I didn’t enjoy Sunday at all. But I wasn’t necessarily surprised. The team is reverting to norm. You can have all the expectations you like, but some are more reasonable than others. The squad is the squad, and despite pressure from above to achieve more now, Villa are still mid-table quality. You can tweak the system a bit, set different standards, emphasize different things, but you’re still working with the same clay.
Yes, some are fretting, but here’s a sober look about Villa’s summer business and season prospects.
Have Villa done enough to replace Grealish and keep the five-year plan? Short answer, “Yes, probably.” With more business, it could easily be “Yes, no question.” Either way, a lot of it hinges on how Danny Ings changes the way Villa play.
With the Euros well and truly picked over, and a bit of uncertainty mounting about Villa’s next moves, it seems about right to finally get into the usual and incessant transfer speculations doing the rounds. We’re seeing all sorts of things: Alvarez still bubbling around, Sarr being very expensive, and Bournemouth’s left-sided Dutchman, Arnaut Danjuma. Dwight McNeil has resurfaced, as has Will Hughes. Now it’s Leon Bailey and Todd Cantwell.
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.