Since Aston Villa’s game against Newcastle was postponed there has been a tendency for some blogs to sway off topic. There has been so much talking about BLM, Covid & Brexit or the clown moving out of the White House. I thought it would be good to take a pragmatic view at Aston Villa and at what stage of our development we are at.
We are all aware of the shambles NSWE acquired a little over two years ago. AstonVilla had too many aging players, way too many loan players and a manager stuck in the dark ages. Although many criticised NSWE at the time they showed the experience & patience of astute businessmen to fix the foundations at Villa park before sacking Steve Bruce. They cleared out the old management team, employed Purslow, fixed the corporate structure of the club and made Aston Villa professional again. This was far more important that sacking Bruce and tinkering with the team. They also had the common sense to give Jack a new contract and keep him at the club. It is still hard to comprehend that some saw this as a PR stunt.
Our First Season
Year 1 went better than expected and we won promotion to the Premier League thanks to Dean Smith and the team. This was brilliant for Aston Villa but it also created a new set of problems. The most noticeable being that we were miles away from having a squad to compete in the Premier League. The loanees returned to their parent clubs. 140m was spend on 14 new players and getting some of the loanees back. We had a really tough year and it was a very strange year, but Dean Smith managed to guide Villa to Premier League safety. Fittingly, Jack scored the goal against West Ham which guaranteed our survival.
Into Season 3
We are now in year 3 and with the positive results we have achieved so far expectations have increased. But what is realistic for this season? We need to remember that a few months ago we just avoided relegation on the last day of the season. So we should not be thinking ahead of ourselves as every other PL team will be doing their upmost to stay in this division.
We have added a few players to the 1st team but we need to remember that two of our new players (Watkins & Martinez) were brought in for 50m to cover for long term injuries to Wes & Heaton. Our 1st 11 is starting to look decent but still has a few players that are below the quality I would like to see. The benchmark of quality I would like is what I see from Douglas Luiz each week. That is the minimum level I want to see as an Aston Villa player. If we can get more players like Jack and Barkley then great but I don’t want less than Luiz.
The bottom line is that we don’t have the strength of quality in our 1st 11 and then when we look to the bench the options become quite depressing quite quickly. So, what would be realistic for this season? I think in our about midtable is a reasonable aspiration and avoiding a relegation scrap. If we avoid injuries to key players, I believe that Smith will deliver this. Will this make Villa fans happy? Probably not! Will it make me happy? Yes!
A Balanced View
We need to have a balanced view when assessing our capabilities. Simply saying we spend hundreds of millions on player or we have Jack or whatever else is too simplistic. Maybe We need to recognise and appreciate just what we actually have. Afterall we have a half decent starting 11. But we have virtually no strength in depth. Also we have a head coach that has a particular style and has his frailties. It”s inevitable that we will get injuries and we are in a battle with 19 other clubs all hungry to stay on the PL gravy train. To expect anything more than a midtable finish is more aspirational than thought through.
The thing I liked most about our last transfer window was that we bought players that would improve the 1st 11. I want to see us continue to do this in Jan and next summer. Then some of our current 1st 11 could be relegated to the bench and made to earn their place back in the team. I would like to see most of our current bench moved on from the club.
On The Right Track
As a fan I am really happy to see Villa is on the right track and each season since NSWE have become our owners we have delivered and improved. If we continue this in the next 3 to 5 years, we will become a very good team. Will this be with Smith at the helm? I do not know, only time will tell.
As you know, my personal opinion is that I would like to see Smith upgraded. This is nothing against Smith or what he has accomplished, it is the same way I view our players. If we could sell any player, including Jack, and replace them with better I would do so in a flash. If you offered me. Son Heung-Min as a replacement to Jack I would bite your hand off. Just like I would bite your hand off if you offered me Pochettino over Smith. It is not saying I want to get rid of Jack or Deano, it is just saying I would replace them with better if given the opportunity
Reflection On Other Teams
To emphasise how far we have come under Dean Smith we just have to look at the Baggies or Sheffield United. They are both in big trouble this season and will struggle to avoid relegation. Fulham and Burnley too, they are both very concerned about relegation as it is a very stark reality for them. Yes, we could still be relegated this season, but it is looking more unlikely every time we take to the pitch. We are playing good football and even if some results do not go our way, we will get wins and we will have days where we pick up 3 points for a performance like we put in against Karen’s boys.