Back to league action and it’s Chelsea up without our Emis. But Villa already knew that, and with a small glut of attacking players for once, Smith has options. Chelsea have their own issues, but a far deeper bench.

So, let’s do Villa first.

Obviously, we’ll be seeing Jed Steer in between the sticks. I like Jed, he’s a nice guy, and author of some memorable Villa heroics I got to thank him for once. He’ll have been preparing. Whether this helps or hurts, I don’t know.

He’s not as commanding as Martinez, which is the main concern for me, along with a bit of rust. Villa would surely like to limit the number of corners and crosses, but that’s easier said than done.

Emi Buendia, well, it’s a shame he’s out after opening his account against Brentford. That said, he hasn’t been integral so far, meaning the dependence on him isn’t very big at this stage.

Villa’s two youngsters, Jaden Philogene-Bidace and Carney Chukwuemeka, will also miss out. Morgan Sanson won’t be match fit, but he’ll be available along with Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey, Bertrand Traoré, John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey.

Chelsea, well, a bit of a waiting game. Romelu Lukaku and N’Golo Kanté are question marks, as are Havertz and Pulisic. Lukaku was pictured in training, and Smith expects him to start. Reece James is suspended, and, as of now, Thiago Silva will apparently be sidelined by the five-day rule.

Where Does That Leave Us?
For Villa, any thinning of Chelsea’s squad is a good thing. Given Villa’s preseason and early season fitness and injury woes, a little balancing out can’t hurt.

What no one knows is how Villa will approach the match. I’m assuming Tyrone Mings will be able to play. Ezri Konsa? Not seen anything to say he’s out, and there’ve been pictures of him in training, but seeing anything to say he’s in. Kortney Hause and Axel Tuanzebe will be available in any event, but you’d rather have your most experienced pairing out there.

So, let’s assume an unchanged back line, or Axel paired with Mings.

Then it gets interesting. There’s been a lot of talk, but no one’s yet seen Dean’s ideas regarding Watkins and Ings in the same starting XI. All we know is that when asked, Smith has said he doesn’t plan on Ollie playing wide, but he thinks they can complement each other well.

Which has left everyone scratching their heads a bit. Does Ings drop back as more of a “10”? Will Ollie go out wide anyway since Buendia’s out? What about Bailey and Traoré? I don’t know how fit either of the pair actually is. I get the feeling Smith would probably rather hold them in reserve to begin with.

But, he could play Ollie up front in a 4-5-1 with Ings, Bailey, Traoré, McGinn and Luiz. Bit lightweight, and no idea about the tracking back, but there’s speed and attacking quality there. Will McGinn be knackered?

He could also play a 4-3-3 with Ramsey, McGinn and Luis in the second bank, and coin flips for the front rank. This seems more likely, knowing Smith. But I honestly have no idea about the front three.

Somehow, I have a feeling Ashley Young will show up somewhere. But I’m not sure it went all that well playing him wide left, and I’m not sure I want to see Matt Targett lose his place again unless he’s really not yet up to it. However, Young’s experience might be preferred over El Ghazi, for example, making way for Bailey. Or we could see Young left and Ghazi wide right, the latter making way for Traoré at some point.

It could only be more complicated if Buendia were available.

All I know is this is the most anticipation I’ve had for a starting XI in a long time. Although we may well set up more defensively for this one, we’ll at least have some insight as to what things look like going forward. Like I say, though, having players available doesn’t mean they’ll start. Dean doesn’t rush players back, and a formidable Chelsea side

What Do I Think?
No one cares, first off. Second, I always get it wrong when I suggest Villa should go defensive. Do we try to get a lead and hold on? Do we play for a smash-and-grab at some point? They’re both appealing. My mind says 4-5-1 given Chelsea have been getting off to good starts and have proven hard to break down.

I don’t dislike the idea of going 4-3-3. Or some variation of a 4–2-3-1 to get Ollie and Ings on together. You know Ings can score at any time, but you also know Watkins can cover more ground and still score goals. Plus, he works a little better as a hold-up man if we want to go long a lot, particularly early. We just don’t know whether Bailey or Traoré have 90 mins in them. That said, we haven’t been creating a whole lot of chances.

If it were me, I’d probably lean toward playing this one in two phases, perhaps by starting 4-5-1, trying to blunt Chelsea, then look to get more attacking in the second.

But that’s me. Will Deano want to go all in for grabbing the first, or keep his powder dry, go for 0-0 as long as possible, and then throw on more firepower? Not at all sure he’ll want to start out with a combination that’s barely played together against such a strong side, however much he might want to see them all together. That might be best left for Everton.

