So, a long break, Scotland glory for John McGinn, Ollie’s first game and goal in an England shirt, and Jack’s apparently back. All good things in an otherwise uneventful couple of weeks. I’ve not put anything fresh up, because it’s a long season and everyone needs an international break now and then. Which means I’ve had a little time to think, which is never good.

I know a lot of folks have been unhappy with the way we’ve stalled. And I’m not exactly thrilled by it, either. But one of the criticisms in Jack’s absence is along the lines of “Villa don’t have much to show for £250 million.” Which is a bit unfair, I think. We are still sitting 10th with just 10 to play. So, once again, a little perspective on where the money went, and why, to me, it’s nothing like what it seems. I apologize for the length, so feel free to skip over if you’ve learned this by heart and still aren’t moved.

Spending, Round 1
The first go-round after promotion, we spent £135m or so on 12 players, averaging out to about £11m-£11.5m apiece. The squad that needed replacing was not assembled by the current regime, whose hands were also basically tied after taking over Dr. Tony’s dumpster fire and rescuing Villa from administration. It was a very unlikely promotion.

We had to replace the likes of Jedinak, Whelan, and Adomah, loanees like Tammy and Tuanzebe, and were looking for a new No. 1. Lansbury had failed, Green wasn’t coming good, Kodjia was crocked. We had to upgrade on Elmo and Taylor. We were building on nothing much, and that kind of average is essentially enforced bargain-bin shopping to fill out a starting squad and bench. Wesley and Mings were the only signings over £20m. We couldn’t have spent more, and doing all that business at once is a lot different than building over two or three seasons.

Looking back, here’s the starting XI that won promotion: Steer; Elmohamady; Tuanzebe; Mings; Taylor; McGinn; Hourihane; Grealish; Adomah; Abraham; El Ghazi.

Of those, only three remain regular starters: Grealish, McGinn and Mings.

On the bench were: Whelan; Lansbury; Jedinak; Green; Kodjia; Kalinic; Hause.

Only Hause remains at Bodymoor.

Out of 18 in the side that won the Playoff Final, 10 are still on the books. But three are backups who’ve been replaced (Elmo, Taylor and Steer), and two are on loan (Kalinic and now Hourihane, who seems to have been replaced). That leaves 5 who aren’t emergency players. Hourihane will ‘come back,’ but I don’t think he’ll be staying. There’s just 4 of the 18 expected to start or make a regular contribution: Grealish, McGinn, Mings, and Ghazi.

We assume there’ll be at least three or four new starting-quality players after this summer. That’s a lot of turnover, and couldn’t really have gone any faster.

It made sense to have Elmo and Taylor play out their deals on the bench as veteran backups while blooding replacements in Targett and Guilbert. We couldn’t afford to buy true starting-quality backups in addition to the players bought to replace them. Heaton was very good value, but got hurt, so Reina was drafted in. (Subsequently, talk about silver linings, we were forced to sign Emi because of Heaton’s injury and Kalinic failing to convince.) Targett, Konsa, Luiz, Nakamba, Guilbert, Heaton, and Mings were all decent to excellent business, Wesley who knows, maybe a blunder. Engels seemed decent enough, but that went wrong (as did Guilbert, for some reason), then and Ghazi, Trez, Jota. I’d say if you get 9 out of 12 right, or close enough, you’ve done pretty well. You might say 8 with the jury out on Wes, but Engels still makes a reasonable #4 CB, all things considered, and Wes could yet surprise in terms of depth and ways of changing things up. He could also be moved on.

Samatta and Baston were unfortunate emergency stopgaps, but Baston is gone and Samatta is out on loan. Jota, though a bust and part of that first summer, was basically a trade for Gardner, who also wasn’t cutting it. When you factor in the major injuries to Heaton and Wesley (£32m of that £135m spend), Villa had to go into last summer spending again on a starting keeper and striker due to those injuries. Now, I’m pretty sure we’d have gone in for a striker anyway, but we’ve got about £50m of that £235 committed to two strikers, and some £30m to two keepers. That’s a third of the money spent, and you can’t say that £50m on two strikers is excessive. Joelinton, now there’s a £40m mistake.

Spending, Round 2
Second summer window, we fell short of the £100m mark, but we’re right about there with Sanson. That’s for 5 players. Sanson, too early to judge, and look at the difference between Targett last year and now. Konsa, I don’t think anyone was particularly excited with either him or Hause, but Konsa’s gone from strength to strength, and many were thinking he and Hause should be starting earlier this year. Cash has been a good buy, as has Ollie, never mind Emi. Traoré? Maybe a bust, but not a terribly expensive one. Three or four starters out of five isn’t a bad return. And at this level, if Traoré and Sanson just become squad players next year at roughly £16m apiece, that’s not out of line.

Initially, the Barkley loan looked like a masterstroke. If he hadn’t gotten injured, continued with anywhere near that form, and Jack hadn’t been out during a critical stretch, we’d be higher up the table. And I have to wonder if there’s a backstory with Ross we’re just not hearing. The injury was one thing, and you could’ve expected that, but the way he’s looked after…He’s just not right.

Also, last summer’s spend was influenced by Covid and the financial uncertainty heading into the season. The FFP changes were enacted in April of 2020, but that didn’t mean, at the time, that clubs could go crazy. It basically meant that expected operating losses could be covered by owners, and that it would all get rolled up into the 2021 accounting. FFP was then eliminated altogether, but that wasn’t a certainty at the time.

“The new measures state that the current 2020 financial year will not be assessed at all under FFP procedures, and will instead be rolled up into 2021, and the two years assessed together as a single financial period. Uefa sources confirmed that clubs would be allowed losses in excess of €30m as long as they show this was caused by falls in revenues because of the shutdown.”


Anyway, it’s been roughly £13.8m/player for 17 in two years (using a £235 million base). That’s what we’re seeing (and lamenting) right now: the teams around us have accumulated over time spending PL money and have outgoings with higher values to offset spending. We’re also in the most expensive league in the world, and FFP rules meant Compass couldn’t have spent more. We don’t yet have any £30m-£40m-rated players on the bench. Unless you count Ross.

The cracks Jack has been papering over have been exposed, and fairly. Which isn’t a bad thing. You’d rather know now, before the summer starts, where your real investment needs to occur, and no one can say they didn’t get a fair shake. The players under the microscope were all attempted bargain buys, and Villa clearly decided the man who orchestrated that spend wasn’t good enough.

It bears emphasizing that Villa have just four players who cost £20m or more: Ollie, Wes, Tyrone, and Emi.

So yes, we’ve been carrying some who ended up not really being up for it at this level, but more so because of where and how we were forced to shop, the numbers needed, the time-frame—and the man guiding the recruitment effort—than incompetence on Smith’s part. The players we know he wanted to buy (Konsa, Cash, Watkins, Mings, Targett, etc.) have largely vindicated his eye for talent, I think. No one seems really sure who came up with Wesley, Ghazi, or Trez. And I’m not sure Traoré seems like a Smith player, but he does have eight goal contributions in 26 appearances.

Bottom line: The money spent is not the same as Chelsea or City spending £235m in two summer windows, or really anyone around us bar Leeds, maybe. So in fairness, I think expectations should account for that. I’m not sure any promoted team could’ve been in a worse situation, and then bad luck with injuries meant we had to spend on two positions again. Given we’ve got six players that have either been called up to England or supporters think should be, we’ve done well enough. Never mind McGinn for Scotland, Emi for Argentina, and Luiz for Brazil.

Final Thoughts
I know all the recent history is a bit tedious, and I don’t mean to bludgeon anyone. Nor am I wanting to be an apologist. It’s just a reminder that Villa are who they are for a number of reasons beyond any single individual’s control, and those reasons largely predate Compass and Smith. All of what happened before doesn’t just get erased. It carries over, and FFP meant you could only fix so much at any given time.

