One of the many impressive elements that have impressed me since Dean Smith’s appointment is how he conducts himself in interviews. He arrived in B6 with a glowing reference from those who had previously met him during his career. Those who have worked him have praised him as a man and his positive influence he has at a football club.
There is one real notable difference between him and his predecessor, Steve Bruce, in these interviews. It isn’t necessarily his manner but the language, tactical awareness and positivity he displays. It is of stark contrast to that displayed by the previous manager.
During his latest interview, Smith discussed the absence of some our of key players. He noted that is was not just a reason for a drop in form but also the performance levels. Smith hails Jack Grealish as one of the best players in the league. An opinion shared by the majority of the Villa faithful. Without him, our play has lacked the same interplay.
The team’s attack has had to be reliant on the individual skill and ability of wing players. Tammy Abraham’s ability to score from balls into the box, rather than the interconnectedness of our attacking players creating chances.
This was particularly evident in the draw to Preston. During the second half especially we appeared to be trying to get the ball wide as much as possible. It became predictable at times.
Axel Tuanzebe’s injury has aligned with Grealish’s time on the sideline. It is his absence that has underlined his importance to the team. The Manchester United loanee has not only shown himself to be a great defender since Smith arrived but his impressiveness on the ball has also been demonstrated, befitting a player who has had the tutelage he has.
An effective partnership developed between captain James Chester and Tuanzebe. Tuanzebe seemed to adopt a role which saw him bring the ball out of his defence, more so than any of his replacements.
Smith doesn’t use these injuries as an excuse though. As quick as he is to denote how the team have only lost 1 in 11, and that was a 94th-minute goal against Leeds. He still expects results and performances.
It is no real surprise when Smith is often asked by the expectation at the club. He always highlights the fact that the fans high expectations are matched by his own. The former Brentford manager never makes excuses and acknowledges the quality of the squad he has available to him this season. Smith knows that should we fail to gain promotion this year, the quality may not be available to him next season.
Interestingly, Smith talks about the debrief he held with the squad following the disappointing FA Cup defeat. He has highlighted the recent win for Man City against Liverpool showing the players clips from the game. Not of particular moments of brilliance but highlighting the high work ethic both teams demonstrated despite being packed with quality. It is this hard work on matchday, Smith expects.
Aston Villa announced the signing of Korney Hause on loan, with an option to buy from Wolves on Monday.
The head coaches high expectations are once again demonstrated when discussing the due diligence processed during this deal.
He underlined how Hause has the physical attributes required. Hause has received limited game time this season but more importantly has the aptitude to learn. It highlights the importance Smith places on the tactical side of the game. There is a system he wants his players to adopt and he is happy to coach talented professionals to help them improve.
Hause’s arrival sees the entrance of a natural left-footer to a defence devoid of them. I would also expect an attacking midfield option to be bought in to support Grealish’s endeavours. It will be interesting to see whether Hause is brought in immediately to the heart of the defence, continuing the career-defining cutting of opportunities Tommy Elphick has had at the heart of the Villa defence.
Smith’s insight in these interviews is refreshing. It is opposite to the style of the previous leadership team at Villa. They are interesting and also allow for insight into the processes related to the first-team squad.