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Author Topic: It's crunch time for Dean  (Read 2304 times)

Offline dave.woodhall

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It's crunch time for Dean
« on: August 10, 2021, 03:37:52 PM »
It will soon be three years since Messrs Sawiris and Edens took over at Villa, and what an exciting three years they have been. We now have record season ticket sales and a huge amount of enthusiasm from fans who really want to see the club build on the momentum it has generated. There have been a couple of nerve-jangling episodes on the way; the first when we escaped from the Championship by the skin of our teeth and the second a year later when we avoided relegation by one goal, but last season was a relatively smooth ride in which finishing eleventh seemed slightly disappointing in view of some of the performances and results.

Dean Smith has done a great job so far in keeping us on a generally upward trajectory over the last three years, but will we be able to keep on improving and establish ourselves in the European places? It wonít be easy, especially with Jack and John Terry gone. Terryís departure was inevitable and overdue if he is to build a career for himself in the sack race, but the defence was pretty solid last season and you wonder how much of that was down to Johnís coaching and how easy it will be to replace him.

A lot has been said elsewhere about Jackís departure so I wonít add too much here, though I was looking forward to him and Ashley Young getting us a penalty a match. Jackís England call-up was prestigious for him and the club, but having international teammates from more successful clubs may well have unsettled him. The malign influence of agents also doubtless contributes to players becoming restless and there is every incentive for agents to pocket large fees by keeping their clients on the move. At least Tyrone is still with us.

Controversial moves have always happened over the years. Albion fans must have been fed up with us when we poached Willie Groves from them in 1893 for £100 Ė the first three figure transfer. I canít quite remember that but I can remember being upset when Gerry Hitchens left Villa for Inter sixty years ago, so I am trying to be philosophical about losing Jack. It rankles though, that we have sold our star player to an outfit intent on buying all the trophies. Incidentally, I canít imagine that Norwich fans were overjoyed by Buendia leaving to join Villa just at the time when they really need him.
 
The billionaires who have taken over Premier League football are very comfortable with a business model that effectively allows a handful of participants to compete for the trophies. After all, they will have gained their extreme wealth by operating in markets in which competition is very limited. Nevertheless that is the world that Villa needs to break into, which is likely to be extremely difficult. We have the advantage, of course, that we are now owned by billionaires who ought to understand the thinking of their fellow plutocrats, but how much that will help us remains to be seen. To remind us of the size of the challenge ahead, let us not forget the efforts of St Martin. The Saintly One spent four seasons from 2006 trying unsuccessfully to get Villa into the Champions League before he flounced off at this time of year in 2010.

I live some way from the West Midlands and when I talk to people round here, Villa arenít on their radar as a likely challenger for Europe. They talk about the usual suspects and see West Ham under David Moyes as more likely to challenge the top four than Villa. The bookies are giving odds of around 16/1 against a top four finish for Villa and are offering about 150/1 against us winning the title. On the other hand, Manchester City are odds-on to win the league again, with Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United all odds-on for a top four finish. The best league in the world? It seems more like a procession than a football competition to me.

It has taken the mighty handful a good few seasons of raking in Premier League and Champions League cash to build their semi-impregnable status around the top of the table. Clubs like Arsenal, Leicester and Spurs have generally been more successful than Villa in recent years too and they will also offer stiff competition. We have strengthened the squad over the summer though and we must hope that Johan Langeís recommendations will turn out to be inspired.

Emilio Buendia promises to be an important signing and the re-signing of Ashley Young should provide useful short term cover. Leon Bailey and Danny Ings are other newcomers who we hope will compensate, at least to some extent, for the absence of Grealish.  Axel Tuanzebe has returned on loan again to help to strengthen the defence, with Bjorn Engelsís troubled stay mercifully coming to an end. Villaís management are hoping that some of the FA Youth Cup winning squad will soon be offering serious competition for first team places, though this coming season is perhaps a bit on the early side.

