Targett or Cash start to struggle after half time.
    This is a huge game for the club, and a game we really do not want to lose.

  148. PP,

    Agreed. I do think Mings comes back in. I’d say Barkley would be nailed on, wondering what he’ll have in his tank after being out, and how hard he can push. Maybe the case he gets 60mins or so. His experience would be a big plus, for sure, and he has to have a point to prove, sure he’s desperate to play.

  149. Just listened to a podcast that talked about player of 2020, most improved, best comeback etc.

    At first thought you go Jack but in that time after the lockdown he was far from himself until the last games, for me standouts have been Martinez, Jack, Luiz, Cash, Watkins and Mings. Most improved? Jesus that tough, take your pick from Konsa, Targett, Luiz, Elghazi, Trez, Hause . Best Comeback can only be McGinn going by his recent games.

  150. MK,

    That is tough, all fair…over 2020, I’d have to go with either Luiz or Targett. Felt like Luiz was maybe the one who came out of lockdown and made the biggest impact, but hard to ignore how much more mature and assured Targett has become.

  151. And McGinn will have me eating my words…I was doubting him, but it’s now clear he’s only recently really regained the early form/fitness/confidence we saw.

  152. JC Me too mate, Luiz made a huge difference with an impact on survival, and yes I am Guilty of writing Mcginn off as a not as good as 1st thought, instead I am now thinking he may be much better, could really start pulling the strings.

  153. Mark,
    The Smith/Bruce point I was making was really one about observations being twisted to suit a particular point of view. When it suited those who were critical of Bruce to point out that his teams often went downhill after he left, the argument was that he doesn’t develop teams, whereas for Sir Alex Ferguson, his team went downhill because ‘he was such a good manager that nobody could maintain previous levels of performance’.
    If we go through a bad patch and the knives come out for Dean Smith whilst Brentford are doing well, don’t be surprised to hear the observation that they are doing better since Dean Smith left.
    I do tend to agree with you though that Dean Smith (and the whole of the current management) seem keen to develop and structure and culture that doesn’t rely on one person but will be maintained even after we lose key players or members of the management team.

  154. JC and others, I suspect that you’re right that Mings and Barkley will start but it does seem rather unfair, particularly for Hause who hasn’t put a foot wrong. I quite like the principle that ‘every’ player has to continually fight for their place and must be wary of losing it for fear of their ‘back up’ performing so well that they can’t get it back. It also gives the ‘back up’ players the incentive that if they perform well they have a good chance of keeping their place.

  155. I think I’m a couple or so years younger than Ian and P.P still a little short of a year to go until I can get my hands on my British pension. I thought I’d pop a line in while Frem ain’t hogging the site. TBH it was reading that the DOC has passed away that made me think of adding a few lines. My mate and I skipped school to cycle down to Villa Park and sneaked in to watch some training. Tony Hatley, Willie Anderson and Charlie Aitken were doing some some stretches when they caught a glimpse of us and called us over. We got a couple of autographs before Vic Crowe said enough distractions and we should get off and back to school. The school we were wagging it from was Gorse Farm Junior which the one and only Dean Smith also went to years later. Not long after Vic was replaced with the Doc, we went down a couple of times after he had signed the Rioch brothers to try and get a glimpse of Bruce and the very under estimated Brian Godfrey. Anyway have some great memories of the Docherty days and then the Saunders era.
    I think Deano is going to be up there amongst the names that will always be on the lips of Villa fans every where. Can’t say I knew Deano, but his Dad used to run the tote and bring the sarnies round on darts night at the Red Admiral our local pub. Just a funny anecdote on that note in 1974 Deans dad was helping out when i had pleaded for a stop over at the Admiral for my birthday. It was about 11pm when the landlord Dennis asked one of my mates what birthday I was celebrating and the prat told the truth 18, we got straight REDS no yellow and a months ban, I’d been playing darts for the pub for two years. A couple of the local Dads got in crap too as they used to buy a beer on dart night when they knew I was under age, but I knew where the double and triple top were LOL.
    Anyway us tht old guys can answer the tune Doc, Doc Docherty who the F in hell is he, our first savior thats who was he!!!

    RIP Tommy never forget your sense of humor, one of the funniest managers I can remember

  156. Happy New Year Lifers. This time last year we were bricking it.

    Looking forward to attacking Man Ure tonight. We need a win (as always) and if it transpires, some fans will be uncontrollable. Bring it on.

  157. Canadian Villan thanks for that its great hearing these stories dont get them so much since the days of the steamers ect on here

    health and happiness all

  158. Canadian Villan- I was an early beer adopting 15 year old in my dads dart team the moustache helped 🙂
    Sorry about the pension we have just spent it.

    Robbo- the problem with Bruces record is he has never won a thing nor likely to and he’s had 11 clubs. So yeah nobody could match SAF’s record and he didn’t leave them in a mess or get the push or bail out.

    Anyway to late on Dean Smith I have had that argument already a dozen times over in the last two years. Just point out that he spent about £5m in all the seasons he had at Brentford while they sold his players every season. The new manager still has to contend with the likes of Watkins going but has spent £36m in two seasons as now they have a new stadium they are going for the prem, not sure if the old stadium was prem ready.

  159. Good to hear your memories Canadian Villa, especially concerning Charlie Aitken, who was a great guy. He got me all the Villa autographs in his early days, as I knew him through his girlfriends family, who live d just round the corner from me. He did marry Kay and they were together for many years.
    I think he was Villa’s greatest servant, certainly in my time as a supporter. A great footballer who just loved playing for Villa.
    I think I am about a decade in front of you, but we do share lots of similar memories, including the Rioch’s , Brian Godfrey, Willie Hamilton and many more.
    My earliest memories are of Sims, Lynn, Neal, Crowe, Dugdale, Saward, MacEwan, Thomson, Hitchens, McParland being the team.
    Then we had Sidebottom, Neal, Aitken, Crowe, Sleeuwenhoek, Deakin, Fencott, Ashe, Baker, Dougan, McMorran, Burrows.
    There was also a mix of these players, but the latter team were to become “Mercers Minors”.
    So many more to mention, but it would be like writing another history of the Great Aston Villa!!!

  160. Mark,
    It’s a but unfair to say that Steve Bruce has never won anything bearing in mind that he was won promotion to the premiership 4 times . . . . . and with small clubs too.

  161. Robbo- Lifes unfair 🙂 so have others mate, Warnock 8 times with 7 clubs. Bruce did it with two clubs brum and Hull taking both of them back down and back up, both teams he inherited were pretty decent. Yeah he’s done ok but I am not impressed with him, nice enough bloke.

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