Dean Smith Faces Upcoming Selection Complications After the International Break

Context of Defensive Woe

From the very start of the season Aston Villa have been fire-fighting when it comes to their defensive situation. Of course, Steve Bruce didn’t help matters by sending out one of Villa’s few recognised centre-backs, Tommy Elphick, out on loan at the start of the season. Then came the injuries to Axel Tuanzebe and James Chester that kept Villa’s centre-back situation precarious at best.

Head Coach Dean Smith and the Villa recruitment team reacted well to the problem in the January window. First, Smith rightly called back Elphick from his spell at Hull City. Then Tyrone Mings was drafted in along with Kortney Hause, who could play both left-back and centre-back.

Elphick’s recent injury, reaffirmed the wisdom of getting in Hause along with Mings during the January window, and allowed Villa to weather their latest centre-back injury at a key time. It still could prove to be a move that potentially defines the season.

Mings and Hause as a partnership has provided Villa with three clean sheets during the four-game winning streak.

Axel Return

While Smith has played the loan market well, he is now faced with a bit of headache with the return of Axel Tuanzebe.

Not only is there of the selection dilemma of whether he slots him straight back into the back four – by potentially moving Hause back over to left back, although Neil Taylor has played well in recent games – but Smith also has to contend with the rule on the number of loan players you’re allowed in a match day squad.

“Axel gives me not only a selection headache, but a loan headache. You’re only allowed five in the matchday 18,” confirmed Smith, this week in his in-house interview.

So one of the following Villa loan players will have to miss out:

Axel Tuanzebe

Tyrone Mings

Kortney Hause

Tammy Abraham

Anwar El Ghazi

Tom Carroll

Obviously, Mings and Abrahams are two of the first names on the team sheet, while Hause and El Ghazi have been recent starters.

Tuanzebe’s versatility in being able to cover a number of defensive positions and even act as a defensive midfielder, makes him a good choice to have on the bench, if Smith doesn’t feel he’s quite ready to start yet.

That leaves Tom Carroll, who Smith would have no doubt have liked to have had a better look at during the final games of the season.

Carroll perhaps would be on Smith’s shopping list, if Villa remained in the Championship next season, so he would have liked to have made more of his ‘try before you buy situation’.

Positive Predicament

On the other hand though, Villa’s squad is looking increasingly strong – Henri Lansbury is also now back in training and Elphick will return in mid-April. So, it looks a different beast from the one that some supporters were dismissing only a month ago.

Smith will no doubt feel with the play-offs now back in sight, that should be the end game and Carroll’s future with Villa will have to take a rain check for now.

Of course, he can always still come into the match day squad, if a loan player gets injured.

The loan selection dilemma is certainly a good thing to have at this stage of the season, as Villa now have the favourable combination of both a healthy squad and the recent momentum of winning form.


Follow MOMS on Twitter here – @oldmansaid


  1. Keep the same team. Its working. Unlucky on Hourahan but that’s life. Green has disappointed a bit but has talent will only get better with game time, and Adoma won’t let us down if required.

  2. Another thing he mentions in the interview is the way he has been getting the players into little groups, looking at what they think they need to work on, ways they can improve, making them responsible for change. All good stuff. For me this bloke is so far removed from Steve Bruce, just wish we had gotten him in sooner.

  3. Meant to mention also, agree ref Tom C, it would have been nice to have a good long look at him over a run of games, but I cannot see it happening either.
    And another good article from MOMS. Love this site, keep up the great work.

  4. I agree with David, the team must be !00% match fit and Axel isn’t that yet. As much as I would like to see a back four that contains Axel I think Smithy will not bring him in unless there is an injury or if the form of Taylor drops. I would then expect Hause to switch to left back, where he is more than able, with Axel partnering \Mingsy.

    What really narks me is that if the season were to start again I think we would blow the championship away.
    Our defence (and pretty much everywhere else) is in better shape than what we got to the play off final with last season. Ok, Sam J asides in goal, though I do feel confident in Jed.

    Smithy now pretty much has the competition for places he wants, or better at least than it was and this is coming through in the training. Not my words, his, the latest interview I saw was good viewing.
    I so hope this bloke is at the helm next year, even if we do not go up (feel free to slate me) and Jack goes…. I am sure he is the right man.
    Cannot wait for Calum to come back, the way that lad moves reminds me a little of a certain Tony Morley. I know, completely different in lots of ways, but just my opinion.

    Whatever happens in the run in I am already looking forward to next season, just let Smithy have a transfer window with more than a few pennies to spend.

    Apologies for going off thread again, I do like to ramble.

  5. Whatever happens we must play a 100% fit team, this is not the time for sentiment, not right to replace anyone with unfit players, unfair on them and the current 11, but what a team we could select if all fully fit, Steer, Elmo, Mings,Hause, Taylor,(on current form), Grealish, Hourahan, McGinn, Abraham, Davies, El Ghazi. On the bench Tuanzebe, Kodja , Green , Whelan, Keeper, Chester. Hope no injuries from international games.UTV.

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