Well, it was disappointing against West Ham. Some (me included) believe we were tired, some don’t. Whatever the take, Villa came out worthy 1-3 losers. So. What does Deano do against an improved Arsenal on a short turn?

Let’s start with what we know: Emi, Matty, Ezri, Tyrone and Matt are all certs. I’m going to guess Luiz is, too. Jack? Of course. Ollie? Who else?

That leaves us with Ross Barkley, John McGinn, and take your pick wide right. Or maybe picks on either flank if Jack goes central.

Smith admitted the 4-1-4-1 didn’t really work. I think he described it differently. However you draw it up, getting SJM further up didn’t really work.

I’m of the opinion that Smith is kind of stuck with Ross in the middle, meaning Jack wide left. Which isn’t to say Barkley has covered himself in glory since returning. Far from it. He’s been well off the pace, a bit ponderous, and not at all the player he was when he debuted. Yes, he did get the winner against the Saints, but that’s been about it.

If it’s Ross, then it’s a question of Traoré, Ghazi or Trez wide right. And whether Morgan Sanson comes in for anyone. But maybe there is a change-up with the Luiz, McGinn, Barkley trio.

All I can predict is Traoré right. And that something tells me he’ll challenge his players and stick to his guns for one more match to get back to the weekly schedule, however it plays out, and maybe he’ll be open to earlier changes.

Anyway, Dean will know the players better than we. Maybe some really are knackered. Maybe they’re not. Maybe he wants to keep running them, maybe he reshuffles. I really do think it depends on what he’s seen Friday in training, and what the players are telling him. He’ll have had some honest words and will expect honest answers.

These are uncharted waters. If there’s been a Covid effect, no one’s talking. But I’m sure there’s been some. Saint-Maximin was out six weeks, after all, for the barcodes.

We’ve been plucky, but to my eyes, that was a tired side Wednesday. It wasn’t all down to letting McGinn get further forward. If there’s a fresher version Dean thinks can do more, we’ll see it against the Gunners. If his post-match comments and subsequent conversations and observations lead to changed assessments, we’ll see them. Or he’ll simply be convinced by players raising their hands. And whether he chooses to *really* believe them.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting.

Over to you.

Comments 138

  1. Thanks JC- 5 games in 14 days after Illness? got have some effect in the depths of winter. Barkley might not be a particularly motivated individual fitness wise though and as I was explaining to Ian clauses exist to get loaned players matches. Either its the club insisting (as villa do with their u23’s or whats the point of experiencing someone else’s bench?) or the Player saying he has to play ( euro’s for ross) I would think. He has to be the most high profile loan we have ever had in their prime.

  2. JC, we all recognise that in a couple of recent games, the team hasn’t performed at the same level as in some earlier ones, but if the players are too tired for 90 minutes of football after just half of the season and our trainers don’t know it, then our owners have invested in the wrong players or shouldn’t have bothered investing in all that Bodymoor Heath infrastructure and staff.
    Or. . . . frem is right and Dean Smith should go and make way for someone who knows how to rotate his squad to keep them fresh.

    What the players are being asked to do is nothing compared with a Tour de France or any of the other many major cycling races that the top cyclists compete in throughout the year and whilst football requires different, more stop start endurance than cycling (although there is a surprising amount of surge then relax in top cycling too), players at the top of the game ought to be able to still perform.

    Dean Smith has managed the end of two seasons for us now and presumably (I haven’t checked), stuck to a similar pattern of managing with a small group of trusted players until he was forced into a different plan. In those two seasons we’ve come good at the end of the season when by rights, the players should be at their most tired. Stats also show that this season we’ve tended to play some of our most successful football (based on goals for and against) right at the end of games.

    On Wednesday, Ollie hit the post, but if it had gone in, my money would have been on us to go on and win the game and then we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

    You did make a distinction between physical and mental tiredness in a previous post and that is where it’s possible that the players have struggled in some games. When you’re playing well, winning, and have an objective to fight for then somehow, any tiredness seems to disappear. If you know you HAVE to push your body that bit harder then somehow you find the reserves of strength to do it.

    Any team has its ups and downs in performance, look at Liverpool. and Spurs, and Southampton, and it’s tempting to point to a simple explanation for it, whether it’s Trezeguet still being in the squad, no spare striker, or tiredness, but there are so many variables (whether one shot hits the inside of the post or the outside) that I think it’s risky to do that, particularly when we don’t have the data that the club has.

    I’m not saying that it ‘definitely’ isn’t tiredness, because I’m in no position to say that, but if it IS, then I don’t believe that it should be, and different questions need to be asked.

