82: The Factors Impacting Dean Smith’s Aston Villa First Team Selection

Judging by Dean Smith’s initial first team line-up selections, considering the personnel that make up the squad, Villa’s Head Coach is still not playing what he probably envisioned what would be his best first XI when he completed his summer’s transfer business.

For example, Smith wouldn’t have had Villa spend £11.5m on a left-back, for Matt Targett to then sit on the bench. Likewise the fees spend on Marvelous Nakamba and Frederick Gilbert have had fans puzzled to why they weren’t immediately starting or even in the match day squad.

Practically speaking though, it’s been a process of drip-feeding the new signings into action, as they get up to speed, fitness and also earn the right to start.

The good news is Villa have genuine competition in pretty much every position in the team, bar the striker position. You only have to look at the 10 players that came in against Crewe in the League Cup and impressed. At the moment, the fight for places is looking genuinely healthy.

“We have signed a lot of new players who have integrated really well,” reflected Smith, last week. “They are also learning about the speed of the game, how we train and also how we want to play.”

“Some of them have got in earlier than others,” he added.

“Some of them are waiting their turn – I am always of the belief that you earn the right to go and play. You have to prove you’re better than the others who have already got the shirts.”

Villa continuing in the League Cup will certainly benefit keeping the competition rife and morale up, as players get minutes to impress the Villa Head Coach.

Marvelous Nakamba certainly benefitted from his outing and the likes of Konsa, Kortney Hause and Henri Lansbury will be more match-ready, if they do come off the bench in league games.

Nakamba’s emergence and Conor Hourihane’s mid-week brace will certainly add further to the debate we had on episode 82 of the My Old Man Said podcast, were we looked at the midfield competition and how it will play out. Is Jack Grealish even safe?

If you haven’t listen yet, catch-up, as we are doing here with the podcast show notes.

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Aston Villa Fail to Pop Points Cherry Against Bournemouth

Pointless after two games, Aston Villa currently sit in 17th place in the Premier League, a position they will not want to drop below at any point this season. Can they be expected to rise any time soon?

The My Old Man Said podcast looks at Aston Villa’s first home game of the season, a 2-1 defeat against AFC Bournemouth, who capitalised on two Villa mistakes in the opening 10 minutes, to set up their away victory.

Nil points means there are many questions to ponder…

How should the Villa midfield set up? Should Dean Smith have subbed Jack Grealish? Is it time to unleash the new full-backs? Who do we get Wesley involved? 

We look at these and more.

Outside of the Villa-verse, we look at the managers already sacked this season, the latest football racism issue and also the on-going feud between AFC Wimbledon and MK Dons.

And there’s an epic Scot Hogan Touch Count Meter battle to enjoy too.

Happy listening.


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David Michael – @oldmansaid 

Chris Budd – @BUDD_music

Max Stokes – @villaontour_

Producer/Editor – David Michael


  1. We’ve got a wealth of options in midfield. Grealish, McGinn, Luiz, Nakamba, Hourihane, even Lansbury looked a new player in midweek and with three assists can certainly do a job when called on.

    Problem is, there’s a bit of a traffic jam for those places. Who on earth would drop Grealish or McGinn? That leaves one midfield spot for four players. And I don’t know if this is the best use of the players or not.

    It’s probably fair to say that our wide forwards – El Ghazi, Trezeguet and Jota – have so far been the weaker parts of our team this season. Not trying to criticise too much here as it’s still early days, but in the Premiership at least they haven’t been as effective as we would have hoped. Trezeguet’s looked hard working and energetic but is still settling in, Jota looked impressive against the Toffees but there’s been questions about his pace and El Ghazi’s struggles in the first couple of games have been well documented, although he came off the bench with a vengeance and with a point to prove against Everton.

    Maybe this is nit picking armchair management but could we consider pushing Grealish further forward to support the attack? He’s one of our most creatively minded players, quick, full of trickery with an eye for pass or goal and likes to run at defenders. So why not relieve him of some of his defensive duties by moving him into a forward position? Grealish in El Ghazi or Trezeguet’s role would surely solve some of our issues with squad balance and take a bit of the pressure off our forwards.

    It would also allow us to make more use of our wealth of midfield talent, bringing Hourihane in to play alongside McGinn for his set piece delivery and goal threat, or Nakamba in to play alongside Luiz to add bite and steel to our midfield when needed. On paper, at least.

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