Aston Villa’s humbling 6-1 loss at the hands of a rampant Manchester City has predictably seen a wide range of opinion come forth from supporters and pundits alike. It is no wonder people are starting to question Dean Smith’s backroom staff, including John Terry.
The growing ‘Smith Out’ brigade is becoming more prevalent, though a more reasoned reaction is still the majority vote at the moment.
For me, there is a degree of acceptance that City can tear any team apart as they did to us. But, whilst the result may not define our season, the performance may well do so. And that is my biggest gripe; for a while now we’ve been absolutely toothless.
I think the loss of John McGinn is a huge part of that. The Scot is a natural fighter and never gives up. That tenacity inspires others around him. The sooner he is fit again, the better, and it can’t come soon enough.
But our increasingly soft underbelly is a growing problem. That is something I find odd when there is a figure with the character of John Terry working closely with these players.
Now, we have seen previously many times that a world-class player does not necessarily carry that status into their management roles. For example, Roy Keane famously derided and lost patience with his players at various clubs for not being able to do on the pitch what he used to.
But I can’t help thinking that Terry’s presence should at the very least be contributing to a much more committed attitude somehow. And defensively, we should be much more solid than we currently are.
Yes, Dean Smith is the manager, and will ultimately shape the overall characteristics and vibe of the squad. But as assistant head coach, Terry is working with this group of players day in, day out. And Terry is renowned for his winning mentality.
But defensively, Villa have gradually got worse and worse this season. That is a worrying trend. Now, there are reasons for that. The loss of Tyrone Mings through injury definitely had an impact. And Dean Smith’s chopping and changing cannot be helping either.
But as one of the Premier League’s best ever defenders, Terry’s coaching should surely be achieving more consistency as the season progresses, not less? The wisdom he must be imparting isn’t apparent. And mostly, there should be signs of helping to instil a winning mentality. And Terry isn’t just our defensive coach; he works with the whole squad of players.
Again, I know it was Manchester City, but the lack of commitment during the game was shockingly bad. Kortney Hause, in particular, looked scared to put in a tackle. The midfield trio of Conor Hourihane, Douglas Luiz and Danny Drinkwater made just 4 tackles between them.
This isn’t blaming Terry for the result. Or other results previously. But I find the extent of the cowardice within the performance, along with others such as Watford the other week, hard to believe when we have someone like Terry inside the ranks. Somebody who, as a player would literally throw not just his body or legs, but often his head, in the way of boots, balls and elbows in an attempt to keep a clean sheet.
I suppose my question is, why is Terry not inspiring the players he is coaching into at least having that same commitment? Talent is one thing, and coaching can sometimes be a slow process to see progress. But the effort and a will to win should be on display every single week. And all too often it isn’t.
We’ve seen the effect that an individual can have on a team in the shape of Nigel Pearson at Watford. Before his appointment, the Hornets looked nailed on for relegation. The players, although talented, were not applying themselves. I watched their game against Bournemouth last weekend where they won 3-0. They hurried and hassled the Cherries and looked bang up for the fight. They have been unrecognisable to the team that began the season.
That inspiration and fight are what Villa need. Does Terry need to be at the head of the table for him to have the effect I’m talking about? Possibly. But his role is only one rung down that ladder and that should be well placed in the hierarchy to make an impact.
Yes, Dean Smith will ultimately shape this team. But I still find our lack of defensive organisation and our absence of fight in all too many performances surprising when we have a figure like John Terry in our ranks.