Birmingham news Mistakes and pipe dreams - How Aston Villa's season has unravelled MetiNews.Com
MetiNews.Com - Aston Villa analysis - Club Writer Ashley Preece has his say on Aston Villa's current predicament and explains why all hope shouldn't be lost as Dean Smith looks to fight back off the canvas
Breaking News ! Dare I say it, there's a current lull at Aston Villa given there's no manic midweek action. Instead, tetchy Villa supporters will be hiding behind their settees praying West Ham, Bournemouth and Watford continue their hapless run of form. Villa, of course, go to red-hot champions Liverpool on Sunday hoping Jurgen Klopp goes easy on Dean Smith and his wounded players. Supporters, again, will likely be cowering behind their sofas with Mo Salah, Bobby Firmino and menace Sadio Mane likely to run riot. Forty-eight hours have passed since rumours started to swirl suggesting head coach Smith was on the brink of losing his job. It's since turned out to be nonsense with Villa's hierarchy more than willing to let Smith go out on his shield. Aston Villa daily newsletter. Free. To your inbox There's a quick and easy way to stay on top of all the Aston Villa news with our daily newsletter. Delivered straight into your email inbox each day, the bulletins will feature the latest Villa news, views, gossip and opinion. All you have to do is punch your email in at the top of the article - it looks just like this... And what's more, it's absolutely free! You can also get all the latest updates by following us on social media here Facebook and Twitter. We also have a free app which you can download. It is always up-to-date with the latest news from across the region. Google Play Store and App Store As mentioned in my post-Wolves piece, Sunday was the most deflated I've ever seen the manager afterwards with the pressure of keeping his beloved Villa afloat no doubt getting to him. The 49-year-old was adamant points would have been forthcoming in the games back against Sheffield United, Newcastle and Wolves, yet he's ended up with just two and that's set off alarm bells. So, with what's been a fast, frenetic and frayed fortnight since Project Restart all kicked-off, how did Villa and Smith get to where they are currently: staring down the barrel of relegation - described as "the £200m catastrophe" by chief executive Christian Purslow - with just six games to go. Here's five criminal mistakes, big talking points and a series of unfortunate events that could well condemn Aston Villa to Championship football in less than a month's time. 1. A senseless summer (Image: Aston Villa FC via Getty Images) I'm going to start with what's been a recurring issue since August 2019. With goal machine Tammy Abraham long gone, Villa went out to get a replacement. Fine. Wesley signed for £22m and the early reports were good. Smith backed his man and, after taking a little time to adapt, the Brazilian started to show some form up until his season-ending injury on New Year's Day. The issue was Villa only managed to get one striker through the door and, despite Smith attempting to pull wool over people's eyes claiming Jonathan Kodjia suited the Premier League, it left them short. Way short. In the end, new signing Wesley was fighting off Keinan Davis for the starting shirt. Davis, who almost ousted his big-money teammate in the October, was playing non-league just four years previous with shy, confidence-sapped Wesley having just arrived from Belgium struggling to adjust with the weight of the Holte End on his shoulders. Read More Related Articles Aston Villa transfer figure leaves role to take Spanish job - report Read More Related Articles Behind the scenes at Aston Villa - Exclusive look at super-new £14m Bodymoor Heath academy Villa didn't pay the £18m to get Neal Maupay from Brentford and, instead, lost out to Brighton who pounced to get the Frenchman. He's since scored nine goals in his debut season in the big-league, helping the Seagulls to all-but cement their Premier League status. Signing a guaranteed - and regular - source of goals should have been top of the list last summer, never mind bulking up the squad with four new centre-backs or tricky wingers. Would Villa be safe had Wesley not sustained that injury? Who knows. The fact is that Villa aren't and there wasn't any adequate cover. The fact they're currently relying on Davis who averages a goal every 25 games tells you everything. 2. Pressure cranked up from the get-go Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow gives a speech in the boardroom "Dean thinks we should win every game of football. He thinks if they score three, we'll score four. "Be ready guys, he's not going away at Manchester City and try to play for a 0-0. Every game is play to win. We want to surprise people outside of the club. "Nobody at the club believes we're going to go straight back down - I think we're going to have a fantastic season." No pressure then, Dean. The above statement was Purslow piling on the pressure during a Q&A session in Minnesota last pre-season. The chief exec has been bold, brave and willing to fight Villa's corner all season long. However, for all the early-season optimism, were aspirations a tad too high? I, for one, was guilty amid the tens of millions being spent that Villa would be closer to the top half of the Premier League than the bottom. How wrong was I? Naivety's since slapped me in the face - and then some. Read More Related Articles 'Started to swirl' - Our understanding of those Aston Villa & Dean Smith rumours Read More Related Articles 'A crying shame' - Despondent Dean Smith fighting a losing battle at Aston Villa after Wolves woe However, there's no getting away from the fact that it's been a slippery old slope ever since the season began with Villa managing flashes of brilliance in wins (remember them) against Everton, Norwich, Brighton, Newcastle, Burnley and Watford.
