If you regularly read my articles then you will know the theme I have been going down over the past month or so. If not, then I am going to discuss our hope for the playoffs, purely because the hope shines brighter by the day. For those who are superstitious out there, I can’t stop now because it may just change our fortunes!
Another fantastic result last night, this time against Nottingham Forest. Results seem to still be going our way as we now sit just two points outside the playoffs. It is amazing what a few weeks difference can make. Villa has now picked up ten points from a possible 12 against strong opposition. Rewind it back and the four games before that, we picked up just 2 points from as many games. Our season looked to be over and any hopes of the playoffs were over.
It has been a fantastic turnaround but we can’t afford to stop now. We need to continue taking one game at a time. Next up is Middlesbrough at Villa Park before the final international break of the season. It is also worth noting that we only sit four points off Middlesbrough who are fifth in the Championship. Food for thought.
Is Smith turning us around
It is no coincidence that our turnaround has been highly influenced by the superb and magnificent return of our talisman Jack Grealish. But I feel there are other factors that have helped Dean Smith turn things around.
The perseverance of playing Kortney Hause by Smith is now a great move. Following his debut, most thought he wouldn’t feature too much. Unlike Tyrone Mings who has been brilliant from day one, Hause took a little while longer to settle. The Wolves loanee looks better the more he plays and seems to be comfortable at both left-back and centre-back.
It is interesting to think that we still have three centre-halves injured. All three could be available for selection after the international break. It will give Smith the selection headache he has been waiting for.
Earning your spot
Another shrewd move is keeping Jed Steer in goal. Smith had no choice but to use him when Lovre Kalinic picked up an injury. The Croatian international is fit again now though but has to settle for a place on the bench.
Steer has been pretty solid in between the stick and hasn’t put a foot wrong. He has made some good saves when called upon and is quick distribution is also worth noting.
Previous managers may have installed Kalinic back in goal but Smith is sending out a statement to his squad. If you perform, you keep your spot regardless of how much your competition cost.
Is it finally clicking?
With just nine Championship games left this season, are we finally gelling at the business end of the season? It certainly appears that way.
We have the energy of John McGinn, the creativity of Jack Grealish and vision of Conor Hourihane. The recall of Andre Green appears to be paying off as he is adding some much-needed competition out wide.
Our once shaky defence seems to have become pretty solid. The introduction of Mings has been a masterstroke. We can only hope his temporary move can be permanent this summer.
It has taken time but things seem to be finally coming together. Let’s just hope it can continue. Come on Villa!