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Author Topic: "I’d go for Dean Smith and JT.”  (Read 1053 times)

Offline dave.woodhall

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"I’d go for Dean Smith and JT.”
« on: February 09, 2021, 10:15:27 PM »
This empty wish was a thread on one of the Chelsea blogs the day Frank got the bullet. The first response pointed out that Deano was unlikely to be interested in such a short-term job opportunity "after the support he’s had at Villa". Translated, that credits our owners as patient and reasonable people who take the trouble to do a bit of planning and back their manager for a longish run. No such revolutionary thinking in Russian-held SW6.

In the context of the impact we are having on other club’s punters it is a revealing statement, and one of which to be justly proud. Despite one or two recent setbacks, people are waking up to us and the progress we have made this season has been astounding. No more just turning up to feed someone else’s goal difference. When even a former Liverpool player (Carragher) says he looks forward to having Villa on his match commentary roster we must be doing something right.

Fancy us getting to the second week in February and only five points off safety, but it has not been without its challenges. In a pre-season article, I wrote that in terms of fluency and movement we were probably ten years behind Manchester City. By half-time at Turf Moor I thought we had comfortably covered about eight and a half of those years but at half-time in the West Ham game I thought we had gone backwards to about fifteen behind and counting. ‘Twas ever thus, and like every team we are going to have our bad days; they hurt like they always have done, but more so when the expectations have been raised.

In fairness to Burnley, they did exactly what Burnley are set up do and, sadly for us on the night, their goalie looked every inch an international player. On another day it would have been five or six to us, no sweat, and one day it will be. For that reason, I think that behind the disappointment most of us were optimistically philosophical about the result.

Amazingly, three days later it was our turn to steal the spoils. Yes, Saints put us under the cosh a bit and, yes, we rode our luck once or twice. These things happen to most teams at some point in most seasons, the important thing is that you make your own luck and as the star golfers always say, the more you practice the luckier you get.

I think we all agree that in terms of offside and penalty hand-ball shouts the law is now a double ass, but at least it was us who benefitted at St. Marys. On other days we have lost nailed-on points because of Olly’s thumbnail or something, so, despite the best efforts of the Sky commentary team to devise the game’s narrative, I for one was not left feeling undeserving.

Then the pendulum swung back with a vengeance. We were poor from the start against West Ham and there can be no doubting we deserved what we got. David Moyes had us worked out and had the players to do a job. No argument, these things happen, and they will happen again. In his chastened post-match interview Deano effectively admitted his error in shuffling the midfield around but, as Gareth Southgate turned up, I just hope Lingard doesn’t get Jack’s spot in the England squad.

Fortunately, the world returned to its correct axis when Arsenal came back and for me, in terms of measuring our progress, it has been the most intriguing of our 2021 fixtures. To have beaten them three times in about six months and conceded no goals in the process was, only a couple of seasons ago, the impossible dream. We were not at our attacking best and in the second half we gave them a lot of possession and territory, but they were simply not good enough to break us down. If you still count Arsenal as a ‘top six side’ that is some going.

Of course, the story selling the papers is how long Arteta will hang on, so the hacks and online Gooners were mostly generous about our performance. There was none of the ‘lucky Villa’ stuff we might expect in an age where people seem increasingly only interested in possession ‘data’. If that includes someone you know, I will repeat the only data of any lasting importance. It is 1 and 0.

The result also showed a developing dimension to our tactical play though I do have some concern that we-again-did not put away enough of our chances. It bit us on the bum at Burnley and can do so again. I do, however, understand why Deano will not disrupt his midfield patterns by introducing a second striker especially given our lack of reserve strength in the position. Sadly, I do not now see Keinan Davis slotting in alongside Ollie, and for the mo’ Wesley remains an unknown. How long will it be, I wonder, before our rather more mobile young signing from Barcelona gets a spot on the bench?

Talking of reserves, somewhere up the A19 there is a set of fans who, following our somewhat contemptuous brushing aside of their favourites, believe only Jack of our squad would get into their side. And if they only had Rafa benitez they would of course be an unstoppable force. Mind you, the unverified rumour that they were after one of our bench players on deadline day is probably a more accurate way of looking at things.

We came tantalisingly close to getting something out of our trips to Mancland. Two self-induced penalties in the last two matches vs United raises suspicions and there can be no doubt that they practice these things as a default option. Returning to the other Cheat’s Charter known optimistically as the offside rule, I have clearly laboured under a long-held misunderstanding that ‘off his side’ was introduced by fair-minded people to eliminate goal-hanging.  It was not much of a consolation to learn from the Premier League that their ‘guidance’ over interpretation needed to be altered and City’s first should not have stood.

Perhaps, for a few heart-stopping moments, the PL was faced with the unthinkable of declaring the result void and thus re-playable. Then – amazingly - a marginal penalty decision led to a second goal and an apparently clear blue water result which dug the Premier League and Mr Moss out of a hole. Fancy that. Our friend from Leeds would have ordered his side to gift us an equaliser, no worries. Hold that thought because you never know.

On a related thread, I heard ex-‘top referee’ Keir Hackett on Dean’s red card at the Etihad. It appears that Mr Moss ignored the time-honoured health and safety advice, apparently given to refs in Hackett’s time, to retire after lighting the blue touch paper of a dodgy decision in case something blows up in your face. Instead, on the back of a contentious and game-changing decision Mr Moss chose to go face to face with a righteously enraged manager in his designated touchline space and wave a yellow. This, according to Hackett, virtually guaranteed the explosion that led to red, as Moss should have anticipated. Not my biased view, of course, but merely the objective conclusion of an experienced official.

Funny how no referee ever chose to go face to face with Sir Alex, isn’t it? Mind you, as they spent twenty odd years studiously avoiding giving contentious decisions against United the opportunity would not often have presented itself. Better to referee the occasion than the written rules, as I am given to understand a Mr P Dowd (Staffordshire) explained it.

Talking of managers, I was sad to learn of Dr Jo’s passing. From what I could tell he was a good bloke but was about twenty years ahead of his time with unfashionably progressive ideas about player preparation, such as eating decent food and getting a good night’s sleep. It was eventually left to Arsene Wenger to step into the uncharted territory that could have been his. Who knows what may have happened if Doug had kept Jo on and let him educate and build, but far-sightedness was never Doug’s strong point.

Different times, different people, but returning to where we started, the blokes we have in charge today may well have given Jo the chance he needed and backed him with a bit of loot. To that extent Deano is a fortunate man, but as I said earlier you make your own luck and hard work certainly helps you do it. We already judge him in the short run to have been the right man, in the right place and at the right time. Maybe history will judge him that way in the longer term. I certainly hope so.

Colin Brown
« Last Edit: February 09, 2021, 10:22:02 PM by dave.woodhall »

Offline The Edge

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Re: "I’d go for Dean Smith and JT.”
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2021, 08:37:17 AM »
Excellent piece. Talks a helluva tot of sense.

Offline Allan C

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Re: "I’d go for Dean Smith and JT.”
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2021, 08:48:55 AM »
Great read, really enjoyed that

Online Andy_Lochhead_in_the_air

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Re: "I’d go for Dean Smith and JT.”
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2021, 08:25:07 PM »
Good piece to read.
As regards to if Doug was short sighted in not keeping Dr Jo. Big Ron came in and in his second season achieved what is still to date our 2nd best post war league performance.


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