Anyway first time in a long time that I haven’t had a really strong intuition about Smith’s choices. And I’m not sure this match will tell us what Dean really thinks about playing Ollie and Ings together from the off.

Unless it does.

Over to you.

Comments 74

  1. Nice read John. Slightly disagree about Steer. I think he commands his area well, from watching him in our promotion season. Emi is a great keeper but Steer is not a bad back up. Have him in my fantasy team this weekend as i do not see Chelsea beating us.
    Our squad finally has options and i think Smith has to start Nakamba basing on the fact of how well he played against Chelsea in our final game of last season.
    Tactically we should not be afraid to attack them especially with our glut of attacking players; even without Buendia. UTV.

  2. I for one think this game could end 0-0. Chelsea are the bookies’ favorites but with Champions League looming, they could switch off. Villa we are very much an unknown quantity this season. We have to have all our players back in fitness so that we can the team could be analyzed better.

  3. Jackvilla,

    Ian was a keeper, he rates Steer, too.

    I do think he’s a very capable backup. Emi just feels like a security blanket.

    Like you, think this could be a good moment for us to play them. I can see 0-0, or 1-1.

  4. I do admire the confidence shown by Jackvilla and JC. I’m not as optimistic though. We’re up against the European champs, one of the favourites for EPL this season and of course, Tuchel.

    A two goal loss and I’d consider that a result. Hope I’m well wrong.

  5. Chelski goalie is good, but their CB’s are nothing special. I still have nightmares of all the space we gave Chilwell last year at Stamford Bridge. It’ll be hard to get a point with the fans back, but we have quality in attack. Hopefully Bailey will start with Ings and Ollie.

    Unfortunately I’m leaning with Plug on prediction 🙁

  6. Edouard only came on for the last 6 minutes and scored twice. Frem won’t be excited, he’ll be incandescent with rage. Fuckin Tonto I reckon.

  7. So looks like a 3-5-2, with Axel, Konsa, and Mings along with Cash and Targett.

    Interesting. I won’t be able to see, assume the keen eyes will suss out how it’s played.

  8. VillaMD I share your pessimism for today but not because the fans are back. I was at Stamford Bridge when they beat us 8.0 the villa fans were louder than Chelsea all the way through and after the game.

  9. No complaints about the game. If anything 1-0 for Chelsea. The third goal was due to Villa frustration.
    Mendez is a bit of a showboat. None of Villa’s attempts were the best but he made them look like worldies.
    There is definitely a good team brewing and I’m quite looking forward to Everton.

  10. Yep all considered with Captain lackadaisical doing his best to give us no chance not the worst. Really finishing was the difference on the day. Bailey looks like he will be a handful but as usual he’s got to get used to the pace. Once we deviated from the Plan went flat and that was in no small part to Ramsey coming off, neither Bailey or Traore filled the 10 position (although Traore looked up for it) and Chelsea walked through the middle with Jorghingo sewing it up. Why Didn’t Bailey swap wings? the ball was all down the left.

  11. SJM our motm. Bailey promising, fast with fast feet. Steer did nothing wrong. Mings seemed to be put off by the 3 at the back idea and was caught in 2 minds several times. I like any formation that gets Ings and Ollie on the pitch together. Villa looked like a mean machine in the first half but got done by the sharpest goal scorer on the pitch.


  12. It was never a 3-0 game. Gives a flattering scoreline for Chelsea. I do like 3-5-2 and in the first half it was our finishing that let us down. We had plenty of chances.

    Straight after half time came Mings brain fart and it left us peddling uphill. Ramsey had a good first half and SJM had a good game. Steer did nothing wrong and looked sound in collecting the crosses.

  13. Attwell’s performance needs scrutiny. Both sides committed 11 fouls yet Chelsea get 1 yellow and we get 4 cards. It was not a feisty game. Attwell also did not referee both teams the same. He was heavily biased towards the home team meaning that he is either incompetent or more sinister motives are at play.

    Chelsea already compete on anything but a level playing field and don’t need the whistler to be on their side as well. But he was.

  14. Couldn’t tell about Bailey just yet. He will need time to adjust to the pace on this league. But overall, the team is coming together better and can now give a good account of itself anywhere.

  15. I’m thinking that the communication between the backs and Steer wasn’t the best. Perhaps Steer didn’t expect the back pass from Mings.Later there was some indecision as to who was going to collect the ball then last second Steer went for it.
    If I had a complaint it would be not quite enough weight on the passes in several instances.