If you had told me back in October 2018, when Villa were fourteenth in the Championship, that in August 2021 we would be back in the Premier League with our eyes on qualification for Europe, I would have been surprised and delighted. Keeping up a similar rate of progression will be more difficult from now on though. Dean Smith has already comfortably exceeded the average tenure of a Premier League manager, which is around 1.8 years, and if he can keep the club moving forward he stands a chance of becoming one of the Villa greats. He still has a very long way to go to emulate names like Shankly, Paisley, Ferguson & co of course. We just have to hope that he will earn the chance to try.

Would a tenth place finish this season, one place better than last season, be deemed acceptable, do you think? That it would be a disappointment to the fans, who are hoping to see us back in Europe, is a measure of how far we have progressed recently. Of course, luck with injuries can often make a big contribution to the seasonís success or otherwise. I hope we can do better than tenth and I donít want us to turn into an Everton, more-or-less ever presents in the top ten but so far seemingly unable to make a serious challenge for the top four.

It famously took Alex Ferguson three years to turn Manchester United around over thirty years ago and he came very close to getting the sack. A few years earlier than that, Ron Saunders took the second half of the 1970s to build his title winning team that went on to become European cup winners. Most likely our owners are looking for Europa League qualification this season, Deanís fourth, having poured hundreds of millions into the club.

It will be a tall order for Dean and his staff, especially as the upper echelons of the Premier League are fairly new territory for him. He has had two seasons to acclimatise to the Premier League though and Craig Shakespeare has done it before, so there must be grounds for optimism. Aston Villa fans feeling optimistic Ė what could possibly go wrong? Wouldnít it feel good, though, to have European football back at Villa Park after all these years?

I think it really is crunch time for Dean. Football managers are never safe and a string of bad results can soon lead to a clamour for change. Over the last three years, though, Dean, his staff and players have all done a great job for us, so letís hope they can keep up the good work for a long time yet. Europe here we come!

Richard Keeling

Offline nordenvillain

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Re: It's crunch time for Dean
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2021, 07:28:22 PM »
Interesting article Richard. I don't think it is crunch time for Dean Smith unless we do not move at least 2 -3 places up the league, I think it unrealistic to expect us to challenge the top 4 this season, but I would be disappointed if we didn't challenge for the lesser European places. We should be better for not relying on 1 player in the main for our guile. Regarding John Terry, if you read the article on Elmo in the Athletic, he is very complimentary regarding the work done by Terry. Like yourself, I do not live in the West Midlands, but in Rochdale so surrounded by fans of the 2 Manchester and Liverpool teams. Most of are very complimentary about the Villa, or should that be condescending ?, and think with our new signings expect us to be challenging nearer the top than last season. Even most Man City fans I know question whether Grealish is worth £100M and think we pulled their pants down !

Offline Lastfootstamper

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Re: It's crunch time for Dean
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2021, 07:42:08 PM »
They pulled their own pants down. We put a price on his head we believed nobody would actually be daft enough to pay. Not even Kenny Dalglish.

Offline ROBBO

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Re: It's crunch time for Dean
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2021, 01:39:49 AM »
With all the drama of the last few days I have pondered over the pressure that Dean Smith will be under this coming season. Without doubt our early form last year was brilliant and probably created expectations that were unrealistic after narrowly avoiding relegation the previous season. It's for sure that Grealish was fundemental to that early success and we quickly fell away when it was obvious he was carryng injury and finally was missing for many weeks.
We have bought well but it takes players time to bed in and i still believe we need a top defensive midfielder, we saw last season how time and again our midfield was overpowered and at the moment we still have those same players to choose from. I wish Dean all the best but if we have a prolonged dip in form in any part of the season he will come under severe scrutiny from very ambitious owners. Go Villa.

Offline N'ZMAV

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Re: It's crunch time for Dean
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2021, 08:35:54 PM »
Deanís got the goal-line technology failure to thank 🤣

Online dcdavecollett

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Re: It's crunch time for Dean
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2021, 02:05:49 AM »
...and the two denied penalties in the same game...

 


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