The result on Sunday was a Leicester defeat; what does it say about Aston Villa and Dean Smith. We lost to a Leicester team in 3rd place who are 6 points clear of 5th. They are comfortably in the Champions League positions, so surely this is not an unexpected result nor a bad result? If you only look at the league table and compare our points to this time last year, then it appears we are doing really well. I agree we are doing really well, and I am very happy with where we are. However, I feel we could be doing better, and I also feel the future path could be brighter.
What Was So Bad About the Leicester Defeat?
The biggest issue I have with Smith’s management is his inability to promote young players into the squad. This is not a new gripe and something I have written about numerous times before. BigFatRon summed this up nicely in a post on the last Leader Blog. He said, ‘if Leicester can start young lads, why is Smith starting Elmo? Time to be brave likewise with ElGgazi and Trez, at least youth will bust a gut trying’. This is a nail on head stuff, and I cannot agree with any more wholeheartedly with BFR. We have the youth, and they are good enough. They showed this against a full strength Liverpool in the FA Cup. We were 1-1 till the 60th minute and then conceded 3 goals in the space of 5 minutes.
I am not suggesting making wholesale changes to our starting 11. That would be dumb. I am though saying we should be making wholesale changes to our bench. I think it is unforgivable that with the bench numbers increased to 9 that each of the new places did not go to under 23s. Louie Barry is just about as certain to be a footballing star of the future as any 17 year old on the planet today. He has just been voted Premier League 2 player of the month for January. This was on the back of 4 league goals in two games plus the goal against Liverpool in the FA Cup.
Louie can play as a striker and can also play on the left wing. Most of his career to date has been on the left wing playing a similar role to Jack Grealish. For the life of me, I cannot understand why he is not a bench player and developing as Jack’s understudy. If Jack gets injured, then who replaces him? We have nobody in the squad that looks anywhere near capable of standing in for Jack. Guess what, Jack is now injured and out for 4 to 6 weeks, and we have no replacement. This makes me really angry.
The Young Ones
It is not just Louie Barry that should be 1st team setup. We need more of The Young Ones. As BFR said, Elmo is too slow. Smith should be bringing in the likes of Kesler or Hayden to replace Cash. Though some smart people (unlike me) would have known that Kesler and Hayden are, in fact, the same person 😀. Either way, there is at least one RB that Smith could have played on Sunday ahead of Elmo. BFR also mentioned Trez and ElGhazi. I like both of these players, and they are adequate squad players to be used as substitutes when protesting a lead. They are not game changers, and they are not good enough to be used as subs when chasing a game. Nor are they anywhere near good enough to be in the starting 11.
I can understand the argument that neither are the young ones good enough. After all, they are only kids and do not have Premier League experience. But how will they ever get experience if we don’t integrate them and if we don’t play them? What will make them think they have a future at Villa if they can’t see their progression path? If we can accept that Trez and ElGhazi are not good enough for our starting 11 and we still start them, why not start the kids? Wouldn’t the longer-term rewards be far greater if we can turn a few kids into 1st team starters?
Summer Transfer Window
This summer, we need to buy two full backs as Elmo’s, and Taylor’s contracts are up. I am completely ruling out renewing these contracts, and if Smith suggested renewing them as a good idea, he should be sacked on the spot. We also need an AM, a Jack back up, and we need a winger. 5 players at a potential cost of 100m to 120m. Just imagine if, between now and the end of the season, we convert two of the kids into men?
If Kessler and Barry show they are good enough for a bench spot rather than buying new players. This could save the club tens of millions in the summer. But on top of that and more importantly, to the fans. It would give us what we what. We want to see our really exciting bunch of kids grow into men and perform in the PL for the 1st team.
Leicester Defeat: The Game
I only managed to see the first half of the game, so I will not comment too much on the game. I had to help one of my kids with bloody homework. We were awful and looked like we were on for a bit of a hiding. I will admit I didn’t give too much pushback when asked for homework help. It does appear that I missed the better half which we actually won 1-0. Barkley is just not the player he was before his injury. This is very concerning, but it should help us with transfer decision making in the summer. He needs to up his game or spend some time on the bench. It is such a pity. Without question, he was our 2nd best player in the first half of the season, and I would love to see that player return.
A loos of form for McGinn isn’t helping matters either. To be honest, before his injury Jack wasn’t playing too well either. I think Desperate Dan suggested that maybe Jack was carrying his injury in the games leading up to the Leicester defeat. This sounds entirely plausible and just shows that we need more rotation and squad depth. We need The Young Ones.
I must admit that I am starting to dislike the midtable mini-league. I like its idea, and I like how we can compare ourselves against the teams we are competing with. The bit I am starting to dislike is what it is telling me.
I am starting to really get pissed off with West Ham and David Moyes. In my opinion, they are punching above their weight which admittedly is a little like us. However, they are punching above their weight with consistency and are pulling away from us. They are now sitting proudly in 4th place with dreams of Champions League qualification. Since GW 19, they have scored 10 points to our 4 points. That is quickly becoming an insurmountable gap.
Everton is the team I have always believed as the team to catch in the mini-league, and they too are pulling ahead of us, having outscored Villa by 7 points to 4 since GW 19. If we have any aspirations of finishing 7th, then we simply must start to close the gap on these two.
Worryingly, two teams that sit below us in the mini-league, Arsenal and Wolves, have also outscored us in recent weeks and are now each within one game of taking our 8th place in the Premier League table.
A Ray Of Light
The only positive is that Spurs appear to be going backwards. I have Spurs as a Top 6 team, and they are in real danger of relegation to the midtable mini-league. If they do get relegated, they will be replaced by either West Ham or Everton in the top 6. If this happens, we will have one less ‘performing’ team to try and overtake. This gives us hope, and we are only 5 points off Everton, who currently occupy 7th place, and we have 2 games in hand. The opportunity for European qualification is still there for us. But Smith must start to get things right if we are to have any hope of grasping it.