  16. Still absolutely fuming.

    I had bad vibes before season and it ain’t getting better.

    Said a million times the ability to do the basics of passing is staggering and could make it a season of struggle. Mings dies that 3 times a season but what sums it up is axels pass to him. Bad weight and on his wrong foot. It’s sums us up. We are just not fluid in our game and gives us no control. I’ve watched wolves, palace, Saints, even them are zip zip zip fluid footy. We pass it behind someone, they take 3 or 4 touches to get it under and its shit

  17. Fair enough first half we targeted there new mid and pressed well but tuchel changed it ht and we were done.

    I’m hearing mcguinn played excellent, I lost count of the times he gave the ball away.

    Be interesting now we are getting full strength what Deano picks.

  18. H&V The Spaniard for Chelsea got owned so he put Jorginho on who is class but the conceding of the 2nd is what killed it. Chelsea then played wide making it impossible to press them effectively, they didn’t have to try and score. No second goal and we would have had a chance, also Ramsey and Mcginn were fantastic at hunting the mids down, Luis tired and Ramsey had to be sacrificed for a winger. Not sure why we didn’t go to a flat back four to accomplish the same but we killed ourselves.

  19. Watched the entire game and must say that the first half was good. We more than matched them but the second half Mings was catastrophic and was at fault for the second and the third goals.
    The sooner Deano chooses a side that could actually wins games the better. I mean that he should drop some of his favorites as they are letting the team down.
    Tyrone is captain material but always has a mistake in him. Douglas has never been the same since Covid hit the camp last January. We paid for silly errors yesterday from the defense.

  20. I think we’d be better with Konsa and Hause at the back. Mings too erratic. Tuanzebe at fault for 1st goal and looks a shadow of his prior stint.

    MK – agree, we should have gone to flat back 4 and kept Ramsey on. JR has really matured. Looks pure quality and super confident. We could also have taken Ings off as he looked like he’d been on the beers the night before

  21. Yeah have to say Ramsey was really good. Wasn’t sure about him last season but whatever was done in the summer worked.

    I think luiz was very good yesterday. Mings always makes a mistake but we are better with him then without. First half he was great!

  22. H&V- yes the home form will be key for all teams this season by the looks but the way we went at Chelsea I would not count us out away from home.

    We pressed really well and only a really quality long ball to one of the best forwards in the world broke it and that’s the danger as I have said before. However it also set up a rake of chances we did not take.

    This is what we will see from Smiths team, the what’s our style has been answered I think, we will be going for teams. Whether that is in a 352 4231 433 remains to be seen.

    The mids despite fans concerns did really well and the the fact we have Beundia, Bailey, Traore, Trez, Chuk, Bidace, Archer to change things up in an attacking sense its exciting. Ramsey looks to have taken the mantle on of that mid that carries the ball forward for us, deserves a place but how to keep him in there I don’t know good luck Smith with that.

  23. he will score goals im sure but the Ings signing does seem one to appease fans.

    Just on paper seems to give more a headache in terms of fitting in him!

    but i guess the more options and good players the merrier but theres alot to be said for knowing your best 11 and style

  24. Ings like all the others will have to win his place, Ollie doesn’t look like he wants to give it up, he looks our best player. Otherwise we will have to see what Smith has in mind. Ings brings more than just goals and I don’t think it was just a crowd pleaser, probably could of bought Eduard from Celtic and been just as happy. There’s plan there and with the youngsters coming through , Archer, Young and Barry you can see they are all hard working with good finishing. Chuks brother is one to watch with his height brings something different.

  25. Reports surfacing today that Deano will be gone if we are not top half after the Everton , man u and spurs games .. so it seems I could well be correct in my thoughts re recent backroom changes

    Everton look a different side under Rafa beating them won’t be easy but surely we have enough talent to take the points at home

  26. I thought both Everton and Burnley looked very bang average last night. Then Benitez changed his team’s shape after which they looked magnificent. Some folks might say he should have got his set up right to start with, but he changed the result at a stroke.

    It’s a big game coming up this weekend alright.

  27. Runtings I saw that pop up on the clickbait sites and couldn’t stop laughing for ten minutes. International break is 9th oct between then we have Everton, Chelsea, Spurs and Man utd 🙂

    So Smith has to take how many points from that to save his Job? with all the covid related, injury and international woes we have had to suffer it would be harsh in the extreme.

