At Aston Villa, it’s not a case of make or break this season. We’re just starting the process we should have done three seasons ago.
Words by Harry Trend (@HazaTrand)
Things have turned a little sour at Aston Villa recently. With just two wins in ten it seems play-off hopes, while still there, are fading – the Pride are now four points off sixth placed Bristol City who also have a game in hand. Here’s why we should welcome the prospect of spending another season in the Championship.
Firstly let’s look at the adversities. Steve Bruce left Villa with a mess of a squad, loaning out Tommy Elphick to leave just two senior centre-backs, not to mention the expensive but fruitless loan signings of Yannick Bolaise and Andre Moreira.
Thus, Dean Smith needs time to repair the damage and build his own team capable of his tactical demands. Yes, he brought in five senior players in January, but these things don’t happen overnight. To use Liverpool as an example, it’s taken Jurgen Klopp until his fourth season to admit he’s got the squad he wants in order to challenge in the Premier League.
Clearly Smith doesn’t wield the financial power that Klopp has due to fair play restrictions, but arguably he doesn’t need it. In preparation for his first full season at the Brentford, Smith brought in 18 players, each one for less than £5 million to execute his exciting style of passing football.
If Villa went up this season Smith wouldn’t be able to do that, his hand would be forced and Villa would most probably have to bring in experienced Premier League journeymen. If he did bring in a raft of players into England’s top tier, the probability is it’d be too much too soon and we’d go straight back down – much like we’re seeing with Fulham this season.
At the end of this campaign the likes of Alan Hutton, Glenn Whelan and Mile Jedinak will all see their contracts run out. This’ll give youngsters like Callum O’Hare, Jake Doyle-Hayes and Rushian Hepurn-Murphy to impress in pre-season and hopefully make it into the squad come the opening match of 2019-2020. This scenario is much more probable in the Championship and a focus on youth is always the better option in the long term.
Jack Grealish is the main asset Villa may lose for failing promotion. Joe Lolley is one of the names being touted as his replacement.
While reaching the play-offs on current form is unlikely, by no means should it be ruled out. Strong comparisons have been made between this season and 2016-17, where Villa’s promotion flame burned out before the New Year and the Pride ended up finishing a lowly 13th. However, after thirty games in that season we sat 16th with 30 points, whereas currently we’re 9th with 43.
To conclude, this isn’t a “we should give up on promotion” cry, but more a reminder to back your players in claret and blue if the results don’t come or a player tries a new thing and doesn’t achieve what he intended. After all, sometimes you’ve got to take two steps back to take one forward.