. Where's that Aston Villa disappeared to? You could also argue that the brilliant run to the Carabao Cup final merely masked stuttering form in the Premier League. Anyway, the point is this: every match Villa have failed to get a result from, the intensity going in the next fixture has always been unbearable. Now, is that because of all the early-season hope laid on thick by Purslow? Possibly. The bar was arguably raised too high last summer and, let's face it, talk is cheap. Just look at what Sheffield United have achieved this season by going under the radar. They certainly weren't shouting from the rooftops. 3. Crippling injuries
Aston Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton (centre) is stretched off
The wheels, you could argue, started falling off as soon as the partnership of Bjorn Engels and Tyrone Mings was disbanded. Engels was injured at Wolves in November and, weeks later, it would be Mings who would endure a spell on the sidelines. The pair started life in the Premier League well and were loosely heralded as the new Shaun Teale and Paul McGrath. Injuries, though, have continued to plague Villa all season long. John McGinn, in the form of his life at the time, snapped his ankle prior to the busy Christmas period and Villa missed him like you wouldn't believe. Their energy and drive vanished and Smith's side became easy pickings. Disaster then struck at Turf Moor as everyone knows. Wesley was thriving in Villa's new 3-4-3 system against Burnley and looked like he'd go on to score a hat-full to add to his six goals already. Ben Mee clattered him and, moments later, the brilliant Tom Heaton sustained the very same injury in what was a true double whammy. A patch up job was needed and in came Pepe Reina, Mbwana Samatta, Danny Drinkwater and Borja Baston. All four have failed to live up to the standards set by the men they were meant to replace, the latter playing all of 18 minutes before saying adios. Thanks for coming, Borja. Overall, the timing of Villa's injuries have been crippling, from the breaking up of their two centre-backs, losing star player McGinn to that double blow at Burnley. How's your luck, eh? 4. The 12th Man
Cast your minds back to Tuesday, January 21. It was a chilly night in B6. Old foe Troy Deeney had scored for Watford yet, with a little over 20 minutes to go, it was the masses inside Villa Park who played their part in obtaining a vital victory for Smith and his players. The sell-out crowd that night merely grabbed 11 claret and blue shirts and ushered them over the finishing line. That comeback was down to the raucous fan base with the Holte End sucking the ball into the net twice via Douglas Luiz and a combination off Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa. It was bedlam inside Villa Park all season prior to lockdown. Remember Everton? What about that last-gasp Matt Targett winner vs Brighton? There's been some special Carabao Cup nights, too. Heck, Villa even managed to give champions Liverpool their toughest test before Klopp's side downed tools to surrender their unbeaten run at Watford. I'm going on a bit now but had Villa Park still been open for business, I'm adamant Smith's side would be sitting much more comfortably than where they currently are. Villa Park's been good to the players this season and it's a crying shame the doors have been slammed shut given the threat of coronavirus. Again, Villa have been victims of circumstance and they must conjure something special from within if they're to drag themselves to safety. 5. All to play for
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith during the Premier League match at Villa Park
There's no man who wants to succeed more at Aston Villa than Smith. He's trying absolutely everything and even bolted at fan criticism to play his only two senior strikers from the start against Wolves. Smith's changed it up a lot this season, playing Jack Grealish centrally then higher up and then centrally again. The boss also played three centre-backs and wing-backs in a bid to curb that disastrous form over Christmas. He's trying all the time to get that perfect blend and he's now left relying on what he did brilliantly last season by coming on strong down the final furlong. What he must do is seek a drastic reaction from his players who - through form and fatigue - looked down and out against Wolves last time out. It's now a six-game shoot-out. A full week's rest will undoubtedly help Smith's side for Liverpool on Sunday, especially as the Reds play on the Thursday beforehand against Man City. Supporters must see an improvement - something - on Sunday regardless of opposition. After Anfield the games come thick and fast once more. Villa must hope they're not cut adrift by this time next week. It's still all to play for, especially finishing the campaign with games against Crystal Palace, Everton, Arsenal and West Ham. If Smith manages to do what's increasingly looking like the unthinkable then survival would totally eclipse everything he's achieved at Villa Park to date. It'd be some comeback off the canvas, let me tell you.
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