  3. Mark, that’s an interesting thought about Ross and may be true (I hope it isn’t). As John points out in his write up, it also seems to be the case that Dean Smith places a lot of faith in the word of his players and maybe Jack wants Ross to play and Ross says he’s up to it and that’s good enough for Dean. It’d be disappointing if the word of the players always trumped any statistical evidence that was available. . . . . but then again, mental strength can get you a long way, so maybe he just trusts the players having the determination to push through any physical barriers.

  4. One thing ‘is’ for sure. . . . . . if the players go into the game ‘thinking’ they may be tired. . . . . .they’ll definitely be tired

  5. JC as you say deano will know if he needs to switch things up to get a better response

    one thing that stood out which others have recognised is that Frem was right banging on about Jack being a number 10
    West Ham showed that he can be frozen out of the game on the left but when he moved into the centre he became impossible to contain again for that short period as he could now move anywhere and did

    Gooners playing some lovely stuff last few games
    I am hoping we quickly move away from moving the ball backwards a lot and ignoring forward runs that are constantly made … if we look up and aim to play forwards as much as possible we can get our mojo back

    COYVB

  6. Just read an interesting piece where the rugby referee Nigel Owen answers questions from the public.
    In answer to a question about balls being fed crooked into the scrum (a pet bugbear of mine) he answered:

    “Referees, myself included, just don’t bother refereeing it anymore, and that is wrong. A lot of referees are so worried about things like the scrum collapsing that they just want to see the ball go in and out. Within refereeing circles there’s no appetite to do so. It has to come from the top. The leaders of refereeing in World Rugby have to tell the referees to do so or there will be consequences in appointment. I’m as guilty as anyone for not doing so, but I agree, it should be refereed. It’s similar to the lineout throw not being straight, which is another area that’s creeping into the game. So many throw-ins aren’t straight but that’s being ignored. They’re penalising players for jumping across in the lineout, but the only reason that happens is throws aren’t straight. Referees need to get back to refereeing the basics as they are there for the good of the game.”

    Refereeing is more subjective than we’ve tended to believe. Where we may have felt that referees are making mistakes, they may actually be making deliberate decisions to see (or not see) things in a certain way. VAR does seem to be shining a light on these vagaries in football refereeing now and I reckon it’ll be for the good of football and for the understanding of us poor ignorant fans about what is really going on.

  7. Tiredness is a lack of recovery, yep can be mental and physical, when you have for instance put your all into a game like the Burnley game and lost doubt creeps in and Testosterone goes down for the losers. Also Stress hormones go up like cortisone which is catabolic, hence if things are going well you recover better, if not you can gradually slip backwards.

    When what is usually known as overtraining occurs It means your nervous system has been fried and needs to recover more than your muscles etc. What makes the difference is the intensity of activity, sprinting a lot would do it . Tendons also take longer than muscle to adapt.

    If the system that tells the muscles what to do is not at optimum then you get slower and react slower. This can be checked with Heart rate variability to access your readiness, I would assume that is all done at BMH. Might be that many of the players are nearly recovered and that would give DS a bigger problem not solved by rotating 1 or 2.

  8. Runtings- Twice this season teams have done that to Jack Leeds and wet spam, most teams and maybe players have not been capable or are more intent on playing their own game. Whether Jack plays 10 or wing he usually ends up out wide left a lot. The only difference is if the wingers occupy their markers.

    When Ross is on it he has the same effect giving Jack more room. I think that with the team looking leggy jack was asked to do it all and is probably himself a bit fatigued. Wet Spam got it right and DS reacted late imo.

    We will see today if DS has put them all to bed early this week with a cup of coco. Hopefully Arsenal will be less physical and it will leave gaps for us, plus there Goalies out.

  9. Robbo- never understood the straight ball thing in rugby, if you have the throw then it should be to your advantage and up to the opposition to disrupt and win the advantage back. I don’t see anything wrong with angling it toward your own player, teams lose their own line outs at times whatever the thrower does.

  10. Watched a bit of the Swansea game and what a surprise Conor was playing as a 10, can’t remember him playing there for us. The game though was not played at Prem intensity.

  11. I don’t want to temp fate but under Artete Arsenal are made for us. they attack down our strongest side through Saka a lot. They don’t get stuck in really and give players like Traore loads of room.

    I would expect Aubomeyang to come on and put some pressure on cash.

  12. On fatigue, I do agree, r0bb0, that in the abstract what’s being asked isn’t Herculean. I really think it has more to do with the long layoff, not being able to train properly, and then us not knowing who had the virus, how different players have been affected. You come straight back into tough games, and a lot of them in a short period. Without the quarantine, I think we’d have looked better in this stretch. That’s all.

