87: How Wesley Can Improve Further in an Aston Villa Shirt

Silencing the Doubters

Before his brace of goals at Carrow Road, there had been a lot of loose talk and criticism on social media of Aston Villa striker Wesley, to the extent that even Dean Smith has been directing the Brazilian to the ‘block’ button.

The instant gratification that some supporters seemingly demand via social media from their players seemingly shortens. Patience has almost become a forgotten virtue. We’ve seen it before with Villa players. Fabian Delph was written off more than once by some sections of the fanbase, yet he went onto to become an England international and win trophies.

In terms of actual modern day Villa strikers, from Peter Crouch to Christian Benteke, it’s hard to think of one that didn’t get a rough deal initially at Villa, before a vast improvement or going on to do better things elsewhere. Even Bosko Balaban transitioned from firing blanks at Villa to becoming ‘Super Bosko’, a 1-in-2 striker at Club Brugge.

Wesley’s double and all-round decent performance has silenced his distractors at least for now.

Wesley had demonstrated enough straight off the bat in pre-season to suggest he had big potential, yet it was only against Norwich that he finally received a sustained supply line in a game. The emergence of Matt Targett has noticeably added a new dynamic to the Villa attack to aid this, and hopefully that will improve matters for the Brazilian hence forth.

It’s often forgotten that for a 22-year-old striker, playing in a new country and league, it’ll obviously take time to adjust.

You could argue it’s not ideal for the club to go into the season, resting its hopes on a striker so young and inexperienced in the division. In their defence, Villa did have additional striker targets in the summer, but just couldn’t get them over the line in time. Ultimately, whatever Smith has declared publicly, he’d no doubt be comfortable with one more forward in the squad.

“I’m sure he (Wesley ) will have read a few of the comments,” said Smith, of the online flak his striker had received. “I’ve told all of the players: ‘Block it, you don’t need to hear it. You know if you’ve played well or if you haven’t played well’.

Playing Dead

With four goals so far this season, Wesley is on par with Mo Salah in terms of goals, but this is only half of this season so far. At times, Wesley certainly hasn’t helped himself with his attitude, when rather than intimidating the opposition with his strength and power, he has shown a penchant for unnecessary diving and play acting.

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At times it has distracted him from his game and hasn’t gone unnoticed by the football world at large. Former England International, Paul Ince, wasn’t too impressed while working as a pundit, when he watched the player against Bournemouth.

“He didn’t do anything but moan and fall on the floor,” said Ince. “He needs to start doing a lot more and start playing football.”

Regardless of what you may think as Ince as a pundit, his words here are spot on.

What Wesley did against Burnley was perhaps the pinnacle of the Brazilian’s worrying attitude to the game, that has at times undermined his ability.

After being hit in the face by the ball at close quarters, the Villa striker then laid out on his back with his eyes closed for a sustained period of time, unresponsive to even his teammates who checked up on him.

He played dead, which confused both the tweeting local media at the game, who declared him unconscious, and those around him, who at one stage, eventually rolled him into the recovery position. It almost seemed reluctant action by his teammates though, after all, Wesley had raised his hands to his face, as he went down, so was hardly out cold. Plus, this was hardly the first time this season, he’d made a big deal from an incident.

It was a bizarre situation. Seemingly, his thought process was, if I feign injuries when I’m not actually touched, how should I react when I get a ball in the face? The player seemingly decided to up the ante by his playing dead routine.

The incident provided a lot of comedy on the episode 87 of the podcast (listen below), but is it a good look? What do his teammates think about it? Do you want a player with this kind of approach to the game alongside you in the trenches of a long hard season? Is he exposing a weakness that the opposition can easily exploit?

While Smith hasn’t directly addressed the incident since, he maybe hinted at it when he publicly stated that Wesley’s Burnley performance didn’t match his one against Everton.

“The performance Wes put in against Everton back in August, he didn’t show against Burnley,” said Smith, before the Norwich game.

“Against Everton he was all-action, all-energy, making the ball stick in and around him, giving the two centre-halves a really tough time. He just didn’t do that and was the first to admit that.”

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At Carrow Road he returned to being that all-action striker and his hold-up play, playing the foil for Villa’s midfield to feed and link off, was top class.

While fans appreciate the art of winning fouls and decisions, Wesley goes beyond this to the extent that it is a distraction from his football. It comes across as petulant selfishness, and this needs to be stamped out, as if he focuses on harnessing his power and talent to influence games, he’ll see much better results for himself and his team.

It’s a surprise that it hasn’t been coached out of him already by Dean Smith and his team, before they got to the Burnley game.

The signs against Norwich though was there seems to have been progress. Hopefully, he’s not a fair weather player, a trait that Anwar El Ghazi has sometimes been guilty of. When Villa are on top, they play with confidence and commitment, while when the going gets tougher you see the frustration manifest swiftly.

With his playing dead routine it already got to the ‘boy that cried wolf’ stage for Wesley in terms of supporters rolling their eyes when he hit the deck.

If Wesley continues to stay on his feet and hits the net instead, perceptions will change quickly though, and we may have our first legitimate Premier League striker since Benteke.


Listen to the Show

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Episode 87 Credits

Villa Seek to Jolt Season into Life as Wesley Plays Dead

Another game, another VAR incident, another loss of points – so far, the 2019/20 Premier League season has thrown up a predictable pattern for Aston Villa, after twice leading against Burnley at Villa Park, they finished winless again.

Are Dean Smith’s tactical insights matching up with his team selections? What was Wesley doing playing dead on the Villa Park pitch? Is Villa’s footballing intelligence letting them down? And did, what appears to be the insignificant selection of having Neil Taylor on the bench instead of Kortney Hause, cost Villa points?

David, Dan and Chris discuss these matters and many more in the Villa-verse, plus look at the recent strange events at Derby County, Wimbledon and Yeovil Town.

Plus, there’s the return of the Scott Hogan Touch Count Meter, which features an epic battle, as two touch count masterminds go head-to-head.


Producer/Editor – David Michael



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  1. The big man is vital to us staying up. Naive defending, lack of forward play, 2 wingers has been the story of our poor season. The Norwich game changed all that. But defeat against Brighton will see us struggling against relegation. Yes Wesley has struggled. There’s been an unacceptable lack of support in the box. But his attitude and show of frustration has been concerning. Instead of chasing back to pick the ball up he’s been ridiculously weak for a big man falling over more times than Heskey. But he was brought here to score goals. 4 in 8 is a fantastic return. If we steer clear of 2 wingers and get players forward quickly again I think he will do well.

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