It’s been just over a month since Dean Smith was appointed manager of Aston Villa Football Club and while the results have not been perfect, things seem a lot rosier at B6 than they were before his appointment. Why is that? What has the ex-Brentford boss bought to the club in his short time there? I’ve picked out three points to notice from the first month.
Villa are starting to dictate the tempo games, as they should
One of the biggest complaints of Steve Bruce’s reign was Villa’s complete inability to take control of a football match. For far too long, fans would see their team hang in the game with defensive tactics which put Villa on the back foot from the first minute. Under Smith, things are different.
The first whistle will blow and Villa are looking for an opening goal in the first few minutes. Smith has notably discussed in press conferences the importance of a fast start and Villa have profited from him with Jack Grealish’s goal against Bolton Wanderers an example. If you take a look at some of the action zones from Villa’s game, the ball is often in the opposition half with the Claret and Blue players taking the game to their opponents.
In the Championship, why wouldn’t a squad like Villa’s look to dominate the football match. It’s about playing to their strengths.
The defence isn’t perfect, but Axel Tuanzebe is going from strength to strength
Let’s be honest here, Villa’s defence is not a promotion-winning back five. Smith knows this and I’m sure he will be looking to rectify this in the January transfer window. However, the emergence of Axel Tuanzebe in the last month has been nothing less than spectacular. He has quickly become Villa’s best defender and is showing the talent that has made him one of Manchester United’s top prospects.
The defender is helped by the fact that Smith is playing him in his preferred and arguably correct position as a centre-back. Under Bruce, Tuanzebe often found himself in a right-back slot but speaking to club TV a few weeks ago, he is relieved to find himself back in the heart of the defence.
He said: “It suits my style of play. It’s the one I’m used to back at Manchester United and it benefits me to be playing that way here.”
He’s not wrong.
The players seem at home with the possession-oriented style of play
At the start of the season, the thing that frustrated me the most watching Aston Villa was not just the long-ball football, but the visible frustration in certain players as they watched the ball drift over their head. Jack Grealish is better than that. John McGinn is better than that and so are the likes of Conor Hourihane, Birkir Bjarnason and Albert Adomah.
Since Smith’s appointment, he has focused on keeping the ball and using it in a way to hurt their opponent and Villa’s midfielders in particular as flourishing from it. The team are passing better, playing better and just look better. That’s perhaps Smith’s biggest achievement in his first month.
Written by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)
IMAGE CREDIT: AVFC