  13. MK,

    Yeah, some teams are just better match-ups. Arsenal are moving it around pretty crisply, but they’re not a physical side. But I’m not going to be comfortable if we don’t settle it a bit. If we keep turning it over quickly looking for lightning in a bottle, we’ll get skinned.

  14. JC, back on the tiredness, we’ve not been told who had covid and how their training was affected. . . .and for sure, we’d have much preferred to continue with the matches as scheduled.

  15. r0bb0,

    Yeah…exactly it. Not any great, clear-cut chances. We were a bit unlucky not to get a second, in the end. Helluva save from Emi on that spot kick. Big man was up there with ease, very strong hand. Good to see him bounce back.

  16. Must admit I was concerned about Emi after the last few games but he showed character and was right back to his very best today
    Good on him!

  17. Arsenal the gift that keep on giving 🙂

    JC yes the much maligned Trez did a great job for the team, Would like to see him more. I think he would of made a difference in several of the games we lost lately where Cash was piled on.

    I like Traore, has great touches and reads the games attacking wise but that cross for Watkins with the outside of his left foot says it all for me. God if he had a right foot he’d be something, you see he can skin full backs but its that Right foot argh . You look at Jack and he’s comfortable with both makes such a difference. I do wonder if he could play out left, really want him to be the best he can and it frustrates me. At the moment he is a different player dependant on opposition.

    Watkins a 2 in 1 forward not to shabby.

  18. jbd,

    Was just looking back, and while we’ve beaten Arsenal several games in a row in the past, we’ve never had three consecutive clean sheets against them.

  19. They’re taking about the wrong thing on BT here. They’re not looking at the player’s legs . . . . Saka trips Konsa not the other way round

  20. Can’t help myself posting this sentence from the BBC write up of the game:

    “This was Villa’s sixth game in 18 days but there was little sign of fatigue as they worked hard to return to winning ways”

    Whether the players are tired or not, credit to them and the physios for getting us through that cascade of games. Now there’s time to properly recover and prepare for the next game . . . and with 35 points already on the board
    Superb

  21. so proud of the boys today. got to watch it with my 5 year old young villan thanks to the early kickoff (9 hours ahead here in korea). but damn we should have had 3 at least to help us relax towards the end. still sweating!!!

  22. Barkley wasn’t happy with the substitution but if he wants to stay on in games like that I imagine he’ll need to show a little more energy in his defensive duties . . . . and that’s not what we have him in the team for.

  23. Six in 18. Unreal.

    They really did look fresher today, Barkley, especially. Obviously Dean felt Luiz needed a rest.

    Arteta whinging, thinks Konsa should’ve seen red. He’ll need to have a look at a replay.

  24. Apparently Arsenal fans feel that they should have had a penalty because there was a point at which Martinez held their player’s shirt.
    There’ll need to be a huge change in refereeing if they’re going to give fouls every time a player holds an opponents shirt

  25. JC, I’d forgotten that Luiz wasn’t playing which is testament to Nakamba’s performance today.
    Whatever the reasons, Luiz hasn’t been at his best in the last few games and with Sanson still to come in, it shows that we are gradually building the strength of the bench.

  26. r0bb0,

    I really have no sympathy for a side like Arsenal. Lacazette and Martinez, typical goal-line scuffle, nothing more. Emi wasn’t going to have him getting in his way. And he’s not a small man.

  27. I’m a bit torn on Barkley, obviously talented, in which case he should be in Chelsea’s side and he isn’t, I have to ask why.

    Also I am seeing a pattern of us using players that can easily play at 10 as almost DM’s. Conor had his fair share, McGinn and Ramsey now are seen in a similar light. I do wonder what Our midfield would look like with two of Marv, Luis or Sanson as the two and McGinn or Ramsey at Ten.

    I am beginning to question if we need Ross at all, might be he is not prepared to work hard enough.

  28. And yeah…will be interesting after a full week of training and recovery with Sanson around.

    Nakamba did well. Not as good as Luiz at his best, but good enough. Luiz definitely had been struggling, just not up to his usual energy. McGinn really put in a shift beside him.

    Jack looked a little less knackered down the stretch, but I think the side really need the regular interval. Coming out of the quarantine and whatever effect and playing 6 in 18…That’s not a small challenge. Even today, playing late Wednesday then the early game Saturday.

    But you don’t hear Dean complaining like Jurgen and Pep. Doesn’t make excuses, doesn’t give the players license to make excuses.

  29. JC- Nakamba suffers from the one leg thing a bit, I’d drill him to be able to turn out either way, he can’t so plays the way he is facing mostly, shame as he is really tenacious and has good positional sense.