    To top that we are supposed to believe that the coaches that have come in are part of the next appointment?? JT has given his reasons and so has O’kelly which are all very reasonable, he took us as far as possible and Shakespeare was wanted in the 1st season back by Smith.

    The chap that improves teams in the final third is a no brainer as is the set piece chap going on stats alone from last season. We need to put away more of the chances we create and these coaches have already started to bear fruit in the number of chances from our new approach. Barring a rusty Ollie against Chelsea I think we would be smiling.

  28. Mings comments after being made captain spoke of a period of adjustment after jack went suggesting that it wasn’t something the club was sure would happen. He said we are looking to improve on last season, nothing about the early summer Europe stuff which for me would only happen if Jack had stayed. Not to say we can’t be a surprise package.

  29. I certainly don’t believe its just clickbait chat not that I am calling for Deano’s head myself but realistically with ambitious owners Villa need to be in Europe next season based o the investments and restructuring
    Its a results business and for example Frank leaving Chelsea was a bit surprising at the time but there new manager has taken the same players towards another level
    Jack bigging up Pep did we need a more high profile guy the got the players believing they are playing for one of the best managers in the world ?

    big games ahead still we have enough quality to come out of those games in the top half with 2 of the 3 teams being direct competitors for the top 7 spots

  30. I have doubts about Dean Smith tactically. Sure, he has improved the team since he came in and is still improving some of them like Ramsey.
    However, he is not proactive and does has too many favourites in the team like Mings, Konsa, Douglas, Cash; with only Konsa deserving a place in the first team. Too much attacking talent in the team and he is yet to harness that to Villa’s benefit. The upcoming fixtures will tell a lot about him.

  31. I’m sure Bruce would come back.

    Just because he has a name everyone can pronounce doesn’t mean he can’t get Villa up the table. Being a manager isn’t a one man job and the men Dean hired to be his assistants are top drawer. I’m sure he listens to them regarding style, tactics, and man management. NSWE didn’t all of a sudden decide it’s three games (tough ones to boot) and you’re out. They would have had to be thinking that at the start of the season.
    For me, the only clanger was the first game out of the chute against Watford and how many expected a result against Chelsea? And given the number of shots on goal in the first half that coulda, shoulda, woulda gone in, the game would have been a lot different. Mings’ first clanger of the game definitely put the dampers on the game. I still think that was lack of communication though. There were 5 incoming, integrating academy players, the loss of what’s his name, injury, international snafu, and covid to contend with. Not the sunny start like last year and we didn’t expect that.
    There was an article on the best managers in the Prem a month back and Smith was ranked no. 5 behind the usual suspects plus Ole.
    Sure things need to improve and it’s going to be under Smith.

  32. Runtings- the site it came from is the epitome of a clickbait site, they use more words like could, might, maybe per sentence than a politician.

    We in no way are in Chelsea’s position, they are used to winning things and Dwarf our spending of course they would go for Tuchel, the reason we are not is a big name manager would not be coming in with his staff all pre-picked for him by Lange and probably Smith.

  33. runtings, I’m wary of comments like ‘reports surfaced’ that x and y is going to happen. It’s all too easy for people (they don’t warrant the title of journalist) to make up stories and before you know it, these fantasies have been picked up by other sites and they take on a life of their own.
    Villa fans more than most should know that changing a manager is no guarantee of success. Bearing in mind that Dean Smith is the most successful one by far that we’ve had from our last dozen or so (in fewer years than that) I find it hard to believe that we’d be trying to apply a set of criteria that would likely see him lose his job right now.

    you mention Tuchel and there’s no doubt that he’s done a great job, but maybe Frank was underperforming with the players he had at his disposal?

    I thought this extract of a summary of various pieces of research was quite

    “Two Belgian studies, Balduck et al. (2010a, (2010b), find no performance effects of a coach replacement. Studying English football, Poulsen (2000) finds no effects of a managerial change while Dobson and Goddard (2011) find a negative effect, just after the replacement of a manager. Analyzing data from German football, Salomo and Teichmann (2000) find negative effects of a trainer-coach dismissal, while Hentschel et al. (2012) conclude that a coach change may have a positive effect on homogeneous teams but no effect for heterogeneous teams. De Paola and Scoppa (2011) find similar conclusions for Italian football, just like Tena and Forrest (2007) for Spanish football. Koning (2003), Bruinshoofd and ter Weel (2003), Ter Weel (2011), Van Ours and van Tuijl (2016) study the effects of the replacement of head-coaches in the highest professional football league of the Netherlands. They all find that this does not lead to better performance of the teams involved.”

