Date: 24th February 2021 at 8:00pm
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Ever since head coach, and self confessed Villan, Dean Smith walked through the doors at Villa Park there has been an almost endless debate about his relative merits as a manager and whether or not he himself was big enough to steer Aston Villa.

A late surge up the table following his arrival in October 2018 saw us return to the Premier League, and having achieved our aim of consolidation, 2020/21 defied expectations and as we head into Saturday’s clash with Leeds United, we are sat in eighth place, with two games in hand.

Most seem to agree we have been overperforming based on where we thought we’d end up this season, and with draws not really being our thing, we are clearly going through a sticky patch with very little consistency.

Our main issue is midfield, if they are in the game we are likely to win, if they don’t turn up, our defence does get overwhelmed. Many in the fanbase feel this is a natural consequence of where we are in our overall development as a squad – others feel it simply highlights Smith’s shortcomings as a coach and that he’ll never change, so somebody else would get more out of this group.

I don’t buy that, even though it’s obvious that Smith can still improve further himself.

Ahead of the campaign, the general consensus seemed to be anywhere around 10th place would be the improvement we all wanted to see, nobody was genuinely expecting us to be within touching distance of a potential return to European football and expectations within the fanbase have risen so dramatically that sitting in eighth place simply isn’t good enough for some now.

It’s a bizarre outlook when you consider our struggles last season, and the fact that we are a work in progress with hardly any depth.

Having punched above our weight this season, we haven’t been right in 2021, but games every three days after unknown side effects following the Covid outbreak and some players clearly not having refound their form yet – and we are still picking up points.

Smith, players, results, have we been found out? We’re in a slump, nothing more, nothing less.

Liverpool, Spurs, Southampton, Arsenal…we’re not the only ones who have had a noticeable wobble this season and whilst we can all point to games that should’ve ended differently, we’re still in a better position than we thought we’d be in at the start of the campaign.

What matters is how we come through this period and what we learn, so we can take the next step forward.

This is a season for hope and a ‘what if?’ after the opening half of the season, demands and expectations should however be tempered when you look at the squad as a whole.

I noticed this little exchange on our Vital Villa Dean Smith Forum Thread.

sirdennis:
Are teams not allowed a slump in form any more?.

Melon Donkey:
Clearly not.

I genuinely do not know what the expectation is. And by that I mean the season as a whole not just this period of games which seems to have frazzled peoples minds. Because if it’s above where we are and have been so far this season then I’m sorry, I think some are miles off in what they are expecting from this team of players. What we have done is far above what was expected. Surely? Clearly it’s not a good thing to have hit this position in the league because it has shifted expectations to an unreasonable level. I defy anyone to have said at the moment the final whistle went at West Ham that they wouldn’t be happy in 7 months to be sitting 8th, on 36 points and safe from relegation. Yet it seems some aren’t happy.

Just what are people’s expectations now?

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