  30. MK,

    I hear you. He’s good, and when he’s got the bit, makes a big impact. But there’s injuries, obviously, and I think Dean giving him the minutes is a challenge to get up to speed and make his case. Given he exerted himself more today (chasing up front, etc), I’d like to think he’s just about back.

    But, like you say, I’m not sure we’ll see the value in what Chelsea will ask.

  31. Delighted with the 3 points – a more comfortable win than the scoreline makes it look.

    And surprised no-one (so far) seems to have mentioned Mings: I thought he was immense today and has cut out the casual errors.

    Hope I’m not speaking too soon!

  32. +2 on Mings today. He was great.

    I thought Nakamba was immense, he never stopped running and his passing was good (I only recall one misplaced pass)

    Trez did great defensive job after coming on. I would still have liked Guilbert coming on at RB and push Cash as winger in these type of games after 60mins, but that ship has sailed.

    Ramsey quality again.

    Watkins so, so great. How he’s that fit is a credit to him. You can tell he’s a very intelligent person by the runs he makes.

    Jack was very quiet but he was captain fantastic towards the end with winning free kicks and taking the pressure off

  33. Good comments from everyone, including yours VillaMD, Mings was Man of the Match for me today and Martinez was not far behind, both making up for their recent performances.
    Great to see how annoyed Ross was at being subbed. That is what you want to see from your players. I am sure he joined in the celebrations afterwards.
    Jack apparently got his yellow for not being ten yards from the ball , something which seems to be rarely given these days, seeing the number of times it has happened to Villa.
    Great to see he toons beating Soton, and continuing their improvement since Maximma has been back. Would love to have Almiron in our squad, as I have been very impressed with his skills and work rate.

    Great result today, even if we did have to grind it out, and had a little luck. Looking forward to what Sanso can bring to this team, along with Ramsey and his development, but the squad is growing week by week.
    Would be nice to have one of our midfield raise their free kicks to the level of Ward-Prowse!!

  34. I see there’s a rumour going round that John Terry is off to manage Bournemouth. You couldn’t blame him if he did that and I’m sure we’d all wish him luck but it would be a shame if he didn’t at least stay to see this season out.
    If he goes, he’ll have gained fantastic experience working alongside Dean Smith and seeing how he manages players and the press.

  35. Mark, yes, that stat about us wining 10 out of 11 games in which we’ve led seems too good to be true. Again, it shows that our defensive coaching team have got their act well and truly together, but it also shows what good signings we’ve made and how ALL the players are contributing to keeping other teams at bay once we go ahead. It was pointed out during today’s commentary, but the most impressive example of this was Ollie Watkins sprinting all the way back to our penalty box to cover an Arsenal break . . . . . he’s so much more than just a goal scorer and yet he’s scored 12 goals already this season too!

  36. another thing about Ollie Watkins. . . . .earlier in the season he was really hard to fathom but now he just can’t hide how much he’s enjoying his football, with broad smiles often breaking out on his face. That’s a testament to Dean Smith, but also I suspect that Grealish plays no small part in helping his teammates enjoy being part of this revived Aston Villa.

  37. Mark, yes I do still feel sorry for Southampton . . . . . . but maybe they’re also feeling sorry for themselves, when they need to be buckling down and fighting for their manager

  38. PP, R0bb0, Mark, JC,

    Yeah agreed. We’ve a squad now – assuming that was the consensus of views 🙂

    We’re not super reliant on Jack anymore. Barkley knows he’s at club that’s Chelsea level. Ramsey will be so great, so will Sanson. Dean Smith asks Trez to come on and do a defensive running job, kill yourself tracking Gooners and he has no issues. Why, because he’s a team player

  39. I’ve a lot of friends that are Gooners, so I try not to bask in beating them. I don’t have friends from Spurs, Manchester, or Liverpool so no issues there as well as all the other London clubs and black country

  40. Thought you might enjoy a few comments from an Arsenal blog:

    “Villa have far better players than us.”

    “Their midfield are going to destroy ours”

    “ Martínez imposes confidence in his box, shame we got rid.”

    “ Villa keeping us a bay and switching the play really well while we just chase it around”

    “ Must be nice having a World class GK like Emi, can’t relate”

    “ Villa seems more up for it than us.”

    “ Villa are a hard side to play against.”

    “ Are we really in a time when Aston Villa are a better team than Arsenal?
    They have our no1 keeper, Grealish etc”

    “ It’s amazing what the right signings can do to a club”

    “ Annoyingly we have kept their best player and arguably best player in the country in grealish pretty quiet and we are still losing”

    “ Villa really do have players that work for the team.
    If only we had the attitude of their players”

    “ Mings has been a colossus.”

    “ Villa defend as a unit better than most teams in the prem, let’s not pretend it was going to be an easy game… especially after that start.”

