Dean Smith’s B-List Barkley Dilemma and Reality of Villa Park Expansion

The Good Bad Ugly

With Aston Villa’s fortunes more good and less ugly nowadays, MOMS podcast contributor Phil Shaw resurrects ‘The Good, Bad & Ugly’, an old favourite MOMS column that started over eight years ago on the site…

Ross Barkley’s time at Aston Villa has gone from beautiful against Liverpool and Arsenal, to hitting every branch of the ugly tree since returning from injury

By Phil Shaw

With the same enthusiasm that a Villa midfielder shows in the final minutes, it’s time to try to find some Good in the middle of the Bad and Ugly.

The Good 

Unfortunately, it has to be away from the pitch this week. The Villa financial situation is pretty rosy considering the financial hit the rest of the footballing world has taken. 

Since Wes Edens and Nassef Sawaris saved Aston Villa from financial ruin, there has been little to criticise about the rich benefactors the club have. Safe to say, without diving into the details of the club accounts, the main line for me was ‘debt free’.

The true impact of Covid-19 on world football has yet to be realised, and for Villa to be sitting in this position now, with Premier League status secured, means the foundations are solid.

Talk of upgrading the ground has been latched onto by many on social media, but the reality of this is several years away. 

Tottenham Hotspur and their new, wonder stadium will be a good case study for Villa over the next few seasons.

Say Villa had reached the Champions League under Randy Lerner and Martin O’Neill. They would realistically be in the Spurs position now. Some may say that’s where you want to be, but perspective is for the unambitious.

Spurs have a wonderful stadium, that was bankrolled on the promise of permanent Champions League football and the prospect of an NFL franchise. COVID-19 hit, Mourinho can’t get a tune out of them, and suddenly, they need a bailout from the government.

Pretty soon that wished for Stadium is going to be the millstone round their neck that the Emirates was for Arsenal. From the invincibles at Highbury to mid-table at the Emirates. 

Before any Villa Park expansion takes place, the Villa owners will want to see a period of consolidation and success on the pitch, not to mention a growing season ticket waiting list.

To quote George Harrison. If the owners have their mind set on Villa

’’It’s gonna take money

A whole lotta spending money

It’s gonna take plenty of money

To do it right child

It’s gonna take time

A whole lot of precious time

It’s gonna take patience and time, To do it right child’’

Villan of the Week — Nope

After what happened to Trézéguet when he was named Villan of the week after scoring a brace against Fulham, I think we will give it a break for a week. We’ve enough injury woes at the moment…

The Bad

The match at Anfield was a strange one. Villa played OK, despite how it looked in the first half. 

What ruined the aesthetic, was the number of unforced errors and general sloppiness. Mings had his usual casual moment that Salah should have scored from and Bertrand Traore, again tried a first time cross-field volleyed pass from a throw in.

You’d think a simple word in training would be enough to remove that element from Traore’s game at least.

Yet here we are analysing another wasted chance for Aston Villa to at least keep themselves in the conversation, when talking about top Premier League sides. Because improvement or not, that’s where Aston Villa need to be with the other elements falling into place.

Arguably, Aston Villa are now top six in terms of: Owners, training facilities, stadium, history and certainly since arriving back in the Premier League, transfer spend.

Where they are lacking, is on the pitch. Up to 2021, Villa were in the position in the league that justified the investment. 

After defeat at Anfield, Aston Villa are in the bottom half of the table, and it shouldn’t be dismissed as progress. 

Who else in the bottom half of the league are a better team than Aston Villa?

Leeds, while receiving unwarranted praise, are ahead of Villa after beating Man City at the Etihad with 10 men. 

Villa, have had a season longer in the Premier League and have invested more on players. 

If Leeds finish above Aston Villa this season it will be a bad look for Villa, even for those with claret and blue tinted specs.

Aston Villa shirt sales

The Ugly

There’s no point hiding the obvious any longer. Ross Barkley’s time at Aston Villa has gone from beautiful against Liverpool and Arsenal, to hitting every branch of the ugly tree since returning from injury.

Most sensible fans are willing to give him time to recover, after all, he scored the winner against Southampton in one of his first games back. 

What people can’t accept is the lack of effort shown at Anfield. 

There’s a famous goal Barkley scored for Everton, that’s a popular clip on social media. He rounds the keeper and celebrates long before tucking the ball into the empty net. It’s disrespectful, a bit naughty, but most of all it shows supreme confidence.

Where’s the swagger and attitude of this Ross Barkley gone? 

Instead, Aston Villa are left with B-List Barkley, who when put in the same position in the last few minutes against Liverpool, had no idea what to do. 

Worse still, when he messed up the opportunity, he slowly jogged around gesticulating like a spoilt toddler.

It’s an ugly situation as the performances of Barkley, reflect on the management team as well. 

With a game tightly poised, a 50% physically fit Ross Barkley is still a good shout to turn the game in your favour. 

When he came on against Liverpool, being an Evertonian, it looked like his final chance to show that he has the attitude and desire to still be a Premier League footballer. 

In hindsight, he should never have been brought on. 

I can’t see a situation now where Dean Smith can bring him on without it being held against him. He’s given him more chances than any manager would and further appearances like the one against Liverpool could have ugly consequences for the Villa manager. 


Listen to the Latest MOMS Podcast Episode


  1. This squad needs to be seriously looked at and percentages put together to weed out the deadwood, If it wern’t for a fairly good run in the 1st half of the season we would most definitely be scrapping it out in the relegation zone no question.
    The management department also needs to be seriously looked at as mediocre performances just do not cut the mustard especially after all the money that’s been spent. I’m sure some of these players look at the financial gain rather than beating opposition teams with 1/8 of our budget that rarely rate a tow.
    I think a freshen up all round would be good for the club as I find it increasingly frustrating as to where our next win will come from as we seem to be easy pickings in the Premiership at present.
    Something must give as losing games when in winning situations means lack of depth and quality. One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that there are some in this team who just seem to go through the motions.
    This is a definite wake up call and I think Dean Smith must throw caution to the wind for the remainder of the season and go for broke by giving younger players a run, use the bench more often and start games with a more attacking style with 2 even 3 up front. Putting doubt in opposition teams is where you win the mind games…. C’mon Villa … UTMV.

  2. yes but some get cast aside when perhaps they should not have been . Albrighton being a prime example , as he was badly managed and became unfit because he was played in Hong Kong when suffering from heat stroke & never properly returned to full fitness untill he was half out of the door

  3. youngsters are the hope but very few make it. Andre Green is now at sheffield wednesday. I am a big fan of the youth squad but its a big leap up. Meanwhile, Barkley is showing why he was loaned. Top players do not get loaned, and I do think Davis needs to get a run. But its wesley he should replace. I cannot recall a player out for over 15 months with so little said.

    the squad does need refreshing

    trevor fisher

  4. Forget Barkley, forget Delli Alli, forget Douglas Luiz, and let’s start using our youngsters, they are getting their chances elsewhere in the premiership and in Europe we now have a handful of games left, we have done much better than expected this season perhaps we should accept that fact and experiment who knows how good things might turn out. What does Davis have to do to get more than 10 mins every now and then, he has earned and deserves a start and a full 90 minutes no matter what, why was Barkley brought on at his expense. The mind boggles.

Comments are closed.