Coming up, Villa were constrained by their Championship revenue. Then, on the rolling three-year average, Villa went into last summer with one year of PL revenue and two years of Championship turnover to work with. Let’s not forget that Smith and everyone else could’ve inherited a much better squad, but our business, and owner, hadn’t been all that smart prior. Compass have pumped all they can into Villa in all the ways available.

Me, I still think it’s somewhat miraculous that we are where we are, despite how the season has seemingly fizzled. From the brink of administration to promotion, complete overhaul, relegation escape, and now mid-table mediocrity? That’s a lot better than it might feel at the moment. Never mind feeling that we’re going to be competitive in any game where Jack’s involved.

Does saying that make Villa a one-man team? Sort of, when it comes to attacking. Jack’s carried us for three seasons now, making all sorts of players better than they are. He’s just that good. But we’ve got a very solid back five/six he has nothing to do with.

Criticism of substitutions, formation, lineups, the way Smith’s handled Jack’s absence…all fair game. Smith will say he’s still learning. Me, I tend to think a lot of supporters underestimate him. But that’s football. And, again, if we’re judging Smith & Co., all of the above go into the equation. Next season will be a very big one for Dean. It will be his team more than anyone else’s, and expectations will be high.

Compass have the money to strengthen and offer improved contracts, as well as hold out for good prices, and the squad know the reality of what’s going right and wrong far better than we. I don’t see Grealish putting in a transfer request, probably not Konsa, either. And even as I get set to post this, I see Konsa’s signed an extension. Well done, Ezri.

Now that FFP is going away, we could be in for some very pleasant surprises. Compass are very well aware this is probably their moment to pounce if they envision a European team built around a special player like Grealish.

So let’s see how things go when Jack returns. A decent finish will lift everyone’s spirits, set the stage for a good summer, and probably a legitimate challenge for Europe or a cup next year. Maybe even both.

Over to you.

Comments 205

  1. Thanks JC- I don’t think anyone with a full set of marbles can argue with that, we could only improve on it by getting to Europe or winning the league, at this point thats way above average.

    My one regret is that we have had to waste jack for so many years. Yes it could of been his making too but I would have loved us to come up with something closer to leeds but with Jack as the cherry.

  2. An excellent resume of the current state of play at VP JC. Sensible and balanced. Very accurate.

    Could it be better? Yes. Could it be worse? Yes. Is the average fan satisfied? Yes. There are some desenters who think given the money spent, we could be further advanced. Others think we are doing OK.

    The trend line is upwards, so we can’t really complain. Against this, Parker at Fulham could throw a spanner in the works on Sunday. And therein lies the rub. Given the state of both teams development, we should be seeing them off. But we might not and then the grumbling reaches new heights.

    For me, the steady hand on the tiller is Compass. With so many other owners struggling for cash flow, we are in a fabulous position. COYVB.

  3. JC,

    I think that’s your best write up ever. Thanks for all the effort that you put into it.

    For Sunday it’s great that Jack is back. So lineup for me.

    Same back 5
    Sanson – Douglas – SJM – Jack
    Subs: Chukwuemeka, Barry, Kesler, Philogene-Bidace

  4. Yeah the spend thing, what fans don’t see is the utter shambles we were in, we had no choice but to spend. If we had stayed in the champs then we would of lost Jack anyway I suspect. We would of built a team more carefully I think for less as well though and still be on the youth trajectory. Maybe the likes of Green and Ohare would of been used and Jack Clarke etc. No guarantees as the money is so much less in the champs and restricted. If we didn’t get up before the covid season then even worse.

    The other very real factor in all this is we had nobody of worth to sell bar Jack and mcGinn, to have funded the build we would have had to sell the two best parts of it putting us in an even weaker position to start from. The income from sales from a very expensive squad for the champs over the last two seasons? £5.19m. The likes of the top Six may spend a lot but their quality of player means they make good returns in the 100’s of millions over the years.

    The champs cost us £97.5 , we recouped about £71m from the sale of our Prem squad. Last season saw 24 players leave for £2.7m most on Free’s or end of contract or end of loan, 6 are retired or without a club now. The average age of those leaving 27.8 and incoming 25, its been similar this season recouping £2.49m average age 27.5 incoming 25.

    So you can see we have made nothing from player sales and are likely still paying for some of it.

    If you really want to moan about the amount of money in real terms its probably much worse than £240m. But as JC said from Champs no hopers to 10th in the prem at this point? that is money very well spent with Income rocketing from just being in this league.

    So all in all I think using money as the reason for sacking Smith is just hiding the stupidity of fans that want to treat the game like fantasy league where Salah costs £12.4m .

  5. The other obvious benefit of the spend and Build?

    Jack worth over £100m, McGinn £35-40m, Watkins at least £50m , Mings? £40m Konsa £40m Luis £35m Targett? £25+m cash? £25m Martinez? I’d say from £35-50m others would bring at least what we payed for them and probably more.

    So at this point they may not be the greatest without Jack but they are individually worth a lot more than we paid, and no bomb squad in sight.

  6. Villa MD – thats a very small and young bench 🙂

    I have the feeling that with this two week break and a heart to heart the team will get back on track. I would not count Ross out at this point either, two weeks of solid training and rest and any lingering effects of Covid might just be over.

  7. wow sick write up JC
    Fab assessment of the journey under compass so far
    I think we have a really good base to build on from here and should now be able to focus on quality over quantity now and as mentioned in the leader ffp changes should allow is to push the boat out for the right players a situation that couldn’t have come at a better time in our building process

    I get the feeling we could take our biggest leap forwards as a club next season under our owners .. I am one of the happy villains out there that is only encouraged by how we are being run

  8. MK…..Nobody is disputing the reasons why Compass had to spend 240 million on team building. It’s well understood. But it does mean Deano has the benefit of a team costing that much plus a further 130 million already at his disposal in Jack and SJM. So Villa could be classed as a 370 million team.

    It then comes down to what fans believe such expense should deliver in terms of league status. Interestingly, Transfermarkt has the Villa squad currently valued at 340 million. Personally, I think that figure is light. The Transfermarkt EPL table based on team value stated has Villa stationed at…..10th. Where are we?…..10th. So it could be argued that we are neither punching above or below our weight.

    On the bigger picture, Compass purchased the club, spent 240 million on team building, paid 3 years salaries and collected 200 million from the EPL with at least another 100 million season guaranteed. Total expenditure still outweighs total income, but the current squad value, plus the real estate assets of VP, BMH and any other property that Dr No No didn’t sell, the value of their investment definitely exceeds the invested amount. Compass must be pleased with progress to date.

    But it did require the launching of a certain cabbage.

  9. PP- thanks you have kind of proved my point. Nobody disputes we had to spend £240m? hmm I think what some expect for that are a bit skewed. Considering as JC pointed out 2-3 players accounted for a lot of that amount making the average cost of players very low for prem quality. £240m over a lot of players is not much in this league.

    We were not exactly getting Chelsea’s 1st 14 for that money were we either. Not only that, prem teams don’t construct their squads in one go, its done over many seasons of buying and selling, we have bought but not sold and all considered have appeared to have a reasonable team as a result while not buying tried and trusted prem players.

    Whats Smiths reward for this? rumblings of discontent. He either has a great eye for players or is overachieving with a lower grade squad than the top say 8 have and put it together in less than two seasons.

    Paul the truth is people think he should be doing better with the quality of player we have while ignoring the fact he has exceeded any aims the owners may have at this point already. They can’t present a fairly meagre rushed spend and rebuild in prem terms as evidence that Smiths the wrong man because we are 10th with ten to go.

    People have no idea what it takes to build a side yet because Chelseas new manager makes Fat Frank look poor it sparks the idea if we had him with this team they would be top of the table, to me thats very simplistic and in denial of where the team are in development.

  10. Plug- you have to think what price we would of got end of last season to what we would get now, that is a massive nod to Smiths work with the team.

  11. All very good comments MK, which I would go along with, but it will not stop people making comment, and yes, you can see the effect of upgrading the manager at Chelsea, (although with a squad that Dean probably would love to have had at his disposal!)but we do not have such a squad.

