During the summer, Dean Smith’s Premier League philosophy was laid out in Minnesota in front of fans. Manchester City will provide the first true test of that.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
During Christian Purslow’s pre-season question and answer session in Minnesota this summer, the CEO of Aston Villa football club outlayed a basic philosophy of Dean Smith’s, stating that the boss will “not go away to Manchester City and try and play for a nil-nil” before continuing on and saying “Dean thinks we should win every game of football – if they score three, we’ll score four.”
That day has come sooner than fans would have liked, with Aston Villa travelling to the Etihad Stadium next weekend for an early kick-off against second-placed Manchester City who are fresh off the back of a 2-0 win against Crystal Palace, and will have played a Champions League game midweek against Serie A side Atalanta.
And whilst Dean Smith’s men have already faced two teams considered to be amongst the Premier League’s ‘elite’, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, these two sides have experienced somewhat lopsided starts to their season. Despite this, and despite losing both games, Aston Villa ‘stuck it to the man’ as it were, continuing with his philosophy.
The two games saw Aston Villa take the lead and hold it for 70 minutes before capitulating under the pressure against Spurs, and take the lead twice before being pegged back to a disappointing 3-2 loss against Arsenal.
But the key thing here is that Aston Villa, for the most part, didn’t shirk under the pressure of playing a big team, and actively sought out a strong result against both of them.
Some may say that there is no better time to face Manchester City. They have lost to fellow promoted side Norwich City – who Aston Villa beat 5-1 just two games ago – and were beaten by a counter-attacking masterclass against Wolves late into the affair.
They hosted a makeshift defence of Rodri and Fernandinho against Crystal Palace, which required the likes of Raheem Sterling to track back and make crunching, decisive tackles in his own box. John Stones is on the way back from injury, but as fans of the England national team know well, the centre-back has a error in him.
Make no mistake, Dean Smith’s Aston Villa will have to be at their best against Manchester City to walk away with anything from the game, despite the troubles that the reigning Premier League champions have faced thus far this season. It will likely fall on the shoulders of individuals more than a collective effort if Aston Villa leave Manchester with a point or three.
Speaking to the Express and Star, goal scorer Matt Targett insisted that Aston Villa aren’t just going to roll over at the Etihad.
“We will go there and take them on – the manager has said that already.”
“We respect them, they are the champions, but we will go there and try to beat them.”
“It has been done before, by Wolves, so that gives us confidence.”
Regardless of the result, don’t let the metrics fool you. Villa will struggle for possession, and they’ll likely struggle to get attempts on to goal too.
But watch closely, and you might just see the philosophy pay off.