Billy Grant caught up with Dan Bardell from The Villa View (@TheVillaView_) vlog and podcast to get the lowdown on Aston Villa this season and his thoughts on ex-Brentford manager Dean Smith
Dean Smith has been in charge at Villa for 20 games or so now. Have you noticed a change since he took the reigns?
Its difficult to say. Up until mid December we were great. It was all really refreshing. However since then we’ve regressed. And to me, his ideas and the way I know Dean Smith wants to play football have not been reflected in what I am seeing on the pitch. A couple of long term injuries to key players who suit Smith’s brand hasn’t helped. But we are so far away from what we were seeing when Smith first came in.
I think we will need a complete overhaul in the Summer for Smith to get in players that suit what he wants to do. We have a good squad but I’m not sure it’s necessarily the right squad to play the Smith way. He’s 100 per cent the right man for the job. It’s just a difficult time currently.
He needs time.
He will get it from the board.
Villa fans aren’t renowned for their patience though!
Defensively Villa have been poor. Conceding 49 goals, only Ipswich have conceded more goals that you this season. We discussed this briefly on our radio show this week with Ryan from Heart Of the Holte (click the link above). Why do you think this is?
I mean this was a problem before Smith came in to be fair. Steve Bruce did some good during his spell as Villa boss. But he left us completely unprepared this season defensively, in terms of numbers, balance and quality.
Bruce has been very good at blowing his own trumpet both during and post his time at Villa Park. Funnily enough, this isn’t something he or his media chums really mention.
With Smith being a more attacking manager than Bruce I would argue that defence was always going to be an issue. Chester has been carrying an injury all season and battling through so that hasn’t helped either.
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I think it will only get fixed in pre-season, and that’s hopefully where John Terry’s expertise can come into play. I don’t think you can underestimate the value of a manager like Dean Smith having a whole pre season to get his methods across.
Dean Smith was well known for his patchy Runs at Brentford. In his 1st season he had a run where Brentford lost 10 out of 13 games (winning 2 and drawing 1) before then winning 7 out of 9.
The following season, we went on a run which saw us win 5 out of 21 games (including the 3-0 win against Villa) – losing 11 of those.
Last season we won only 1 match in our first 11.
This season, when Dean Smith left us, we hadn’t won for 6 matches.
He seems to be going through the same with Villa – having won 2 matches in the last 12.
Do you think this is a coincidence? Or a consequence of the style of football he plays.
I think from our point of view, and I can only really talk about what I have seen at Villa, it’s a symptom of what I’ve mentioned above. It’s not sustainable to concede as many as we have and keep on a good run.
Villa have always been a team that’s capable of going on runs like you’ve mentioned above ever since I’ve been going to games (25 years). I don’t really put the blame at Smith’s door. I think it comes down to confidence. The mental side of the game is so important.
Maybe Smith didn’t have players with a strong mentality at Brentford and we certainly have some fragilities mentally at moment. I really couldn’t give you a definitive answer.
As I mentioned before we are a demanding fan base, which doesn’t necessarily help with these things!
Villa have started to shed some dead-wood. With more to go. Who’s hot and who’s not for Villa at the moment?
Other than Tammy Abraham who is genuinely on fire in front of goal I don’t think any Villa player would tell you they are “hot” at the moment. This is why social media makes me laugh when fans single out players, because really nobody is really doing themselves justice. It’s a collective, team problem.
It’s en vogue to single players out though amongst a select band of Villa fans. Staff. Players. Fans. In my opinion we can all do better at the moment.
Sure Jack Grealish and Axel Tuanzabe coming back in would give everyone a boost. But we’ve become too reliant on Grealish in particular. I thought it would obviously be tougher without him. But I was expecting more than 2 wins in 12.
He is the heartbeat of our side – a Premier League player that creates space for others because teams are scared of him. There is no direct, like-for-like replacement for him. There isn’t even someone who can do a few of the things he does in the middle of the park. The balance was bang on with Conor Hourihane, John McGinn and Jack in there, we were playing really well. We haven’t been anywhere near that without him.
Wednesday is a pretty crucial game for both teams. Thomas Frank – who was Dean Smith’s assistant for 2 years – comes up against his old boss.
Frank has changed things up somewhat since Smith left – adjusting to three at the back to try and address the defensive inefficiencies. We have also seen a slight more tougher and cynical Brentford than we did of old.
How do you think this one will pan out?
Being local to the area, I always look out for Brentford. You are a team I really admire. Definitely some lessons we could learn from you. That’s why I was so chuffed with the Smith appointment.
If we were at our best we would give anyone a really tough game. Obviously we went to Boro and Derby and won 3-0. We should have beaten West Brom away as well. Those games seem a long time ago now as well.
West Brom was the last time Grealish played. Notoriously you have been a real bogie side for us. You’ve pretty much outplayed us every time we’ve met.
I’m relieved Ryan Woods is no longer with you, I was sick to death of him bossing us.
If you play like you did against Blackburn, it will be a struggle. Some of your goals were beautiful that day. You looked like a proper team.
This is the Championship though. And like we saw the other night against Sheffield United, absolutely nothing is impossible. We have the capabilities, it’s just which Villa turn up.
Lately it’s been the one I like less!
I hate doing this but I really think you will beat us. You’re very good at Home and are the kind of side who will cause us issues.
My only hope is that you have an off day going forwards, because you can be got at defensively.
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