    I loved watching the youngsters yesterday, but there is a little way to go , before they start starring in the team.

  12. Tuchel definitely out!!!
    Chelsea 2 v WBA 5, and who was at the heart of the destruction, ex-Villan, Callum Robinson, in his first appearance for the Baggies for two months. Another Villan that got away.

    WE will need to be really be on the ball against these bottom sides in the coming weeks!

  13. PP definitely, I thought Farr and Reven look physical enough to step up soon others will follow.

    WBA win 5-2 and Tuchels invulnerability is shattered , our harry/Frem thinks we will drop to 11th today and the sky will fall in because we really should be 4-6th, how do you combat that level of clairvoyance.

  14. I’d like to see Traore get a run at #10. Tell him not to worry about defending, focus on creating.

    I think playing him on the wing and having to worry about tracking back takes too much from his game. Any know what position he plays for his country, as I read he scored this week

  15. Tuchel has just learned a valuable lesson. You might be able to treat the bottom teams with contempt on the Continent but not in the EPL.

    You might also be able to play your internationals on the Continent, 3 days after they’ve done 3 games in 6 days for their countries, and get away with it. But not in the EPL.

    Lessons there for Deano. Clarke knackered SJM. He needs to be benched tomorrow. Fresh legs needed against Fulham.

  16. MK – thanks, that worked. It’s interesting as Cheuka got rave reviews, but only a few clips of him from highlights.

    It’s great that Delaney has them playing Brazil like football – we’ll win by scoring more

  17. Harry Johnson • 9 minutes ago

    Leeds in their first season will finish above us

    How will Smith lovers defend that at the end of the season

    We are doomed!

  18. And thanks for the kind words, gents.

    It was helpful for me, going back. It’s all been so fast and furious, I’d lost track of exactly all the players who’d gone, who was still out on loan.

    One thing I was reminded of is how many keepers we’ve gone through.

  19. I hope the rumors that we may try to sign Tammy in the Summer are not true. I’d prefer to give Barry a chance as backup to Ollie. For me, although Tammy scored 20+ for us in Championship he missed soooo many sitters. You don’t get those chances in EPL. He’s also going to cost at least £25m!

  20. I think we missed a trick with Che Adams, when we bought Jota, and Bellingham too, although we may have not been attractive at the time for Bellingham.

    Adams would have been a cheaper option at £15million than Wesley, and scored 22 goals in his last season at Blues, but maybe that is hindsight, and Wesley at the moment, still has some potential. Didn’t realise that Adams was from Leicester originally. Also wonder how our pay structure compared to Soton, as he was signed on £50,000 per week.

  21. PP,

    I’d value Tammy at £10m at best. Bellingham for sure was a snip for Dortmund- mayor mistake there. I see German league as a combination of EPL and Championship – top tier vs bottom is much wider gap vs EPL

  22. On the Kids, I think we will see another biggish spend this season before we will see the kids slowly blended in and brought through in cups and subs. This will depend on whether we offload a few in the summer. Seems like a strange thing to do having gone through two seasons and them being quite young still to bomb them out but it might happen.

    Can’t see Heaton signing a new contract and Steer mighty be back to no 2 while the kids progress.

    Of course Wesleys progress will be a major player in any case, Davis just has to be given a chance or loaned or let go.

  23. Wow!
    Good game between Burnley and Soton, Burnley two up, then Soton pull two back in time for half time. What a great goal from Ings. What a player he has been for Soton.

  24. Yes MK,
    Hope the rumours are true, and that Olise is top of Villa’s shopping list. He would be an amazing signing for us to start the window with.

  25. Harry Johnson • a minute ago
    I said before

    Grealish is the player with the sleeping pill problems and drinking

    He isn’t injured

  26. Ah man, it’s so shit. Same old. Why are we playing 433 and playing el ghazi who has no future. Broken record. Massively disappointed in dean not trying at least Watkins lw and Davis up top. 7 games of crap and still persisting with it argggghhh

  27. Looking like two bang average sides. .Poor distribution and crosses. Lucky to go in at 0-0 half time.
    Not a single moment to create any excitement. Sanson seems to be gradually settling in, but Cash seems poor today.
    Don’t like all the shirt pulling, as it will cost us one of these days.
    Silly yellow cards given away.

    Mings needs to be careful that the red mist doesn’t overcome him.

    Let’s hope for a big improvement second half. We need a win.

  28. H&V,

    Smith didn’t look very happy. Ghazi has been invisible. A lot of sloppy play. Dunno if we’ll see a formation change after the half, but I’m sure he’s getting into them right now.

  29. If el ghazi and trez play on the wings next game I’ll be fuming. We got away with that today. We were terrible. Fulham will be kicking themselves massively. Normally I’d say well done making the changes but it’s been blidingly obvs for 2 month. Davis starts rest of season. He deserves a proper run and I’d be fuming and gutted if we don’t get Davis a fair chance

  30. H&V,

    That felt better than it should’ve!

    Fulham, yes, but like I say, he’s made those changes before. Today, the players did something with the opportunity.

    We’ve seen Trez get those chances so many times, today he was clinical. Will do several players’ confidence a world of good.

  31. I expected a win to start this game and got one. Not before thinking it was time to go for a walk when Fulham scored. Happy for Trezuguet.
    Football is a game of inches. Apart from the very top most teams are evenly matched and a bit of luck or skill can turn a game. Confidence comes into play much more than is given credit. This should be the bounce back game just as the Burnley game some months ago was the undoing of the team.
    I haven’t given up on Barkley. Watching Watkins never breaking a sweat and Barkley being drenched inside of 20 minutes makes me think that Ross is feeling the lasting effects of the Covid virus the team picked up.
    Happy Easter everyone.

  32. H&V,

    All down to whether Jack comes back. If he does, then probably neither plays, though Trez might’ve earned a chance. Thinking it probably has as much to do with Liverpool’s left as it does goals, and Trez’s work rate maybe trumps Traoré’s better skill on the ball.

    Don’t see Smith playing two up top to start against Liverpool, but maybe he does.

    Fulham obviously got full of nerves, we made the changes, gave us energy, found that extra gear and simply took advantage.

  33. I’ll bet, jbd. If Harry had been on, would’ve been 70mins of furious slagging, then MK saying, “What about Trez?” Followed by another 30 posts about how shit Trez still is.

  34. Wow!

    What a turnround…. I nearly blew the tv up when Mings gifted Fulham the lead, using the same foot, the same pass, always going to be a problem. Everyone knows the across the pitch to Konsa pass.
    Thank god Dean made the subs he did, and I was so impressed with Davis and his contribution, never mind our Egyptian hero, and MOTM Trezeguet !! He had three shots and one header, and scored two, as well as starting the move for Watkins goal. there will be 4million Egyptians going mad tonight on Twitter!
    Fair play to Mings making amends for his mistake.

    Let’s hope that Trezeguet and Davis are now on the team sheet next week.

    Liverpool will be taking note of Trezeguet, as he is the player with Mo Salah in the Egyptian team!!

  35. Ian,

    Good to see you. I agree. Like I say, there’s something just not right with Ross.

    Maybe Smith is trying to push down his value. They’ll obviously know what’s wrong.

  36. I’ve changed my mind on Traore. He’s improved IMO and looks like his right foot is getting better.
    What are the chances of thumping Liverpool again?

  37. PP,

    I still don’t really believe what I saw. We’ve talked about players stepping up, and a couple finally did.

    Same reaction to Mings. That was the only way Fulham were ever going to score, and up to the subs, didn’t look like we’d create anything. I thought it was going to finish 0-1, maybe even 0-2, and was not in a good mood.

  38. Yeah, he just gets too casual at times. No threat there at all.

    At least Davis really worked to get the better of the defender, showed off his strength making that chance. Great assist, too.

  39. PP- that was pass back to Martinez not Konsa, shocking either way.

    I have been giving Harry/Frem the good news about Trez on the Villablog, couldn’t resist for old times sake.