  34. JackVilla- wasn’t Ashley Young one of his new favourites a while back? Mings? how can the captain of Aston Villa be a favourite? usually its someone that will play if fit 🙂

    Keep an eye on games because sneaky old Smith has used about 3-4 systems sometimes swapping in game. Also the tactics of getting better at set pieces and keeping the ball in the final third. Also his subs have improved and are happening much sooner and now he has actual choices on the bench not downgrades. So overall he is doing more of the stuff people thought he should of last season with piss poor options.

  35. Robbo your right about Frank he had a bad run, I think at the time he was brought in it was because Chelsea could not buy players and they wanted him to use the kids, a bit like Smith and did ok. Then he spent a shitload but it went south a bit. They are into about £500m in the last 4 seasons. Didn’t he buy Havertz and werner and couldn’t get them scoring.

  36. Guys I know nothing of course but lets not forget were citeh and chelski were before they became elite and that is exactly what our current owners want for villa
    They apparently offered Jack a lot more than citeh to stay with the project so they are determined to become elite and being in the top mix within years means we cant have too bad a start at this stage and must be competing with the likes of spurs and everton right now .. covid will not help as an excuse as we are all living in a covid era

    Again I think Dean can win the next game and a lot more going forwards but if we are not picking up results before the break the pressure will be on imo due to the clubs ambitions

  37. Runtings mate we have had a tough run of injuries, covid etc that has wrecked pre-season, we have several top players signed presumably they liked Smith enough to buy into Villa particularly Ings and Beundia who had other offers from top clubs. To bin him in 8 games would not in my opinion ignite Villa’s season and makes zero sense. If by Xmas its gone tits up ok but I don’t think that’s likely at all.

    I really think we fought to keep Jack and the magic £100m button was eventually pressed. City wanted Kane and could not get him so turned to Jack Maybe. Very likely Beundia, Bailey and maybe JWP were our targets even if Jack stayed as it is we had a negative spend.

    Makes me laugh because JT not so long ago was Smiths rival and brought in by the owners to take over, now he is pictured as weakening Smith position at the club by leaving 🙂

  38. I would also say that while the owners are ambitious they have also stated they want the club to be self sustaining, that won’t happen the way Chelsea and City did it. There are to many clubs now that are elite or nearly there, Spurs, arsenal, city , Manure, Chelski, Leicester, Liverpool etc when Chelsea and city got rich the opposition was much less. If we are to do it it will be by boxing clever not excessive spending.

  39. The question for me not know what goes on behind the scenes is what was Jack relationship with the manager there hasnt seemed to be much of a parting tribute from either side .. could a different have helped in persuading him to stay perhaps ?
    managers the level of Tuchel surely are out there gettable for villa if required he is a supreme tactician and clearly top notch motivator and ruthless too.

    Onwards and upwards with our Deano he is under no more pressure than any other manager

  40. Runtings we will never know but they always seemed to have a great relationship and Villa did their best to get Jack to the Euro’s. I think Jack convinced himself that unless he left he would not play the big games through lack of champs league etc, said so himself.

  41. Yes mate interesting but not surprising for me. As we are looking to keep the ball better in the final third and win it back quicker there its best to get the ball to the final 3rd more, not fanny about. Ollie is a massive player for us and I wonder if Chucks brother can do similar. Davis going out on loan would have been great as he could of been a partner for Ings if needed later in the season but was is to similar to Ollie in other ways. Archer is a very interesting prospect that I am not quite sure how we would play.

    If you watch the kids they already play as much as possible in the oppositions end and get up there quickly, the 1st team with Jack just didn’t do that often, when we did we had some great victories like the 7-2. Now I think we have the players to make that our go to style.

  42. On the upgrading of managers you have to wonder why Manure have stuck with Ole, he’s done ok but that’s not great for a team in their position and the have spent more than us over the last few years. Could it be they have realised that they have to give someone some time.

  43. There is no way Smith will be sacked this season, how ever badly we are doing.
    Only way the board act if if we are actually in trouble of going down. Otherwise if we finish 11th 12th even 10th this season I think the club will make a change in the summer.
    I do think Smith won’t be our manager next season.

    I wanted to come on here and rip his head off after Watford display. I wanted to come and rip his head off even after we beat Newcastle, because it was just awfull. And I wanted to come and rip his head off after Brentford which was even worse…

    But I didn’t. I waited.

    And if we can play like we did against Chelsea first half more often, then that’s improvement. We moved the ball much quicker.

