As Dean Smith plays out these final matches, it’s clear he’s taking a long look at what he’s got and basically auditioning the squad in advance of the summer. I’m not expecting him to unearth any surprises, as I’m pretty sure they know what they’ve got. But, you keep faith with your players by giving them every chance to finish what they started. And there’ll be some big decisions to make. It’s a tricky moment. Stalwarts and ever-presents may becomes substitutes in three months.
If nothing else, Bramall Lane will feel a bit more familiar than Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford as Villa seek to get back to winning ways. Not sure it’s going to be any easier to get a result, though.
Aston Villa match thread
Bottom line: I’m not a happy clapper. You’ve seen me criticize plenty. And I don’t want to exonerate Smith if he doesn’t deserve it. This week, like last, I’m pointing my finger straight at the players for shrinking and somewhat losing their heads. I like that they keep trying to attack. That’s what we wanted, attacking football, and that’s what we’ve got—a side built to attack. But you can be smarter about it. And you can’t sink back.
An entertaining and ultimately frustrating match saw Villa earn a much-needed point against in-form West Ham. However, the side will be disappointed they couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage down the closing stretch.