    I think we will look to break on Liverpool and use Trez and Traores pace, jack at ten if fit. The DM’s position is the worry, I thought McGinn once moved back there moved the ball forward better than sanson or luis and thats why he plays there and not ten.

  40. Simmered down a little by now. I thought it was same old, same old up until Tyro’s brain fart. But if the mind set is play the ball back, this kind of thing will always happen. Also thought the game just passed El Gassy by like so many other games.

    Didn’t think it was a 3-1 game. It was much tighter than that. But once Ramsey and Davies came on and we went two up front, the change of formation worked. Don’t know why it took so long to introduce it. The best I’ve seen Davies contribute for yonks.

    The lack of energy was shocking. It goes without saying that the minimum requirement is to chase everything. The front press has disappeared these days.

    Trez’s goals were belters. All goals came from crosses which finally started happening in the last 15 minutes. So I’m delighted we won, but I still have reservations. Jack won’t be there next weekend. We’ll need to go again without him.

  41. Just got home and logged into the blog to see if Frem’s red was rescinded and he came out and said that he enjoyed Trez’s goals. Fat chance, I know.

    We won today while not firing which is a positive. Need a creator apart from Jack, Traore is the closest and he’s not consistent enough. Happy for Trez and Watkins, deserve their goals

  42. Have been out at the beach today and only just finished watching the game. It’s a lovely feeling to win again isn’t it. Great to show some spirit and come from behind for the first time this season too.
    So so chuffed for Trez. He put in his usual levels of effort but added clinical finishing. If he can do that more consistently then he’d even win the doubters round.
    Really pleased to see Keinan Davis bullying his way to an assist along with a super cross too.
    Isn’t Ollie Watkins a lovely modest guy and a super player . . . . we’re lucky to have him

  43. Oh. . . pleased for Dean Smith too. We’ve seen before that he is able to adapt during a season and he’s certainly making substitutions earlier and more readily and today it paid off for him (and us) in spades.
    I find it bizarre that people have been questioning him despite him gaining us promotion, managing a new star to survival and now seeing us have our best points tally for a decade with 9 games left.
    We’ve been getting through more than a manager a year for the 6 years before Dean Smith joined us and gone steadily backwards and yet people think he needs replacing . . . Bizarre.

  44. Great write up by the way John and a really good summary of how we’ve got to where we are and the challenging period that Dean Smith has steered us through.
    Let’s see what he can do with a further injection of quality next year.

  45. I can understand people wanting scintillating football all over the pitch but let’s not forget that football requires attacking and defending and only two teams have conceded fewer goals than us.
    We’re now solid at the back but we’ve lost our early season attacking spark and that’s seen us not quite getting the results despite competing well in most games we’ve played.
    If Ollie Watkins shots that hit the woodwork had gone in we’d almost certainly be in the top 4 now . . . that’s how fine the lines are.
    So much to be optimistic about

  46. I started to see some positive thing from Sanson for the first time today. He was caught out a couple of times and still doesn’t seem to be quite up to the pace of this league but you could begin to see why he’s been brought into the squad

  47. Mark, thought I’d take a look at your contributions on The Villa Blog and the funniest thing there is seeing mon451 calling for us to play 442. I remember when he changed his name to mon451 because he was so insistent that the only way we could advance was for Martin O’Neill to switch from playing 442 to 451.
    If only football was as simple as some people like to pretend it is

  48. Robbo- yes the old change the formation until it works scenario. At the end of the day its about how committed the players are and Brave in whatever system you play. Oh course you want to maximise everything but if you are building a squad around 433 for example it doesn’t help going to far away from it unless you are looking at results and not just getting better as a team.

    How many times have we seen teams throw everything at a game and somehow it works? countless times but then it also backfires, you go out next game and its useless, the difference is the effort, belief and determination that was missing to begin with.

    Yesterday mr lax gave a goal away in a very drab game that neither side wanted to lose or win. That moment made the Captain for the day get fired up, the injection of Trez’s energy and willingness and of course Davis who is also a fighter sparked the team into life otherwise it was like watching paint dry. You can put ten up front but if they don’t try it won’t work.

    There’s a lot on the Villablog that think Smith is holding us back somehow I find it baffling. I think Smith finds it baffling as all managers must do at times. Young teams suffer from lack of leadership sometimes and as much as I like Smiths stay cantered philosophy sometimes getting angry works too.

  49. Robbo- People get very invested in proving their point of view correct and it usually ends up with some very strange reasoning and ignoring facts such as the Covid break in Jan derailing us at least partially. We are like a herd and once an idea catches on it only gets changed one at a time until momentum makes it obvious again. We all do it and I am sure some would rather their point of view be proven than Villa progress.

  50. MK,

    It is certainly that lack of experienced leadership on the pitch. Something in the past that Villa teams had.
    The best leaders tend to be mid-fielders, which is why I have always felt that James Milner being back at the club would be a massive help. He is a winner, a leader, and why he is still important to Liverpool.
    Jack has been a good captain, but perhaps in the end, the responsibility affected his game towards the end. Hopefully, the break from responsibility, may free him up a little, and he will find life easier for this final run-in.
    Just hope everyone is fully fit for the Liverpool game, and that Dean will pick the best team on merit , and look to do the double over Liverpool.

  51. PP- yeah just as Liverpool have come back into form lol. Still the mighty Trez loves playing Liverpool so lest see. Can’t see the team that ended starting myself considering the opposition, dunno maybe Davis can cause them some real problems too.

    Nice to hear Alan Shearer saying how smart Trez’s movement was at least someone else saw what I have seen for two seasons now 🙂

  52. It’s pretty familiar, isn’t it, impatience? All managers speak about it, and some from self-interest, of course, but there’s reality to certain things needing time.

    It’s one thing when you know you’ve got a side like Chelsea. Lots of talent, money spent, underachieving and looking lost. It’s another when it’s being built up from scratch. And then the owners will also know whether the players are happy, or if the manager has lost them.

    At any rate, while, like MK says, the game was a rather drab affair (which is why I was so incredulous seeing the explosion of goals from Villa), it was an important win.

  53. Mark, I couldn’t agree more about it being “the effort, belief and determination” that really makes the difference. Of course there are many other factors including the players’ abilities, their fitness, their understanding of each other’s skills, their training in how to play within one or more chosen formations and the formation itself. There’s little doubt that good managers are able to influence games by tweaking formations during a game but like you, I reckon that those 3 factors you mentioned are ultimately crucial. How else do you explain the peaks and troughs in form that teams go through during a season?

  54. MK,

    That’s been the thing about Trez. He has popped up with some very important goals and then he’s missed a ton. But he does get into good positions.

    Yesterday, he looked completely different in the way he finished (apart from the header). If he’s gotten his head right, it’s a good time for it.

  55. r0bb0, MK.

    Agreed with all. In all the matches against anyone but maybe the top four, you can basically write a preview by saying it’ll come down to the side that wants it more.

  56. As for the ‘trough’ in form that we are currently going through, in the last 6 games, despite Jack’s absence we’re ranked 11th and whilst its not great, it’s at the top end of the 11th to 14th that I’d predicted for us for the whole season.
    Over those games there are only 3 teams that have conceded fewer goals than us and only 3 that have scored fewer! It shows where we’ve been lacking, without Jack’s spark of creativity.
    I suppose the last 6 games or so have also shown us what life could be like without Jack and the question would be whether we could replace the creativity gap he’d leave with the £100m we’d get for him.
    As John pointed out in his write up, this squad has been pulled together in a pretty short space of time and bearing in mind that it is also the youngest in the premier league there should be good scope for further improvement next year . . . . . even if we don’t switch to a 442 formation!

  57. r0bb0,

    Definitely room for improvement, and I think, if they get the business right, we could see a very big leap this offseason.

    And Jack’s absences have indeed always shown a few things, including lack of creativity.

