Aston Villa’s latest defeat away to relegation rivals Watford brought about an eighth loss in 11 league games for Dean Smith’s men.
The latest fallout has raged on as there appears to be a growing consensus as to whether Smith can continue to take Villa forwards and build upon the promotion achieved last season.
But does the buck purely stop with the manager?
Firstly, it’s not just the results themselves it’s the manner of the defeats.
The same mistakes are being made and some players are standing out for the wrong reasons week after week.
Away form in particularly is a huge concern with Villa conceding the most shots, the most goals and as a result picking up the lowest amount of clean sheets and points so far this season.
Yesterday highlighted another example of how the team appear to be unable to retain possession of the ball for more than a few passes or seconds.
The midfield went missing yet again and players given opportunities such as Lansbury and Jota, for me showed why their chances are so limited.
At 1-0 down, the dismissal of Mariappa was an opportunity to take the game to another side in and around us in the league.
Jonathan Kodjia, like him or loathe him, continues to sit on the bench and continues to get paid yet he had mustered under an hour of Premier League football until he came on yesterday.
He came on after 73 minutes at 3-0 down.
The most worrying thing for me is the sway towards excuses from Smith, who has been renowned for insightful comments and brutal honesty in the past.
However you dress it up, this month was crucial and losses to two sides that were beneath us as well as a fortuitous win over Norwich City highlight the cause for concern.
I feel for Smith in that it’s the biggest job of his life and he’s Villa through and through but it almost feels like he is becoming a victim of his own success.
Comments at the start of the season of going out to play attacking football with aims of winning every game seem a long time ago as recently the good performances early in the season have eluded us.
As previously mentioned the lack of possession is a real problem and if you watch games back, opposing teams have found it easy by simply pressing us.
The central players lose possession too easily and we lack pace on the wings in regards to that outlet.
The long ball isn’t an option either as direct balls to Wesley are either not coming off or he ends up isolated with no one to flick the ball on to or play to.
So whilst the tactics are being questioned and the mistakes of players are being mentioned, where else can the blame lie?
The owners chose to allow Villa to spend the TV deal money and show their hand unlike other promoted clubs.
They also notably and thankfully saved the club at the eleventh hour, wiped the debts of our previous owner and set about building a modern, forward thinking backroom staff with experience in football.
Granted, we had a lot of players to replace after promotion but nonetheless the money was given and we were the second highest spenders in the Premier League whilst eclipsing some of the giants of football in comparison.
But were all of the signings Dean Smith’s?
One role that particular interests me is that of Sporting Director, Jesus Garcia Pitarch.
Affectionately known as ‘Suso’ he has been given a key role in identifying players and being a focal point in how new players settle in. It’s similar to the Director of Football role seen abroad and he held this role at several clubs in Spain.
We signed Tom Heaton as we needed experience in the position of goalkeeper and he’s clearly been the buy of the summer.
Of the 18 points we have picked up, some vitals saved have preserved them.
But surely Premier League experience was a key from the moment the final whistle went at Wembley back in May?
It may be coincidence but both Trezeguet and Marvelous Nakamba are both represented by the DW Sports Agency.
We spent heavily on Wesley, relatively unknown and a big gamble on a young talent expected to run the line single handedly.
Douglas Luiz had a good season in La Liga but has repeatedly been caught out trying to play the extravagant pass or hold the ball too long.
I do wonder how much Smith really wanted these players when the likes of Neal Maupay, Said. Benrahma, Kalvin Phillips and Adam Webster were heavily linked.
It may be purely down to overinflated fees but it does make you think.
The upcoming January window becomes huge and the most important in recent memory. A phrase that seems to keep coming up of late.
If the board believe in Smith and they do back him, he needs to be allowed his own players.
If they have any doubts themselves they need to have thought it through and all be on the same page with a big plan in place.
I’m not here to say Smith out, far from it as he has brought a unity and success we have missed for so long.
It’s more a worry and a concern to me as to how much control he has vs. game plan and variety in tactics as it reminds me of the Sherwood tenure and hoards of young European players coming in from foreign leagues. We all know how that ended.
At the moment it’s not harsh at all in saying that unless something goes through Jack Grealish, Villa don’t look like scoring.
A team should be built around it’s best player and right now, on the wing he’s being let down and out marked.
For all the fouls won, the majority are in positions that do not cause too much stress to opposition defences.
If Smith doesn’t trust or doesn’t want to use Jonathan Kodjia, a striker is a huge must in that whether Wesley is used to hold it up or not, he’s paid to score goals and isn’t doing so.
Also a drop to the bench would take him out the firing line and may actually do him some good from relieving the constant scrutiny of many.
The club as a whole needs to be clear and positive. 2019 draws to a close with us one position behind our target having been in the bottom half of the league below this time a year ago.
It’s achievable but reality and sense from all parties needs to be the biggest tactic exploited in the coming weeks and months.