    “ Their manager knows what he is doing. After the first season in the Prem they have found their feet.”

  41. I would not feel sorry for them Robbo they are the competition, any bit of misfortune helps us as does patches of poor form, they’ll improve no doubt but if you lose to 10 man Newcastle you need a bit more than being felt sorry for 🙂

  42. PP- yes 9 in the end 🙂 I heard it was nine but checked and only saw one red card didn’t occur to me they had an injury after using all their subs. Shar should of held his head and they could of got an extra sub 🙂

  43. Man City are on a tremendous run having won all of their last 9 games. Over the last 5 games though the team in the second richest vein of form are Brighton with 2 draws and 3 wins.
    Dean Smith is bound to be drumming into the players this week that there’s no room for complacency and anything other than a fully intense performance is likely to see us slip up which would be such a shame after yesterday’s result.

  44. Wonderful result. Just wonderful. Don’t care if we were a little fortunate. It’s a double over the Arse and I have been pronging some mates of mine big time. It will go on all week. Love it when it’s a Laandan club.

    As others have said, Tyro was massive. So was Emi. Things are definitely looking up.

  45. With Nakamba having done well again yesterday, is Luiz going to have to fight to get his place back now or will Dean Smith opt for the greater creativity of a rejuvenated and motivated Luiz against Brighton? My own view, for what it’s worth, is that we’ll still need Nakamba’s grit against Brighton and that it’s good for the whole squad to see that if your form drops, there’s someone else to step in and you’ll have to fight to get your place back. Apart from that, Nakamba has ‘earned’ another start I reckon.
    May one other positive side effect of Luiz’s form having dropped be Man City being a tiny bit less inclined to trigger his buy out clause?

  46. Plug, when you suggest we may have been a bit fortunate are you referring to Konsa only getting yellow and/or Martinez pulling down Lacazette?

    Having seen both incidents played back in real time and slow motion, the Konsa one is 100% clear. . . . .Saka trips Konsa up with his trailing leg. It should have been a foul to us and Konsa should have avoided his yellow. He was justifiably p*ssed off.

    The Martinez one is odd. In real time it looks that Lacazette pushes Martinez; Martinez grabs Lacazette’s shirt and then Lacazette leans into Martinez pushing them both over.
    In slow motion it looks as if, after the initial scuffling, Martinez grabs Lacazette’s shirt and then pulls them both to the ground.
    I can’t imagine why on earth he would do that though so my guess (can’t tell this from the slow-mo) is that he grabs Lacazette’s shirt and Lacazette takes advantage of it by leaning hard into him and bringing them both down. If they’d been given a penalty, based on the replays it would have been hard to argue that the ref had definitely got it wrong.

  47. R0bb0, great comments from Gooners.

    I actually thought we were unlucky yesterday and should have won by 3.

    I’d also like Nakamba to keep his place. Maybe rest SJM for Luiz or Ramsey. It was nice to see Luiz post ‘great win’ on Twitter after the game. That shows great team spirit.

  48. PP,

    Yeah, couple of good results for Toon. Wilson injury could be a problem. Sheff U, Brom and Fulham look doomed. Would be nice to see a relegation fight, although I’m not sure I’d wish what we had to go through on any other team

  49. VillaMD, isn’t it great not to be in the relegation fight this year. Who’d have thought that halfway through this season we’d be 20 points clear of 18th!

  50. R0bb0,

    Yeah, I still feel I’m dreaming. After supporting Villa for over 40 years, joy has not been a word I’m used to. I’m enjoying every game that we win, it’s so nice 🙂

  51. boooom what a win. the double over arsenal. Wow

    1st half I wasn’t that happy. But I thought a lot better 2nd half. Its ok conceding the middle ground but have to attach too which we did second half and could eaaily of scored more. Prob a draw the fairer result though.

  52. standard appreciation post to targett. Just superb. Mings a monster motm and Watkins needs testing…he is insanely fit.

    But main mention to berty troare. What an absolute talent that man is. just oooozes class. Makes the game efforstless. 12 games, 4 goals 3 assists. what until next season.

  53. I cant actually believe we are where we are. It really does seem like yesterday we had to dodgy dr as owner and thinking we are trapped in the championship for ever. It certainly makes the good times sweeter.

  54. What we must do without being greedy is to really step up the pursuit of the top 4 and 6. If we can do a Leicester it would be insane. Next phase is more quality signings in the summer and start to control the games better. Play through the midfield and keep possession

  55. H&V,

    I’m pretty sure we’ll be smart. For example, I don’t see anyone forking out anything close to £40m for Barkley. Also the January window, finding a player at good value, managing to move some on. One year later, here we are loaning out two former starters.