    There’s also a lack of leadership and confidence. Smith talked about players waiting for Jack to come back, and that may have hit home and been emphasized.

    But even if Jack isn’t really ‘creating’, he is, as we know, pulling things around, drawing so much attention that it frees things up for others.

    We just need another player with that kind of confidence and somewhere close to that level of skill on the ball. So if we are looking for a #10, it needs to be a relatively special player. Although Compass will want to hold onto him, and will spend to meet his (and their) ambitions this summer, I would think finding a player who can run games will be a big priority, just in case.

    And really, he’s holding down two positions: left forward and creator. So if we get a more traditional central playmaker, we’ll also need a new player wide left, in Jack’s absence.

  58. r0bb0,

    Also your point further up…We do have a good defense, and if folks are saying Smith doesn’t know what he’s doing, they should at least acknowledge he understands building from the back.

    I’d say that improvement (from Restart on) shows he is learning and adapting, and got the formation tweaks and things to emphasize with different players to raise our game off the ball spot on.

  59. PP,

    Absolutely. A Milner-type player is a fundamental element. You’re right about midfield, and that fitness, fight, example, and strength are as important as anything in a team.

  60. villalore…

    I hear you. I just couldn’t endure the match threads any longer, 20 comments about how shit everyone is, and then when they do come through, it’s still relentless.

    Doesn’t mean we can’t upgrade. We should and will. That’s what building’s all about. It’s just too much angst over things that can’t be changed, atm, things everyone sees, and no perspective.

    Like r0bb0 and others, I had us pegged 10th-14th. Apart from some bad luck, and misfortune with Barkley and Jack, I think we’d still be higher than 9th, which is pretty impressive.

    The irony is that the dashed expectations and frustration are due to how well Dean did have us playing. It was a more balanced side with Ross at full speed and something to prove. You take those two out, you’ve put the weight on players who just aren’t used to carrying it, and may never have been bought with an eye toward that because those players are expensive unless you unearth some gems (like Buendia, who obviously isn’t flying under the radar any more). But now you’re still talking £25m for him at the very least, probably more like £35m.

  61. And for all the excitement over West Ham, they’ve still dropped to 7th before their game this evening, and just 5 points better. Even if they get all three, we’re eight points behind with a game in hand. One more win, two more draws is the difference between us, atm.

    Very fine margins.

    So Ollie and the woodwork, indeed. Climbing over the sheer volume of talent the top four-six have is extremely difficult over 38 games.

  62. Looking at Trez’s effect on his former teams and for his country I think he has the ability to be a creative player if he grasps the opportunity. He’s no Jack but he was everywhere yesterday apart from wide Left.

  63. MK,

    Yeah, it’s there for him…I say he’s on borrowed time, Ghazi, too, but he did himself a lot of good coming through yesterday. He’s just got to keep it up. Ghazi clearly did not help his case.

    Villa would be very happy if they don’t have to replace both. If Trez ends up being a super-sub, great. If he can calm down and just be smarter with the ball, he might get more looks than that.

    You’re right about all the work he does, and getting into good positions. A number of players, him and Traoré stick out, often try just that one bit too hard to make something happen.

    Ghazi, when he does get involved, often does the same thing, trying to beat one more man, going into cul-de-sacs.

  64. JC- I do think that Trez is one of those players that maybe does not get picked out by teammates often. Maybe its a little lack of trust I don’t know but he keeps getting into great positions. Watkins after the game acknowledged how good that part of his game is and his workrate, coming from Watkins that something.

    I’m not saying he is superman I just feel there is a lot more he can offer on top of workrate, I have seen it a few times, he has a decent pass on him too but I want to see him get on the ball more while jack is out or yes he’s probably a goner.

  65. JC – No complaints, unfortunately he doesn’t want to change and its not worth riling the whole blog.

    I think Trez missing some sitters is why he divides people so much. On the flip side, he’s had some great finishes, really is a on his day type of player. With confidence and composure, he could probably have 10-12 goals a season.

    I hope we get a creator early with a full pre season, as a backup/replacement for Jack. Apart from Lingard, none of the players on loan in the PL have shown consistency which shows why they arent in their parent club’s first team. Will have to be a PL inexperienced player who will take time to bed in.

  66. Have always liked Trez. Have always loved his attitude. I have a sneaking feeling that we’re not using him properly. He uses the ball quicker than anyone else currently in the team. His goals are almost identical, coming in on the end of crosses and excellent sweeps to the net. It’s not fanciful to say he could have got 4 yesterday. Don’t shoot me for saying this, but is he more of a number 10? Why not ? McGinn or Barkley are certainly not doing the job in that role . He finished off two crosses and set Traore off for the third yesterday. From the minute he came on we set up camp in their final third, surely not a coincidence?

  67. Villalore- I feel like Tres’s dad defending him 🙂 I think he had so many shots saved at point blank range and even one he scored called an own goal it got to him. By the time he missed that sitter (which was still at an awkward height) it had messed with his head. The celebration he did yesterday I think was his way of saying he has got his head straight. He was saying that if you work hard you will get your rewards so I can only assume he’s been hard at it. He has got a hell of a shot on him and like Watkins we don’t use his pace well with through balls.

    I was chuffed to see Traore go on the outside and Cross with his right, If I was him I would be practicing that till my legs fell off.

  68. Prox- why not 10 he really was everywhere anyway, to call him a left winger would be stretching it. I think the more he see’s the ball the better, your right his introduction speed the movement of the ball and players up. Until then the heats map would have looked like 11 spots on the pitch.

  69. prox,

    His goals are very much the same, exactly as you describe. He does take advantage of space, knows where to get to. Just been the finishing. Yesterday he was composed, not thinking, just doing.

    I’d say with Trez, my biggest concern going forward is that he doesn’t seem to be great on the ball in open play, trying to beat men, etc. But there, too, I don’t know if it’s a lack of close control, or if he’s just too rushed in his head. He’s always trying to play very fast, which isn’t bad, but it seems like it’s often too fast.

  70. Yeah , I see your point John, but rather than being like Jack , I would see him as the link and think player we don’t currently have. He could also very well be the six yard specialist we don’t have , just look at his clean strikes compared to Ollie’s bundled goal . Hourihane has a very similar clean striking technique but unfortunately not much else in general play . He’d be a sniper in the army.

  71. Ramsey did well enough, but Davis was a real boost, too. He did what we expect from him, held it up well, fought, and helped us keep it up there, and did really well for his assist. Broke their backs.

  72. I thought McGinn and Dougie looked sluggish yesterday and despite the excellent dribble for the third goal I find Traore very frustrating to watch, he just has’nt convinced me . That cross field pass that Fulham intercepted would have been catastrophic against top 10 opposition. WTF was he thinking?

  73. Yeah , I agree on Davis. Very impressed with him , has surprisingly sticky feet for his physique. If that was Mane who set up the second for Liverpool, they’d be carving a f**k**g ice sculpture of him!

  74. Good clip, MK.

    He does seem best being a bit more direct, using his pace.

    I also think the Prem is just so hard. A lot of really fast, strong fullbacks, and it all closes down so quickly.

    To prox’s point (?) about using him the right way, looks like you’d want him receiving it 30-40 yards out and being able to just push forward toward goal.

    Which is the way Deano wants us playing, big part of how we were doing so well. But we’re not getting those incisive balls out of central midfield to run onto. A lot of stuff has to go wider, and Trez, Ghazi, and Traoré are all having to do that “winger” bit. You see them trying to get central into the channels from out wide, and that’s where the Prem surprises players from other leagues, I think.

  75. Boy I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in Frem’s house lol. Most of know Trez is always trying his best so that allows him a few mistakes in my book. However, if we go after Ross for any thing more than we paid for Trez, I’m done after 50 years plus as a Villa supporter. remember the last Ross we had, sorry don’t try too. The only decent Ross I remember was Ian, and Ross was his last name.
    Anyhow, it was nice to see the lads come from behind and show some desire, even if it did take Tyro to have a brain fart before they all knuckled down. I think we’ll pick a few more points and finish around fifty and change. Then it’s summer and we’ll see how serious Compass are with FFP lifted.

