In the blink of an eye, Aston Villa have gone from Premier League hopefuls with extremely rich owners to the relegation zone and looking quite directionless. Well, maybe that isn’t quite true, come to think of it, this sudden drop off in form which has got Villa into this mess, which includes four straight losses, comes on the back of Dean Smith signing a contract extension.
In fact, Smith’s charges haven’t won a game since the Villa owners decided to extend their head coach’s stay by another four years. You always have to be careful when suggesting that owners have got it wrong by showing their managers unconditional faith given how trigger happy many owners are nowadays, but Smith’s contract extension is in many ways, quite mind-boggling.
For starters, Villa were hardly setting the league alight when the 48-year-old put pen to paper on a deal that keeps him at Villa Park until 2023. Lingering above the relegation zone and without any momentum of any note, Villa looked quite toothless. A 2-2 draw at Old Trafford at the start of December was seen as a turning point but that was quite a misleading result when you consider United have been beaten by bottom of the table Watford and Villa haven’t managed a point since then.
Dean Smith has been speaking to the media, following #AVLSOU.
“We all have to take responsibility. Defensively we have to be better and we have to improve quickly.” pic.twitter.com/dibOqckTKy
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) December 21, 2019
On a side note, the time has passed where any sort of result against Manchester United could be used as some sort of a yardstick, the Old Trafford club are worlds away from being a top European club.
But back to Dean Smith and the wisdom of his contract extension. The Smith love-in seems to be based on the way he guided Villa to the Premier League by winning the play-offs despite quite an ordinary season.
Villa may have won a club-record 10 games in a row to gatecrash the play-offs but the nature of the top six and the lottery of the play-offs can hide all manner of sins a team has, which is why the team that gets promoted by winning at Wembley often comes right back down the following season.
One must also make note of Tyrone Mings’ influence on this Villa side after he joined from Bournemouth on loan in January 2019. At this stage, Mings was relatively unknown and way down the pecking order on the south coast but such was his influence on Smith’s struggling Villa side that Gareth Southgate gave him his international first cap. In fact, Mings is now one of the first choices in an England side that are at 4/1 to win the Euros in international football betting.
Needless to say and you probably get the point by now, the 26-year-old has the ability to shore up the defence of even the poorest sides.
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) December 21, 2019
Now it would be unfair to say that Villa are a poor side, after all, they have some wonderful technicians so you couldn’t possibly get away with that. What you could say though is that they have a gaffer who may not be Premier League quality.
The owners of Aston Villa obviously think otherwise but they are also on a journey and still discovering the ins and outs of English football. Dare we say it, but they could have just learned their first managerial lesson over December.