    I don’t want to see 5 at the back often though. Get Bailey on the pitch.

    The new possession coach and set play coach are going to be huge.

    We need to go and beat Everton and pass the ball and create chances. Something we couldn’t do since January and only started

  44. Ollie is one of if not the poorest manager in the prem imo
    He has no system of play and relies purely on the huge talent pool that man u have and just hopes someone will pop up with some individual brilliance hopefully they keep him for many years as a forward thinking manager with that squad would clean up

  45. but talk of him being axed is mental. He is improving every aspect on and off the pitch. You just know behind the scenes a great cultra is being created.
    I want and expected to see us play with more calmness and being able to look after the ball better but thats my only gripe and we are literally building a new team every season!

    But results will be all that matters as always

  46. Mark King. We have already used 22 players so far this season which is by far the most by any team in the league. Last season we were the side that used the fewest players in the division.
    Clearly it shows Dean Smith is still not sure of his best side or also it could be that he is starting to become clueless.
    Someone remarked that Konsa and Hause are our best defensive partnership. I agree fully; even though Hause is a bit slow, but is a better option than Mings imo.

  47. Not saying that Dean should be sacked, it think it is early. But i think Jack Grealish bailed him out big time one too many times. We have enough attacking talents in the team to be winning games.
    The Everton game will be tricky and one needs to look at how Rafa has turned around games against Burnley and Southampton after going behind to realize they will be tough opponents. I see a draw here.

  48. Jack Villa- at 1st glance what your saying looks plausible but you don’t look at any of the reasons why we have used 22 players this season. Covid, injuries, internationals have all prevented him playing his strongest side which he surely would of and we played Barrow in the cup with a completely different side with players that have gone out on loan now in it.

    Rather than show that Smith doesn’t know his best side (that hasn’t even been available to him) or that he’s somehow clueless?? it shows how blinkered your own view is, ie its all down to Smith and not circumstance.

    I mean anybody could pick our 1st 11 last season, even more so when we had injuries to a thin squad.

  49. On the plus side even if he had everyone available it could show you that we have a much stronger squad with many players vying for a place, that is what you want as a manager competition all over the pitch for places.

  50. Back from my quick vacation. Haven’t been able to watch a replay yet.

    So, at a bit of a disadvantage…

    Mings vs. Hause: Me, I don’t think there’s any real competition there. Yes, Tyrone does have the odd clanger in him. But, an awful lot goes through him, and I think he has much better recovery speed and decision-making/ability on forward passes. I’ll get a chance to see what went wrong with him in the second half.

    Hause is a good substitute, and I can see him wanting to move on, but I don’t think he’s the regular starter we want there.

  51. JC- It was a poor pass from Tuenzabe under pressure which put Mings under pressure and he made a back pass while a little off balance, as Ian said Keeper could of reacted quicker too but that’s maybe being picky. I initially blamed Mings as I had just put the kettle on when they scored, I’m loosening the noose a bit now 😉

  52. Back to managers. Dean is an unassuming man who is quite happy to see others get a bit of limelight. It doesn’t mean he knows squat. A lot like Ole, he’s quiet. Tuchel also. Several of the “top” managers are always in the news. They need to blow their own horn, garner attention regardless of how trite it can be. Anything to get in the papers. Mourino comes to mind 🙂 .
    As does Klopp.
    That article from Mark pretty much sums it up for me with Smith a top rated coach and man manager. I really think this is going to be a year of great performances. Villa’s bench is as good as anyone’s and making the best XI lethal is going to be the project on the front burner.

  53. good on you Frem. It’s tough to hold back when you’re desperate to ‘sound off’ on here.
    I’m sure that there are still players you’d like to see moved on and others you’d like to see signed, but hopefully you also feel that the squad is stronger now than for many years.
    Jack Villa, as Mark points out, your point about DS having used 22 players so far is a bit disingenuous, bearing in mind the circumstances of this season so far. . . . . . however. . . . . I suspect you’re right that he doesn’t yet know his best team and you only have to spend 5 minutes on any social media feed or blog to know that no-one else knows it yet either!
    That feels exciting to me rather than a criticism. We all know that there is good potential in this squad and more coming through the youth ranks but he (and we) need some time to see a fully fit squad playing together before we start jumping to any conclusions.

  54. As you know, I’ve been away grabbing a little break. Just watched a replay of the match.

    There was a lot of good to take away despite the score.

    Which is a very tidy segue to the review that’s belatedly now up.

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