What do Aston Villa need to do after crushing ArsenalLast night. Aston Villa crushed Arsenal to move to 6th in the Premier League. To me, this was the best Villa performance in many years, even better that the 7-2 mauling of Liverpool. There was not one Arsenal player that would win their place in the Villa team on last night’s performance. We are now 12 points clear of the bottom 3 and I am confident that worrying about relegation this season is not something Villa fans will need to do. We can leave that to The Baggies, Fulham, Sheffield Utd and a few others.
So where do Aston Villa go from here?
My goal this season was to avoid a relegation scrap. I believe that Smith has delivered this. Yes, we need to continue and win another 5 games from the remaining 29 games to be more or less sure of this. But, should we be now reassessing our expectations for this season or should we be content with what we have accomplished. We need to keep our feet on the ground and not get carried away with dreaming about European football, but we also need to set targets for Smith and the team.
Working on the squad
I would like to see Smith work on the squad this season and build a squad capable of a European push next season. We have our starting 11 just about nailed down. The only position open for change is wide right with Trez and Traore battling it out. Trez is doing a fantastic job at making this his and Traore has yet to get a chance to prove himself. But we need to plan for injuries and suspensions. Smith needs to be able to introduce substitutes earlier and he needs to be able to have more competition for the starting 11.
The likes of Ramsey should be getting more game time, particularly when we are 3-0 up with 10 mins left to play. Guilbert should be able to give Cash a rest for the last 15 mins and we need to be able to take Jack off and feel comfortable with his replacement. Luiz too, he is proving to be an outstanding purchase, but we have Nakamba and Hourihane that can come on and give him a break. Smith needs to show his skills at managing a squad and he needs these players to be integrated into the team properly and not just as bench warmers that don’t get to kick a ball in anger.
Last season I was firmly behind keeping Smith as manager. My logic was it was a new team and the players and Smith and little or no experience in the PL and I believed that a season working together would benefit them all. This season is different. Smith needs to keep pushing Aston Villa forward and I think developing the squad will be his most important task. If Smith manages to accomplish this then I am happy to see him remain as our manager. I am not suggesting replacing him now. That would be crazy as he is doing an excellent job. But as the season develops, we need to keep the pressure on and keep looking to see how we can improve.
Jan transfer window
Bar having to replace an injured player I think Jan will be an interesting window and should be more about planning for next season rather than trying to influence the latter stages of this season. Three new players are required for next season. We need to upgrade El Ghazi, backup for Targett, replacement for ElMo and a replacement for or preferably the purchase of Ross Barkley. Some activity with these positions would be very welcome to give the new player(s) a bedding in period before next summer.
Wes is the forgotten man at Villa. He will be like a new signing when he come back from injury and hopefully, he will rise to the occasion and justify his 22m price tag. I am hoping that he will be joining a squad which is high on confidence which may just be the perfect environment for him to thrive and put pressure on Watkins for the starting role.
The future is bright, it is fun being an Aston Villa fan. It is fun watching our games and it is fun watching Match of The Day.