Time to act

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Smith knew things had to change

Aston Villa’s latest defeat at home to Chelsea has seen a return of just one solitary point from the two home games since ‘Project Restart’ commenced.

Whilst some may point out that Villa led for an hour, ultimately it is a results business and the hard facts are Villa’s point against Sheffield United was the only point in their last six games.

Not only have Dean Smith’s men lost 5 of the last 6 games but they have conceded two goals in every one of those games bar the 0-0 draw with Sheffield United.

Dig a little deeper and Villa haven’t won a single game in which they have conceded 2 or more goals. Only 2-2 draws against Manchester United and Burnley are the only points returns in 19 games where this has been the case.

2 points from 57 available.

This also means that Villa have lost all five games in which they have conceded twice to teams from 14th or below.

This all makes for alarming reading and it shows a consistency for all the wrong reasons.

There will be a positive later on … I promise!

Villa sit joint second bottom for clean sheets and have conceded the most goals this season but if we look at the other end of the pitch, 31 of Villa’s 35 goals have come from inside the box.

I have previously said throughout the season that our inability to maintain possession and carry the ball up the pitch with a consistent string of passes makes us easy to beat.

Press Villa back and it cuts off the main supply of goals whilst pressuring what is statistically the worst defence in the league.

So we now sit in 19th place with just eight games to go.

Where do we go from here?

I said there would be a positive and it comes in the form of other teams around us being poor too.

Considering 1 point in 18 marks horrendous form, the results of Norwich City, Bournemouth, Watford and West Ham mean it looks like 3 from those five.

Brighton’s last gasp win over Arsenal has given them a five-point buffer.

With Norwich 5 points behind Villa and 8 from safety due to their goal difference it wouldn’t be too harsh to suggest it is two to go from Villa, Bournemouth, West Ham and Watford.

The fixtures do not help Villa’s cause with only West Ham to play on the final game of the season within this ‘mini-league’.

West Ham have Norwich City, Watford and ourselves.

Bournemouth have none of these sides and on paper have a difficult run in.

Watford have West Ham and Norwich.

Why do these fixtures matter so much?

Well, straight away it means points are being taken by one or both teams and regardless of a win or a draw they are points that Villa will need to catch up throughout their own run in.

For me, however late in the season, we need a change of direction.

I will still argue that the team has nowhere near enough Premier League experience with only Tom Heaton, Ahmed Elmohamady, Neil Taylor and Danny Drinkwater with regular Premier League experience as part of their past teams.

I will also continue to scrutinise the recruitment policy as the inexperienced players at this level of league have come in at the cost of pretty much all of our promotion money and the majority I would expect to be off as quickly as they can should we go down.

However, it is about finding a way to win and we need to pushing to score more as we know we are likely to concede.

Granted, it was the Championship, but the freedom to attack in Villa’s unbeaten run was what gave them the confidence and drive to return to the Premier League.

Smith also said at the start of the season that we will go to attack teams and go into games believing we can beat any team.

Early performances against sides such as Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal showed what we can do when we press forward despite the results.

Wins against Norwich and Burnley away were probably our best performances as we pressed their defences, created numerous chances and scored goals. Yes, we conceded, but put the pressure was on the opposition to recover due to the goals we had scored.

Recently, Southampton and Leicester City away were nothing short of a disgrace and as part of the travelling support we both demanded and expected a reaction.

The COVID-19 pandemic was ultimately something that no one saw coming but like everyone else we have had to deal with it.

For what it’s worth the point at Sheffield United was decent considering the VAR controversy and we carved out some decent chances but still drew a blank.

Now has to be the time that we try two up top or push Grealish further up as this support. Davis works hard but looks isolated and ultimately his goal record is incredibly low.

Samatta came in and looked promising before the break from the season but his two substitute appearances have seen him get little to no service and support as we have sat deep.

Draws will not be enough.

There is a chance to survive …

We have to find a way, we have to play to win and we have to believe.

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