    I’d expect to see a striker, another midfielder, a CB. Young cover for Targett and maybe Cash. I could see Elmo sticking around for another year to provide a buffer. We’ll see what the staff think about Guilbert after his loan. I don’t think Conor will be back, but you never know.

    Nakamba/Luiz will be an interesting one. If we manage to hang on to both, and can add one other quality signing in there, we’d actually be able to rotate. Not that Dean really does that, but there’d be depth.

    Also will be curious about Ghazi and Trez. I can see Trez sticking around for his work-rate alone. Ghazi? He had a very good run when called upon. But Villa can afford to go out and get a more finished and consistently dangerous player for the left and let Jack go to the middle. But I’m almost thinking Smith will find a better-value replacement for Barkley and leave Jack wide.

    With SJM, Luiz, Nakamba and Sanson, we’ve got four deeper-lying MFs. Very curious to see what Sanson can do.

  56. As we are not in a relegation fight this year……………has anybody taken a look at the current Championship relegation places?

    Couldn’t resist it.

  57. ROBbo, by fortunate I’m mean we got the result but perhaps the opposition deserved a point. After Burnley and West ‘Aaammm, I don’t care. Not that I’d admit any of this to a few Arse friends I know.

  58. Wherever we finish this season, I can only see improvement next season. I don’t think anyone will be paying the big sums of past years. Barks? He’s got half a season in the shop window.

    Interesting interview by Purslow on the official web site. He says it’s much easier to buy a player than sell a player. If that’s the case, why did we give Hogan and Lansbury 4 year contracts? I know it was the previous regime, but 4 years is a long stretch if the quality is uncertain.

  59. Plug,

    I think four years is just the standard expectation for players and agents. And that’s where you really have to be careful. MON was buying players all over, and the contracts were almost always 4 years, £40k a week.

    That’s why it’s so refreshing to have people being sensible. Sanson, for example, should be easier to sell if needed since we got him at a good price.

    Sort of just came to me, but that’s another reason to buy young/unknown/cheap. It’s not just making money, but they’re easier to move on.

  60. Interesting discussions about next year’s transfer policy but how strange that we should be having it now when there’s still half a season left. It must be an indication of the optimism around the club at the moment that we’re excited enough to be talking about the future.
    The most important thing (again) is to keep hold of Jack and whilst it’s hard to imagine him abandoning the project now, it’s always good to have it confirmed. No doubt there’ll be huge speculation again this summer which is why I did enjoy a twitter rumour that Bruno Fernandez has been linked with Villa because he wanted to belong to a club with ambition and that he’d always been a secret Villa fan.
    Jack has been quoted as saying that he’ll be here for this season and next at least and then would hope to be playing in Europe. There’s another rumour that the owners are considering paying him £200k a week as a further disincentive to potential suitors.
    Keeping jack isn’t only good for us on matchday but it must also help to encourage other top players to join us.

  61. JC, you have to be right that the £40m suggested for Ross Barkley is far too high. Would £25-£30m be closer to the mark?
    It’s a tricky one because he has the skill to open up defences, particularly when playing off Jack but will he ever be the sort of high energy player that Dean Smith seems to like and will he ever have the stamina to be playing as well in the 90th minute as the 1st (as Dean Smith likes players to be able to last a full game!)

  62. r0bb0,

    I’m so undecided on Ross. At first, seemed like a no-brainer. He is good. I’m guessing the hamstring and then quarantine really put him off his fitness. He looked the brightest I’ve seen him against Arsenal, but, yeah, not sure he’ll ever cover the ground Smith wants for 90mins.

    So you’ve got experience, a solid, international-level player (at his best), strong, good on the ball, all sorts of assets.

    The downsides seem to be injury prone, and maybe not a 90-minute runner. Though I don’t necessarily remember thinking that when he was fresh in and healthy.

    I’m guessing Lange & Co could identify a better all-round fit for £40m. At £25m or so…? Interesting call. I’m sure that really will come down to Dean and what options the recruiting team put in front of him.

  63. One more on Ross.

    If he has any hope of making the Euros squad (and I think it’s a long shot given the quality in midfield Southgate has to pick from), he’s really got to kick on. So he’ll be motivated, and you’d like to think we’ll be seeing him give his all down the stretch. I wasn’t impressed with him kicking water bottles, but at least it shows his heart’s in it.

    But the injury + quarantine may have derailed any possibility. Still, I guess he’s got close to half a season.

  64. JC, If Ross’s bottle kicking is driven by frustration that he feels he could have done better and wanted to have a chance to show that to the end of the game then that’s great. If it’s because he thinks he feels he’s too good to be substituted and should automatically play every game . . . . . . not so good and not what the squad needs.

