89.5: What Dean Smith Learnt From Aston Villa Playing Against the Best

Villa’s Double Test

In the past week Aston Villa have pit themselves against the two best teams in the Premier League, and despite seeing his team being beaten twice, Head Coach Dean Smith will take away some positive crumbs of comfort.

You only have to look at the half-time scores against both the League Champions, Manchester City (0-0) and the European Champions, Liverpool (1-0 to Villa), to see that Villa were competitive in both games.

Despite Villa’s mass overhaul in the summer, both games provided more evidence than perhaps any other game that proceeded them this season, that there is the foundations to a good team at Villa.

You can put big ticks next to the names Nakamba, Luiz, Mings, Engels and Heaton, who all proved themselves to be decent Premier League players. While Trezeguet, Wesley, Gilbert, El Ghazi and Targett, against Liverpool, all showed signs of improvement and progress in the right direction.

11 games in, Villa have faced some difficult tests and despite a lowly league position, their -2 goal difference across all their games, further demonstrates they have been in every game they’ve played, unlike some teams in the division.

Villa were always going to have teething troubles this season, but they’ve looked good in such a short space of time, and the fact they are in a cup quarter-final, can only help boost confidence for further improvement. And, on the evidence of this weekend, the players will feel they have a chance in getting to the League Cup semi-final, no matter what side Liverpool put out.

With the bedrock of a team in place, Smith will certainly know that how this team improves and starts to take points off the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester City, is to have more cutting edge in the final third. Villa have had chances against all of four of these teams this season to change the eventual outcome of games.

It may have frustrated Smith and supporters alike, but help to address the theme of missed opportunities will be no doubt arrive in January.

You only have to see the difference of Wolves having legit attacking quality last season, in terms of getting results off the top six teams. Most supporters knew Villa were too light in terms of striker quality and quantity going into this season, despite the brave face Smith was putting on.

While, a result like Liverpool’s late win is hard to take, the applause from the Holte End on the final whistle demonstrate that supporters see the potential of what is developing in front of their eyes.


You only have to look at what happened immediately after the last time Villa were promoted, under Graham Taylor at the end of the 1980’s.

In their first season (1988/89) transitioning back into the top tier, Villa clearly showed their potential and had a vibrancy that didn’t necessarily produce results. The likes of David Platt, Alan McInally and Gordon Cowans provided Villa with spark, yet they only finished one point above the relegation zone.

The foundations were there and once Paul McGrath and Kent Nielsen were added to a team of players the following summer, that had the experience of the previous season under their belts, Villa thrived.

Even despite losing Mclnally, they finished second behind Liverpool in the table.

Hopefully, we will see a similiar pattern emerging with the current Villa team. Where Villa do enough to establish themselves this season in the league, and then it all clicks into place with another couple of keys signings, and you see a transformation next season.


Below on the last podcast we discuss the lack of cutting edge against Manchester City. The post-Liverpool show is out very soon.

Episode 89.5 Show Notes

Aston Villa Learn Citeh Lessons in Tough Week

Despite a decent first half, Aston Villa succumbed to their 10th consecutive defeat at the Etihad, as Manchester City eventually ran out 3-0 winners. While there’s no shame losing to the champions, VAR struck once again with a puzzling decision, as Jack Grealish limped off injured and Villa pondered their lack of real attacking cutting edge.

It what is more of a catch-up show, David, Chris and Max, discuss a busy week in the Villa-verse.


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David Michael – @oldmansaid 

Chris Budd – @BUDD_music

Max Stokes – @villaontour_

Producer/Editor – David Michael


  1. Bring back Benteke- A resurrected CHRIST(ian) would benefit Villa and the player! I’d pass on Morelos- too hot headed.

  2. IMO VAR is ruining our game and robbing our referees of confidence in their decision making, surely once a referee has made a decision to let play continue and another passage of play has taken play, whereby an unsuccessful shot on goal has been made, he cannot then award a free kick just in case VAR picks him up. Would he have disallowed the goal if the shot had gone in?????

  3. Totally agree with Colin, think Dean was a little naive in at least one substitution, could have brought on another to see the game out instead of an attacker who may have been a little responsible for the second goal through weak defending, but all in all a good display but should we be happy with the result,I don’t think so.

  4. We need a clinical goal scorer, we have to close games out, scoring one goal and defending for 80 mins will never work, our defence was excellent but its too much to expect, let’s be honest we should have been three goals up and then I believe the game is over Liverpool or not., and as good as Liverpool are there’s no way that we should have conceded two goals in eight mins.
    Let’s hope that we can stay in touch until January if so we have to get a proven goal scorer itS top priority and obvious obvious.

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