Just a few weeks ago Aston Villa were flying high; up 2-0 at home to Wolves and two weeks removed from a historic 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
You know what happened next, and we won’t invoke any more pain the thought of that 3-2 loss to Wolves incurs. But it’s shocking, now, that Aston Villa are primed for a relegation scrap when the pre-season goal was a top-10 finish or even Europe.
We at Claret Villans have backed Dean Smith through thick and thin. He’s a local lad and a legend who’s lived his childhood dream of managing his local club. Smith got us promoted, kept us up, and put us on the right path forward.
And that’s why this is so difficult to say, but Dean Smith’s time as Aston Villa manager is up.
Five losses in a row, 18 in 2021–tied for most in the division–it’s not been good enough from Smith. You can point to injuries, coaching staff departures, and a lack of a constructive pre-season, but the proof is in the pudding; Villa look absolutely lost on the pitch.
The defense looks unorganized and short on confidence. Yes, John Terry left the club, and his influence is sorely missed, but a manager in Smith’s shoes should be able to cope.
We’re miles off in central midfield, short on ability and numbers. It’s unknown how much Smith has been involved in recruitment, but his recent insistence on playing with two central midfielders instead of three is worrying.
In terms of attacking: Smith seemed desperate to force a strike partnership of Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins to work. It hasn’t. Ings has missed the last two matches, which felt like a blessing in disguise, but reverting back to a front three has not yielded any better results. Smith hasn’t gotten the best out of record signing Emi Buendia, and the likes of Leon Bailey and Watkins simply aren’t getting the ball in dangerous positions.
The free-flowing Aston Villa that won the hearts and minds of Premier League viewers a year ago is long gone. Jack Grealish is gone, but there’s enough attacking ability in this side to generate meaningful scoring chances.
There’s just a general lack of cohesion at Aston Villa at the moment. The players are struggling to string together passes, simple defensive mistakes have become the norm, and there’s a general disconnect between the midfield and attackers.
Point to tactics, a lack of preparation, a short supply of confidence, whatever. It falls on Smith’s shoulders, and the gaffer looks rattled. He’s made comments about how he feels his side hasn’t played all that bad. That’s shocking. We look more lost at the moment than we did when we were free-falling toward relegation in 2019-20.
Dean Smith: you are a legend. Villa supporters will always be grateful for what you did for this club. But it’s time to move on. The owners have worked hard to get the club back on the right track, and the stakes are too high.
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