  65. be very interesting to see if roos plays sat. sure he will but if not youd smith would be p*ssed at his reaction.

    I can see why its a tight call on ross but for me its a no. for the money that Chelsea will want (and they are buggers in the transfer market) and his wages we can find better value elsewhere. He will have to go some this second half of season to change my mind! But then if he does play out his skin to get a transfer will he still be motivated next season?

  66. I do not feel that we will be in the market for Barkley, especially when we have a world class youngster for his position, being hunted by the big clubs from Europe. It would make no sense.
    Carney Chukwuemeka was already training with the first team squad when covid broke out, otherwise he would have played against Liverpool, and I am sure it will not be too long before he makes his Villa debut.
    This boy not only has the build, but the skills, vision and athleticism. This is only the beginning, with the Ramsey brothers, Louie Barry and a few more. can you imagine a six foot Super John McGinn, playing alongside Jack, with the same ball carrying skills!!
    The future really is bright, and I hope we do not have to wait too long to see some of our young blood shine in the way that Alexander-Arnold and Phil Foden have.

  67. I’m with PP I think that a fair few of our upgrades are already here in the U23’s or the entire plan falls down.

    The acquisition of Sanson is interesting, DS tried 4123 against Wet spam and you need two box to boxers for that. I think its a shame we could not have added Benrahma instead of Loan Barkley, for 20m thats a steal. That would of given us Jack and Benny who could both play LW and 10 or just rotate and the obvious he knows watkins game.

    Behind them you would have Luis or Marv sitting plus Mcginn and Sanson carrying the ball forward, also Ramsey who can play ten. Previously I would of said Barkley was needed not so sure now other than to appease Jack. Not impressed with his willingness to get fit and the bottle kicking is just not the way to go, DS did not look impressed.

    You have to wonder what the team would look like if Jack got injured, Elghazi or Trez Left are the options, would Barkley be as effective then?

  68. Mark, you say that Smith did not look impressed with Barkley’s bottle kicking. . . . we’ll all have our own interpretation of a fleeting expression across his face . . . . I read it as amused indulgence

  69. r0bb0,

    Yes, on Barkley’s reaction. Dean will know what it means, have a word, and won’t let it bother him. From Conor’s comments about being upset Ramsey started ahead of him, etc., it’s pretty clear Smith has thick skin, doesn’t hold grudges, and will put out what he thinks is his best side. I think you’d have to go some ways to really get on the wrong side of him. Besides not being willing to run for 90mins.

  70. I think Ross is past his due date. Much like Joe Cole, flashes of talent but a declining rate of fitness is his undoing. 40 million is a bit rich for a club that won’t play him next year. But then, if you don’t ask….
    There’s no doubt he’s a talented lad but Villa have plenty of up and comers in the Academy and the U-23’s. Not to forget that NSEW want a club that is sustainable which does mean not much spending in the transfer markets.

  71. Ian, yep, Barks is a tricky one. He turned 27 in December just gone. There will be an issue with a 4 year contract I’m sure based on his fitness record to date. There will also be an issue with a 40 million transfer fee.

    On balance, I can see Villa being interested come the season’s end but on terms that may not interest him. The last thing we want is another Lansbury/Hogan/N’Zog/Dick Turpin. I’m sure Compass will never let that happen again.

    If Chuck is as good as PP reckons, we may well have another star in the making in a couple of years.

  72. For me, Barkley looked great against Liverpool and played high up almost as our main striker, with Ollie pushing wide. I don’t think we’ll sign him, not close to the same player since injury and he needs to stop morning about not having enough training sessions. If he felt he wasn’t 100% fit, then he didn’t have to play.

    I think we’ve punted for Sanson and Ramsey vs Jack buddy. Hopefully Jack will not be p*ssed

  73. I don’t think Jack will mind, VillaMD. He’ll soon be getting a big pay bump, and he wants to win. I’m pretty sure however much he likes Ross, he’ll know whether investing in him will be money well spent.

    Like you, I think investing in Sanson and having Ramsey is a bit of a hedge against Barkley and Luiz.

  74. Sanson is also a very big investment against Jack getting injured, being very similar in his play, when Jack is playing more of a mid field role.
    I think that moving Jack to playing wide left , is also helping to prevent him getting injured, giving him more space, although often heavily marked.
    I see Ramsey gradually getting more time, as he would also become good cover for Ross, and then be ready to replace him next season.

    Notice that Brentford are marching on, and after their 3-1 away win last night, are now top of the Championship, and I believe that they will stay there now, with Swansea ending up in second place, before long. Both of these teams will also be a lot stronger if they make it up next season, similar to Leeds .