  76. Canadian (or CV, perhaps…think that’s untaken),

    The only case I can see being made for Ross rests on price (as you say), and then whatever the club really know about what’s going on.

    He’s just looked unable to physically compete. At this point, I don’t think it’s down to lack of match fitness. He can’t get moving even for 20-30mins as a sub.

    So if there is a Covid fatigue angle, Smith & Co will know. And maybe the outings he has gotten were a chance to run it off/play himself into shape, and it just wasn’t working. We know he’ll pick up injuries. But I’ve never seen anyone take this long to come back from a hamstring and look so poor without having re-injured/aggravated it.

    If it’s not that, heaven help him, because he’s just fallen off the face of the earth.

  77. The Barks debate is going to have legs until seasons end. We’ve seen what he’s capable of early doors. But now he is a shadow of that.

    We know his hamstrings are troublesome and worth some timeout from first team action each year. We are not going to get 38 games out of him or anywhere near it.

    But things look worse than that. When you see Deano bring on Trez, Davis and Ramsey as subs whilst Barks watches on, speaks louder than words. That Deano preferred El Gassy, Traore and a knackered pair of SJM and Luiz ahead of him makes the chorus louder.

    Whatever the cause of his malaise, a magnificent opportunity has slipped from his grasp. Clearly, he’s not lighting any fires in training.

  78. no debate on Barkley for me.

    0 chance of it happening. Is currently being overlooked by our home grown star so aint shelling out the money Chelsea would want for him or his wages.

  79. watched the last 20 back and boy did davis do well. We know he is strong as an ox but I think theres so much more to him. Quick and has some mad skills. If I was a defender I wouldn’t want to be playing against him.

  80. H&V,

    Davis is a handful. Don’t dislike him at all. The only knock (which isn’t insignificant) is that he just doesn’t put it in the net.

    Obviously, opportunities have been limited for him the last couple of seasons, and maybe he’s gotten better and not had a chance to show it. Like Trez, I’d imagine it’s psychological. Gabby was that way. Put him clean through with time to think, and he’d fluff it.

    I also think that over 90, he doesn’t cover as much ground as a Watkins. More the kind of forward that tends to sit higher up and conserve energy, which I think is the tradeoff for being bulkier, stronger. So, you’re going to miss that extra body getting back more often than not, and it changes up the pressure.

    But that’s me. Only way to tell is for him to get a run. He would, in your formation. And I can’t say it wouldn’t work.

    Clearly, with us winning the ball high up the pitch and getting bodies forward in support, he was able to work mainly in their half and to very good effect.

  81. john

    yeah theres something about davis which I really got a feeling he could be very decent. But the lad just needs the game time. and to stay fit!

    Absolute no brainer now for him to be told you have the rest of season to play. lets see what he can do!

  82. H&V,

    That’s the crux of it…either going 4-4-2, or the 4-2-3-1 you suggest. Only way you’d see whether Davis has a future. I’m not sure Smith thinks he does.

    My guess is that he wants what Davis brings to come from a midfielder more like Milner.

    But who knows. For me, it’s a tricky one, because we have gone with him in the past, and it didn’t work all that well. But, he was younger, kept getting interrupted by injuries, and we’ve certainly lacked creativity and chances without Jack.

    It’s a bit of a cop out, and doesn’t address your point about giving him a run to prove himself, but the summer business will basically decide it. And then Davis probably has a decision to make.

    Not justifying it, but I don’t think he’ll get that run. That said, if Jack can’t get his shin sorted, Davis might’ve given Smith something to think about.

  83. Then the other cop out is what the staff see in training. Does he score there? Do they set up and play with him like that to check it out?

    No idea, obviously.

    I will say, and it might well be stubbornness on his part, that once Smith makes up his mind, he doesn’t seem to change it much.

  84. Davis makes Trez look prolific, he is the sort of player that has no position, has never been a goal scorer, I can’t remember him scoring for the stiffs much either. Great skills and strength and not slow but where do you put him? Averages 1-2 gaols and one assist a season. Beginning to think MMA or wrestling might suit him.

  85. Mark , your wife’s people are from the west are’nt they? Davis has the physique and mobility for a Gaelic football midfielder, maybe Galway or Mayo would give him a try!
    Martinez would make any inter-county team with his strength and fetching skills.

  86. My ex girlfriend now prox the new ones from sunnier climbs 🙂 Didn’t jack play Gaelic ?
    I’ve always fancied a go at it myself that or Australian rules , have you played it?

  87. Liverpool got a whooping we can get at that defence, unleash king trez and Davzilla 🙂

    Lo hard being talked about in terms of £60m can’t see wet spam coughing that up, but we might

  88. Oops, sorry mate!

    I didn’t know Jack played Gaelic . In Birmingham or in Ireland?
    Yeah , I played to the age of 26 until the third tear of my left cruciate ligament convinced me I should probably take up something less strenuous!

  89. I know Davis has the but he doesn’t score tag but has he really been given a proper chance?

    By all accounts the management team rate him and I think he only just signed a new deal? But anyhow chances are he is off on loan in the summer!

  90. Prox- Jack played until 14 and I always assumed it was over here? it came out in an interview with his dad.

    ” Grealish played gaelic football for John Mitchel’s Hurling and Camogie Club of Warwickshire GAA between the ages of 10 and 14, Grealish scored a point representing Warwickshire GAA at Croke Park during half-time of the 2009 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship quarter-final between Dublin and Kerry”

    Villa stopped him in the end but it toughened him up for all the shellacking’s he gets.

  91. That’s interesting Mark. There is more buffeting , sledging and physical intimidation which is part of the game in Gaelic football but having played hurling, Gaelic football and soccer, I can tell you that I have received and unfortunately inflicted the most serious injuries in soccer. There is a general mindset in ‘soccer’ however that makes players more plaintiff to the ref for protection which just wouldn’t serve you well in Gaelic. It’s not necessarily a tougher game per se, it’s just that players have to cope with a lot of “physical injustice”

  92. ‘Mitchell’s’ are probably the most well known UK GAA club. Have seen them play a few times, They had a lot of Nordy players at that time.

  93. Although most of us are happy with Dean Smith, do the rumours about Christian Purslow wanting to recruit Stephen Gerrard to be Villa’s next manager, arouse any excitement in people, showing that the board really mean business in taking Villa to the next step. Frem would of course be absolutely delighted.

    I don’t think it will happen, certainly not just yet, but it would not be totally out of the question, and a possible scenario come the end of the season.

  94. I’ve got to say this arouses no excitement in me whatsoever. Quite the opposite! Obviously, Gerrard has done really well at Rangers but let’s remember: it’s Scotland, not the Premier League!
    Gerrard remains unproven manager-wise at this level and anyway I suspect Villa would just be (for him) a stepping-stone to Anfield when Klopp goes – and then where would we be?

  95. This Gerrard link is one of those lazy scummy clickbait inventions built around Purslow’s previous Liverpool association. It’s this kind of crap that made me lose faith in the press and stopped me buying newspapers. I feel all frem about this!

  96. Prox- I think that football where you lead with the feet and are kicking while running a lot is bound to have more injuries, especially when people are sliding into tackles and booting you and the ball as hard as possible. I had way less injuries playing Rugby.

    Gerard? I’m not against him could be ok I have not really followed him in Scotland, I just don’t think we will be getting rid of Deano, why would we?

  97. The Grealish saga continues, and now he is out until May at least. Dean now has to plan for the foreseeable future without him, but Jack still plans to make the Euros.

    Football is now looking at a total blackout of social media, following on from the three Championship clubs ban.

  98. Jack being out for a prolonged period is a double edged sword. Of course it would have been good to have him playing and our results would have been better, but we’re already safe and this gives DS a chance to experiment a bit more. There’s a lot of love for Keinan Davis atm and I’m sure every Villa fan would love to see him come good. Personally, I’d still use him as an impact sub (literally) for a bit longer, but give him half an hour rather than 10 minutes each game.

