I feel like I say this on every article, but what a freakin’ game that was. This time, it is well and truly deserved. For many, last night’s madness will be the best game they ever see in their lifetime. It was dramatic, crazy and a whirlwind of emotions. It was football at its very best.
For Dean Smith, it represented a number of different issues. First the positives: Villa’s attack is incredible. Tammy Abraham is in the form of his life and when it goes in off your privates, you know luck is on your side. Jack Grealish is proving that assists and goals aren’t everything when you provide what some people call “the penultimate assist” on a regular basis. The list can go on and on but there’s one big thorn in Smith’s side.
His defence is costing him points.
James Chester, for as great as he has been for the club, is a shadow of himself right now. He is tired, over-worked and a scapegoat, but some of his silly mistakes of late is inexcusable. He knows that better than anyone and doesn’t need to be told. What’s the solution though? It’s obvious that Chester needs a rest and some time out, but Villa have got huge games coming up and no-one who can replace him.
One option might be a former Villan who has been training with the club again. James Collins had some good years at Villa Park and according to Smith, a decision on the Welshman’s future could be soon.
He said: “James is still here training with us. He played a behind-closed-doors game last week against Yeovil, is getting minutes and getting closer to me making a decision about him.”
There’s one man who is certain to miss out on the trip to Boro and that’s the ‘Scottish Cafu’ Alan Hutton. The right-back is suspended after picking up five bookings and his fifth came after a trademark scuffle.
Talking about Hutton, Smith said: “One for celebrating after a wonderful goal in a local derby – I still don’t understand those bookings – and one for getting pushed; there was a bit of a melee after the sending off and he gets pushed. He doesn’t like being pushed and gets another caution!”
Who is ready to come in and replace him? The obvious choice is Ahmed Elmohamady who started the season so well but has found himself on the bench more often than not since Smith’s arrival. The outside choice though is James Bree. The youngster might just get the nod and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for Villa’s youth injection.
Further up the field, Villa actually played what I would call their strongest team on Wednesday. Birkir Bjarnason will still miss out but the amount of times Conor Hourihane was isolated against Forest might make Smith go with Glenn Whelan in the middle of the park.
Predicted Aston Villa line-up to face Middlesbrough: Nyland; Elmohamady, Tuanzebe, Chester, Taylor; McGinn, Whelan, Grealish; Bolasie, Abraham, Kodjia
Picture Credit: AVFC