It has been announced this afternoon that Dean Smith has been relieved of his duties as Head Coach at Aston Villa.
The news, which whilst disappointing for some supporters, had a feeling of inevitability Friday night’s defeat against Southampton. This result capped a career worst run of defeats for Smith as a manager, but also continued upon a dreadful points return in 2021 as a whole.
Villa had the option of persevering with Smith, a lifelong Villa fan, but whose methods were appearing increasingly desperate. Or, opting to make the big call of sacking the manager who steered Villa to promotion and use the international break to hunt for his replacement.
RISK AND REWARDEmbed from Getty Images
The decision to dispense with Smith, irrelevant of ones views, is a massive call on behalf of the the clubs hierarchy. A decision had to made, but it now lurches Villa from a position of uncertain league form to broader uncertainty at one of the clubs key management positions.
This in itself brings arguably as significant risk; get the right man and Villa can revert back to the oft referred plan of ‘continuous improvement’, but get it wrong and an unthinkable chain reaction can be set in motion.
Villa now must begin the crucially important task of ensuring that the right man takes up the hot-seat. Any appointment has the challenge of needing to lift a squad that appears not only disjointed on the field, but suffering a crises of individual confidence. As such any newcomers arrival isn’t straightforward, particularly ahead of a difficult December fixture list. Their task will be to prevent the season becoming a relegation battle, before loftier ambitions are to be even considered.
Whilst many will reflect upon singular moments, goals or specific victories, managing to drag Villa from The Championship and somehow clinging to Premier League status the following season must be regarded as achievements.
A side rarely capable of stringing two passes together under Steve Bruce, fashioned a ten game winning streak and somehow made the 2019 playoffs. A memorable playoff victory over West Brom on penalties and victory over Derby at Wembley will live long in the memory.
Then there was Villa’s return to the Premier League, which despite the club looking all but certain of relegation, saw a remarkable late upturn in form and a final day survival against West Ham.
SMITH’S STRUGGLESEmbed from Getty Images
The scorer on that day at The London Stadium was of course Jack Grealish and much will no doubt be made of whether his sale to Manchester City has in time led to Smith’s demise.
This blogs view is that though Grealish was central to Villa and Smith’s team, our frailties existed prior to his departure. Smith has endured long winless at Villa (and elsewhere), appeared reluctant to the point of stubbornness to evolve his style and had the habit of watching glaring issues hurt us on the pitch before attempting to rectify them (if at all).
As our form collapsed throughout 2021, Smith then opted to make the fateful mistake of hopeful tinkering. A radical change in formation, dispensing with our previously solid defensive foundation and deploying players in unfamiliar positions to name but three. The end result was not only a side in freefall, but a group of players appearing as incohesive as when he first arrived at the football club.
Smith departs leaving Villa in a difficult spot, but with our thanks for getting the club back to the table at which it belongs.
The departure of Villa’s manager has now set the tabloid clickbait websites into overdrive. Whilst we will now have to tolerate countless column inches of mere invented drivel, the bookmakers early favourites include:
- Steven Gerrard – 2/1
- John Terry – 5/2
- Kasper Hjulmand – 7/2
- Paulo Fonseca – 5/1
- Frank Lampard – 6/1