  99. robbo

    with jack out with simply have use davis. It suits us now and plays to our strengths.

    I like my above team but lets go 442.

    We have 0 to play for davis has just come off the bench and turned a game. The lad deserves his chance now. Literally now or never for him. If he doesn’t get mins now with wes out too then he is done for

  100. midfield for me is our biggest area to strengthen. All our mids at the mo are like number 8’s really. apart from nakamba. Not really a out and out 6 or number 10.

    Remind me of end of era arsenal under wenger. He loved a little creative type in mid, cazola, rosicky, nasri, Wilshire all running about.

    We need that number 6 in berge massively.

  101. rObB0, Jack is suffering from shin splints. The cure is rest. His main motive now will be to get back before the season’s end and put in a couple of performances that smack Beaky up.

  102. im going to be seriously pissed if we go 433 tomorrow and no davis.

    pools backline there to be bullied.

    house is is back fit why not try a 352? targett and cash would suit wingback roles. pretty much al the teams ive seen this season mix it up formation wise. does my head in so much especially when we have seen without jack 433 is awful for us.

  103. Yeah, Jack just needs rest…I’m glad they’re being careful and listening to him. My guess is that this is why he was slightly off the boil before he went out.

  104. H&V,

    Doubt you’re going to see a 3-5-2. I’d bet pretty heavily against Smith making that kind of change.

    Davis and 4-4-2? Possible, but I think you’ll see the same formation, and the game plan will be similar to Leeds. My thinking is that Dean’s going to want everyone doing what they’re most used to and comfortable with. See if we can’t get a lead and then keep things tight.

    Obviously we’ll see, but I think r0bb0’s right about Davis still being an impact sub. Totally depends on which Liverpool shows up and whether we’re chasing or holding on.

    That said, Dean might be wanting to give Klopp & Co a bit of a surprise. They’ll be looking to bounce back from the poor CL outing, and they’ve still got top 4 to chase. They’ll also not be forgetting the 7-2.

  105. Shin splints are not always down to injury can be muscle imbalance if you don’t work the fronts of the shins but your calves get a hammering, end up with tight Achilles too.

    Yikes we lost a lot of money again this season thank god for Covid or not.

    #avfc remain debt free following continued investment from NSWE despite making a loss of £99.2 million over 2019-20.
    Huge loss due to COVID but continued investment in playing squad (£155.9m) and new performance centre set at BMH to formally open May 2021

  106. and there is more MK.
    £36.5million of the loss was due to loss of gate receipts, and there were repayments to the media for games not played, that will be in this year’s accounts.
    They underlined there plans for the first team, the women and support for them in retaining super league status, and for the Academy.
    They also mention the new Academy being built on the Brookvale site, and that they have put out to tender for a much improved, and larger capacity stadium at Villa Park.
    These guys are not here to mess about. Their intentions are much higher than many fans give them credit for, and they will mot hesitate to change things, if they see the need.
    I do not think they will be happy if Villa just bumble along until the end of the season.

  107. See that the the old rumour mill is suggesting that Barkley could suit Wet Spam, and they could get him on the the cheap. I don’t think Villa will worry, and that he is not really in our plans anymore.
    I think that we should go 4-4-2 tomorrow, and start with Davis and Watkins up front, and give Liverpool a real problem.
    We have not been really using the midfield effectively, so we may as well play to the front boys and see what they can achieve, and with Trez, I am sure we can do some damage.
    Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Traore, Luiz, McGinn, Trezeguet, Watkins, Davis.
    Subs: Heaton, Elmo, Hause, Ramsey, Sanson, El Ghazi.
    All the youngsters played against Fulham this afternoon, and lost 4-1, not a good result for them, when they are chasing promotion.

  108. PP, the offical website states that 36.1 million of “revenue” was lost during the financial year reported due to the late completion of the season. Had it not been lost, the overall loss of 99 million would have been 63 million.

    However, that 36.1 million revenue will now be realised in the current year’s accounts which should improve them by that amount. The statement says the true picture will need to be assessed by averaging the current financial year and the previous one.

    Compass have been brilliant. They know exactly how to turn a basket case into a diamond, but it would never work with small heath.

  109. I can’t imagine that Compass could be anything but happy with the progress so far, early promotion allowed us to spend, more we are boxing above our weight with many team members worth much more than when purchased. We haven’t bought a 27-28 year old team for immediate success so I cannot believe the odd blip will faze them. The fans are the ones losing perspective. At this point we are building, once the team is truly capable of competing at the top then Dean will either succeed or not. He will have to seriously have to fuck up to go. We are currently 4th in the form table despite being fairly average lately.

  110. Obviously the odd blip is not going to faze them, but that is not what I was saying. A set of indifferent results for the remainder of the season, is not classed as an odd blip, surely?

    We are unlikely to see Jack for a while, following from today’s press conference, so the team need to be stepping up to the plate, as the did in the end on Sunday. I am sure that the aim was for Villa to be at least in the top half of the table, and probably in the top eight, for the amount f money invested. This was also basically underlined in today’s press conference with Dean, and if we achieve it, everyone will be happy.

    Plug, that is basically what I was saying, but not putting it very well. I should have copied the statement in full.

  111. JC,
    Compass have been great, and have a major plan for the whole of the club, not just the first team, and nothing will stand in their way of achieving their plans. This is a very serious group of people who have carefully set out on their journey, and I am impressed at how they have been clear in the way they have financed the club so far.

  112. H&V, I can’t imagine we’ll go 3 at the back tomorrow and bearing in mind we have one of the very best defences in the division is that really an area we ought to change?

  113. Plug, yes I saw that Jack has shin splints and as you said, I imagine that the club is being as supportive as they can be in managing his recovery so that he can play still some games for us this season and put himself in the shop window for the Euros.
    It looks as if that will give some other players the chance to step up and show that we’re not a one player team.
    Having said that, a fully motivated Liverpool tomorrow could be quite a challenge!

  114. The mechanics of VAR at play again for all to see. Favouring the Laandan clubs. They are doing everything to keep Fulham in the EPL.

    Last week is was a Villa penalty ruled out by a toe nail touch on the ball before severing Watkins legs below the knees. This week it’s a goal ruled out because of a toe nail offside.

    It’s credibility is shot.

  115. Today’s accounts and how we are debt free with plans in place and what’s been happening only highlights why I bang on about Deano needing to adapt more and be more flexible. Like we all say and know. We will be surprised if we start with any other then a 433 tomorrow which we all know and have seen last 2 months doesn’t suite us without Jackie. Like the post says next season is going to be massive for Deano. We have set the bar and it’s not easy to have another great season but the owners will want more progress

  116. Disclaimer – this is the best season in over a decade and the progress in such a short time is insane. Wouldn’t of belived this 3 years ago. But what I’m thinking is before a ball was kicked we was tipped by everyone to go down. Make no mistake we took everyone by surprise first dozen of games and got at teams on the break devastatingly. But they soon worked us out by marking jack out the game, West Ham, foxes all changing there formation to stop him. And worryingly for me we haven’t adjusted to it. Now I want Deano to be here for along long time but if he wants to take us where compass wants to go he needs to learn to be more flexible and show he can change formation and personnel to suit games imho. Like
    I say next season is going to be massive for him

  117. Well Adama Traore finally put the knife into Fulham, giving Wolves some justice.
    Well, apparently Arsne Wenger is working on the offside, and wants it changed to any part of the attacker being on side, then the goal counts. Hopefully that will make it better, but has to be trialled in China first for VAR and FIFA.

  118. H&V,

    I think the man- and double-marking on Jack just shows the other places we lack real quality.

    In other words, not the formation but the players. But, I understand pointing to the formation if we can’t play it without Jack.

