Here we are then at the dawn of a new year. New year, new Villa? Or same old, same old?
We’re just over halfway through another season, our third in the Championship, and we find ourselves clinging on to the coat tails of the playoff places. We came out of a very tricky period throughout late November and December relatively unscathed, with impressive away wins at Middlesbrough and Derby, a handball away from seeing off West Brom and losing only to Leeds United in the 95th minute.
Not too shabby, but we didn’t make a huge impression on the teams above us in terms of reeling them in, but we are still more than in touch with 20 games to go and a transfer window in which Dean Smith might finally have the opportunity to bring in some players of his own. At the very least, we can strengthen the obvious problem areas of left-back and centre-back.
But our progress has stalled of late with key injuries to Jack Grealish and Axel Tuanzebe, arguably our two best performers apart from Tammy Abraham. Ah, Tammy. Tammy, Tammy, Tammy. Subject of intense press speculation that he will be recalled by Chelsea and sent to Wolves, rejected by Dean Smith but not, notably, by the player himself.
There is a suggestion that he can’t go anywhere else, having represented two clubs already this season (see the Hatem Ben Arfa situation) but as things stand, this hasn’t been confirmed either way.
So, what if he does go? Well, he’s not ours and Chelsea have the right of recall and to do what they wish. We’ve done the same with Jed Steer and Tommy Elphick, so “people in glass houses” and all that.
We have options up front. Jonathan Kodjia’s preferred (and perhaps natural) position is through the middle, so I would imagine, now he seems over his terrible injuries, he’d be happy to be restored to the role which brought him 19 goals in his first season at B6.
Scott Hogan is also fit again, but certainly not firing. I had very high hopes when he arrived, but his spell has been abysmal in pretty much every respect. Injuries have arrived far more regularly than goals, and perhaps it would have been better for all concerned if he’d had his front gates fitted by the same company who installed Ross McCormack’s.
Ah, the Curious Case of Ross McCormack. Fell out with Bruce, was shipped off to Australia where he rediscovered some kind of form and has now been recalled. And promptly sent off on loan to Motherwell. I am slightly surprised that Dean Smith hasn’t taken a closer look at him, but obviously the relationship with the club is beyond repair and it is probably better to cut our losses and move him on.
At this early stage of the January window, it’s impossible to say how things will progress or end up – the press speculation has been shown to be largely nonsense. Neil Maupay (from Brentford) has been linked – lazy journalism with DS raiding his former club, or a good fit should Abraham depart? The Kourtney Hause rumours refuse to die, with the Telegraph’s John Percy reporting he is in-bound on loan today.
— John Percy (@JPercyTelegraph) January 7, 2019
Whatever happens, despite noise on social media in the wake of another poor FA Cup performance, Dean Smith has done exceptionally well with the squad of misfits he inherited from Steve Bruce. After all, he has barely been in the job three months. The very least he deserves is a summer transfer window and pre-season with HIS players. Any business he can do during January will be a bonus.
We also have a number of very winnable fixtures coming up, and with Grealish not expected to return until February (and perhaps waving goodbye to our leading scorer), the rest of the players need to put the Swansea disappointment behind them and show we are not a one-man band.
I will back Dean Smith to extract fresh energy and better performances from the players going forward, and I’d be surprised if we didn’t do a repeat of last season and go on a run following an FA Cup shocker (last season against Peterborough).
UTV!! In Deano we trust!