    The Blue Noses are in serious trouble it would seem, but I did notice that Hogan is nocking a few in for them now!!

    Looking forward to the Brighton game, but again, it will not be easy.

  75. Paul

    Yes mate cant wait to watch us again. I just look at our team and think wow!

    Interesting to hear Watkins talk about staying on and practicing his shooting and wanting to do it against Martinez as he knows he is one of the best and if hes scoring against him then theres no bother! Heard the same thing spoke about man uts back in the day. Think keano said training was harder than actual games cause they were so good. Having lots more good players has such a knock on effect. Training must be amped now

  76. H&V. . . .interesting observation there. It must be true that having quality in the squad makes training more difficult and therefore more effective too. As the quality of players in the squad improves so the quality of their play will improve too.

  77. I saw these tweets from Villa fans following on from someone giving stats about Villa/Brighton games:

    “I was saying to my wife (I don’t think she was listening but I have no-one else to talk to)”

    followed by:

    “this made me laugh. . . . .my wife just stares at me as a tell her these things. As you say, nobody else to talk to”

    I read those out to my wife and she asked if I’d written either of them! 😮

  78. Brighton do look like tough opponents at the moment though:

    – The only team to beat or even score past avfc on a Saturday this season

    – Unbeaten in their last 5 games

    – Beaten Liverpool, Spurs and Leeds in their last 5 games

    I’m sure we’re all looking forward to the game but I hope the team have genuinely learned not to be complacent in games like this.

  79. R0BBo, don’t think we’ll be complacent against the Seagull’s as the team know very well the opposition has a set up capable of damaging us. So yes, a real tough game that could yield all 3 results. Hope we win.

  80. PP, small heath are in a swamp. How will they get on once Hogan’s goals dry up?

    Not sure Brentford and Swansea are certs for promotion and if they do make it, just look at last season’s equivalents in Fulham and the yam yams. The EPL is the ultimate challenge for these wannabe’s. Toney is knocking them in but wait until he gets knee capped by Tarkowski and Mee.

  81. So…on this day in ‘95, Villa beat Wimbledon 7-1 .
    Tommy Johnson’s first goal and hat trick.

    Villas Manager was Brian Little and their RB was Brian Small.

  82. Nice memories Prox!

    Plug,
    The noses are really on a dive this time, surprised that Karanka is not making a better job of it. No railway shunters to help them out these days!
    Looks like Coventry may have more claim on the swamp ground in the long term!! Or will they eventually return home?

    H&V,
    I have been impressed with our players and the extra training. Maybe Jack’s influence too, as he loves doing extra.

    How many have seen the interview with Jack and Peter Crouch, nice touch.

  83. Did we mug the yam yams? Young lad Harvey Elliott has cost the Bindippers 4.3 million in Tribunal after Fulham started proceedings. Youth players moving between English clubs is settled this way.

    But not if the player moves to Europe. Louie Barrie moves from the yam yams to Barca and then to Villa 6 months later for 0.8 million. Smart move by Villa? You decide.

  84. From the BBC reporting of the Leicester game:

    “Liverpool shipped three goals between the 73rd and 83rd minutes against Manchester City, and three today between the 78th and 85th.”

    Klopp has been complaining more than anyone about fixture list congestion and his player’s tiredness and particularly mental tiredness and these are just the sort of statistics that would tend to bear that out.

    Dean Smith in contrast said in a recent interview:

    “This football club won the league in 1980-81 with only 14 players playing 42 games. We don’t play as many games now, but it is a more congested fixture list,”
    he went on to say:
    “I’ve still not seen players carried from the pitch with exhaustion and I’ve not had too many of my players complaining.”
    “The performance team have been excellent, and our players will be the first to applaud them for the way they’ve got them up and ready for each game.”

    Now I’m not sure that the absence of players being “carried from the pitch with exhaustion” is the best indication that they’re able to perform at their best, but the attitude and words are starkly different from Klopp’s

    Are Klopp’s words self-fulfilling?

  85. r0bb0,

    That’s definitely the psychology at work…Smith refuses to give the players an out.

    Klopp? I do think it has some effect. There’s so much at play. The pressure to win, defend a title. Pressure from City. Multiple competitions and I guess what might be considered a ‘thin’ squad to be at the top of the food chain. The way the season has been impacted. Liverpool’s style of play.

    But I can’t see that continually whinging about it is helping. It says to me the pressure’s getting to him a little and that has to funnel down to the players.

    It’s one thing to reach the top, very different staying there.

  86. JC: “It’s one thing to reach the top, very different staying there”
    Completely right, which is another reason why, as fans, we should savour every moment of the climb back to the top.

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