    I just don’t know that Dean has that many cards to play. We’re basically going back and forth (fans in general) on whether to go 4-4-2 instead. And I’m just not sure we’ve got the players other than as a roll of the dice for 20-30 mins when we’re chasing.

    Regardless, what I think the run-in without Jack will do is prompt Compass to really splash the cash. They’re seeing how reliant we are, and if we can’t reproduce the performance from the last quarter of the Fulham match, we know a number of players will be losing any starting contention.

    Depending on valuations and the usual games, I see us signing as many as 4 or 5 in the £30m-£40m range. No idea who’s on the radar, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like Buendia, Sarr, Toney and Berge plus a striker.

    Paper links, of course, but I can see that kind of statement being made.

  119. PP- I just watched the presser and I fail to see how you divined a need for a top 8 finish from it? basically Smith said we scraped in last season and nobody expected us to get into Europe this season. He also said we have put ourselves into a good position and we will be trying to get into that top 8 if possible, nothing about targets or must achieve at all. In fact Smith said we are the youngest team in the prem and we are tying important players down to long contracts as we build and hope we can challenge for Europe over the next two seasons. Its very long term stuff.

    The owners set out a 5 year plan when they arrived to get into Europe with the caveat of sustainability. We got up early which in one way allowed us to keep Jack and splash out on a build, not ridiculously but enough to do the job and stay up. That I think although good on the money front probably scuppered the time we needed to build in the Champs and integrate the youth system players. We got rid of many like O’Hare who would of likely stayed hence the layout of cash.

    Just because we achieved promotion early it does not mean the owners are now wanting pay back for investment, they have received the prem tv Money anyway and have a squad worth much more than they paid. It also brought problems which so far we seem to be coping with and thriving.

    Smith also Mentions that last season we were not fit enough for 90 mins and that showed in the results, this season they targeted players like cash and Ollie that can last 90 while sprinting a lot. That kind of Stamina takes time to develop for most hence the adjustment to the prem level for Sanson and others last season. It also begs the question of how much did the Covid episode effect fitness levels?

    Ross I think far from being lazy just hasn’t been able to regain the level of Fitness he had for whatever reason, Smith mentioned last week that he was getting back to fitness so I think he will feature in the next few games rather than be discarded. I think smith was desperate for him to play as we lack that level of Quality and probably should not have pushed him in the hope he would play himself back to fitness.

    I can’t see us changing formation as we have built the team on 433, to change it entirely now just means the recruitment was entirely wrong.

  120. For me the Owners are building a foundation to last and support the team, everything they are doing suggests this, while they won’t want to see us go backwards they are not expecting in my eyes the team to support the initial structure building required to take us onwards to the eventual Goal just yet. They seem very switched on about the sports world and I doubt they expect it all to happen overnight.

  121. Ahead of this season’s kick off, the pundits had us relegated. Not longer after, the pundits were telling everyone our summer recruitment was second to none. So like VAR, they’ve lost all credibility.

    We’ve now gone 7 games without Jack and collected 8 points. That’s the equivalent of 43 points over a season. Not relegation points. But we must also look at the fixtures and of our remaining 9 games, 7 are against top 8 sides. In other words, we can’t yet measure the team’s performance without him.

    As Heroes says, less than 3 years ago we were a train wreck. I couldn’t possibly envisage what’s happened since. I would love to see us bring down the Bin Dippers today. COYVB.

  122. Plug- its deceiving as we have been so good but we are not that bad as 4th in the form league suggests at present.

    As for our losses this puts it in perspective and takes a massive dump on the idea we have somehow spent loads.

    Of Villa’s Premier League rivals, only Man City (£160m), Everton (£118m), Leicester (£115m) and Chelsea (£111m) posted greater losses with Villa just above Arsenal (£87m) and Southampton (76m).

    Most of the top sides are in massive debt, we are debt free.

  123. I’m sure there’s scope for managers to adapt formations between or during games, and it’s tempting to believe that if only we switched to a different formation everything would be better. . . but I find that really hard to believe.
    Last week there were a number of factors in our turnaround against Fulham, from giving Ollie more support up front by bringing on Davis and injecting the energy of Trez and Ramsey, but the determination of Mings to single handedly make right his wrong was also a key one. Psychology and belief plays such a large part in games and I’m sure played a part in our record run of 10 wins two seasons ago and our Houdini act last year.
    Once we scored our first goal last week you could see Fulham’s ‘belief balloon’ start to deflate and the Villa players all seemed to step up a notch.
    Across a whole season, attitude will only take you so far and you have to have talent too and maybe our player’s self belief had them overachieving a bit at the start of the season, but it’s hard to keep that going for 38 games .
    We can change our formation to 442 as is being asked for here and elsewhere, but I reckon it’s far more important that the players on the pitch know their roles and believe in themselves and their teammates than the formation they’re asked to play in.

  124. I agree Robbo Thats why Trez will score a few goals now, you could see the relief in the bloke, he has massive self belief and work ethic but when nothing goes your way goal scoring wise it becomes a weight around your neck thats hard to shift as you begin second guessing, as he said the only way is to work hard and it will come good.

  125. Also the belief in Jack by the whole Squad is a tangible thing, he is so confident and talented it is not surprising that he lends that to all in the team around him. They need to rediscover themselves and it only takes a few performances like Trez’s and Davis’s to ignite others, Traore for example woke up once they got stuck in.

  126. Agreed Mark. Confidence is key when it comes to goal scoring. Some players ‘know’ they’re going to score and muscle memory takes over and does what’s necessary. Others allow themselves to think too much and fluff their lines. Trez has been thinking about it and missing but last week he just did what came naturally. . . . .as you say, let’s hope that allows him to believe himself. John alluded to the same thing and with Trez frequently getting himself into the right positions to score he could chip in a few for us over the next few weeks. Along with his unquestioned energy and willingness to work he could yet win round a few of the doubters

  127. Wigan shouldn’t have beaten Man City to win the FA cup in 2013, Wimbledon shouldn’t have beaten Liverpool, Sunderland shouldn’t have beaten Leeds, Southampton shouldn’t have beaten Man United and Ipswich shouldn’t have beaten Arsenal, but they all did.
    I was one of the 6,000 who watched Burton Albion draw with Man United in the FA cup a few years ago and as with those game above, they didn’t have the best players, but on the day they actually believed that they would go out and get a result and they stepped up and did it. . . . . . it’s unlikely that those wins were down to the manager picking a special formation for the game!

  128. What I find most disturbing is football fans who would rather see themselves proved right than see their teams succeed. Naming no names, but you know that there will be those who will actually be disappointed that Trez scored those goals. There are some who will feel a pang of regret that we are safe and Dean Smith is still our manager next season.

    The trouble with people like that, is that eventually, in their own minds they will be proved right. Nearly all managers fail eventually and you can be sure that they’ll be there to remind us when it happens. It may not be this season. . . or next . . . or for 5 years, but when it happens, those know it all’s will enjoy saying . . .’see. . . .I told you’.

    I know that there are players and managers I haven’t believed in , but I couldn’t be happier than when I’m proved wrong and I find it hard to understand why any true fan wouldn’t feel like that.

    I’ll admit to not having been able to understand the hype over Jack Grealish . . . . how wrong I was and how pleased I am that I was!

  129. You only have to listen to Dean Smith to know he use’s common sense and reasoning in everything he does, compare that to Steve Bruces dart board approach and jumpers for goalpost pressers. Both approaches have had success but I know which one will bring sustainable success in the end.

    Stubbornness is now a bad thing when attached to Dean Smith but I reckon Ron Saunders and SAF wrote the book on that subject.

  130. Wow!!
    What a game ! Bielsa manages to beat Man City with 10 MOTM, with master tactical changes.

    Let’s hope that Villa can show thee same determination this afternoon.

    Dean Smith was not going to stand and say these are the targets, but he has certainly been set targets, which he will be expected to meet. Compass did not say here’s the money, hope you can have a good season. He will certainly have been set very definite targets!!
    No Sanson today, not even on the bench.

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