Dean Smith has given two interviews during lockdown and, on each occasion, has lamented Aston Villa’s transfer policy. The head coach banged the “wanted Premier League experience drum” loudly during sit-down chats with club media and Sky Sports. Smith wanted battle-hardened players from the Championship and Premier League, but couldn’t get what he wished for.
Dean Smith said: “You look back and you think in hindsight would we have done anything differently? We’d have probably wanted a lot more experience of the Premier League but, at that time, we couldn’t get it. It was either too expensive or unobtainable, so we did the business that we did.”
Smith’s critique set off alarm bells as it’s evidently clear he hasn’t been too impressed with the performances of this season’s Villa recruits.
Dean Smith said “You really need to stay in the Premier League for two, three years to be able to get a strong, experienced squad. The players, after the novelty of the Premier League, have found out what the Premier League is all about. Now, this little break can allow us to reset and know the standards – physically and tactically – we have to get to.”
Smith name-dropped one summer buy during his interviews and that was Tom Heaton. The manager wasn’t keen on going into a Premier League season with Jed Steer and was desperate to get a wily old head in between the sticks and identified Heaton from the get-go. The boss worked with Ezri Konsa and Jota previously and would have no doubt welcomed the signings knowing exactly what he was getting. Bjorn Engels is another player Smith knew well. He wanted the Belgian at Brentford and had been a long-term admirer. So it leaves record-buy Wesley, Douglas Luiz, Trezeguet, Marvelous Nakamba and Matt Targett as players Smith was push towards signing by his transfer guru Pitarch, more commonly known as Suso. In January, it was Suso who was called in to help patch up injuries. The Spaniard recruited fellow compatriots Pepe Reina and Borja Baston – who have the same agent – as well as Danny Drinkwater and Mbwana Samatta, the latter again from his strong contacts in Belgium.
With 10 games left to go if/when football resumes, the gamble to go unknown still hangs in the balance. Villa do, though, have their fate in their own hands – even at this critical stage in the season. If they win their game in hand they’ll leapfrog three teams to sit 16th. Smith has called out his players on numerous occasions – none more so than at Southampton in February – and now he needs them on-side more than ever if Villa are to survive. You get the feeling the way he bemoaned not getting what he wanted last summer in two separate interviews was an excuse for a reprieve if it ever did go Pete Tong and Villa were relegated. What his remarks did do is beg this simple question: is Smith pointing the finger for a pretty abject season at somebody else’s door? Quite possibly.
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