TOM COLLOMOSSE: Will Aston Villa be brave enough to shake things up?

TOM COLLOMOSSE: Dean Smith was a success at Aston Villa but his reign unravelled quickly… the owners expect more than this, but will they now be brave enough to appoint a boss who will shake things up?

  • Aston Villa sacked Dean Smith on Sunday after three years in charge of the club 
  • They have lost five games on the spin and are two clear of the relegation zone 
  • Villa co-owner Wes Edens believes the downward trend warranted axing Smith
  • It takes time to crack the top-flight code – their next appointment has to be right 

As long as you have the right information, Aston Villa co-owner Wes Edens believes, then ‘most of the decisions are pretty darn simple’.

In the last five weeks, the numbers were trending in the wrong direction for Dean Smith, who was sacked on Sunday after three years in charge.

Five defeats in a row was the worst sequence since Smith took over in October 2018 but that was far from the only alarming statistic. Villa have lost 18 games in the calendar year, a record matched only by Southampton – who beat Villa 1-0 on Friday in Smith’s final game.

Aston Villa sacked manager Dean Smith (pictured above) on Sunday after three years in charge

They let in 13 goals in their last five games, and have conceded 20 this season, compared with 46 in the whole of 2020-21. Even so, it is surprising how quickly things have unravelled. 

Not many managers can say that their final victory before the sack was against Manchester United at Old Trafford. It is only 43 days since Kortney Hause headed Villa to a 1-0 victory.

After the steady steps forward of last season, Villa expected more progress this term. It is fair to assume Edens, his co-owner Nassef Sawiris and chief executive Christian Purslow would accept another 11th place finish right now. The new boss will start against Brighton at Villa Park on September 20.

‘When Dean joined us in October 2018 our team was really struggling in the Championship,’ said Purslow. ‘He immediately transformed the atmosphere and performances and achieved the ultimate success of leading Villa back to the Premier League within the same season – a rare feat.

Villa co-owner Wes Edens (left) clearly believes the poor performances warrant sacking Smith

‘However, after a good start to the season, this year we have not seen the continuous improvement in results, performances and league position which we have all been looking for. For this reason we have decided to make a change now to allow time for a new head coach to make an impact.’

Nevertheless, Smith’s time at Villa should be judged a success. He took the club out of the Championship at the first time of asking, kept them up when all looked lost two seasons ago and then established the in the top flight last term.

He played a huge role in Jack Grealish’s development from a promising talent into a player worth £100million, while Tyrone Mings, John McGinn and Douglas Luiz also became international regulars on his watch. 

Grealish tweeted his thanks on hearing of Smith’s departure, writing ‘No1 will ever compare. The real goat (greatest of all time).’

It takes time to crack the Premier League code – Villa need to get their next appointment right

Smith lost his father, Ron, in May last year, during the first lockdown. In what must have been a hugely difficult time, he showed his ability as a coach during by turning Villa into a durable unit that took eight points from their final four games to stay up.

He was liked and respected by the players, particularly Grealish, who saw Smith almost as a second father. Smith can point to injuries, as he has been without Danny Ings, Leon Bailey, Douglas Luiz and Ollie Watkins at different points of the campaign, as well as having Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia unavailable.

Smith is collaborative by nature and developed a close relationship with sporting director Johan Lange, hired from FC Copenhagen in summer 2020. He also got on well with Purslow and the owners. Sometimes, though, clubs need a leader prepared to shake things up. Are Villa willing to embrace this?

Even for the wealthy, it takes time to crack the Premier League code – as Newcastle are discovering. Villa’s next appointment has to be the right one. 

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