Villa lose 3-0 at Watford and Dave Woodhall ponders on decisions to be made.
One of the many strange things about football is that when a manager’s under pressure he can make some bizarre decisions. They usually involved picking teams that bear no resemblence to reality, or substitutions that defy all logic. If that’s the case with Dean Smith now, then regardless of results he must be under some serious pressure indeed.
For the game at bottom of the table Watford he decided to start Henri Lansbury, a player who has never shown much at this level, and Jota, whose limitations mean he’s best coming off the bench. Against a bottom of the table side who were almost honour-bound to battle for every ball, it was a line-up lacking in both physical presence and attacking flair.
The result was inevitable, as was the scorer of Watford’s first goal. Mistakes in defence gave Troy Deeney an opening and yet again Villa conceded at an important time in the match. There was no structure to the Villa’s play, no seeming idea of a game plan and certainly no acknowledgment of the reality now staring us in the face.
Other teams might have seen a glimmer of hope when the home side were reducing to ten men with over half an hour remaining, but Villa refuse to take advantage of such opportunities and instead conceded two more. There might have been an injustice as the first of these came when Matt Targett was down injured and there was definitely the hint of a foul in the build-up to Watford’s third, although neither should obscure the fact that this was yet another desperate performance from a side who are now wearing the haunted look of a team beaten before kick-off. The sight of Jack Grealish finally achieving what appeared to be his match-long ambiton to get booked in the closing stages summed up yet another dismal afternoon.
The Christmas period should have been the opportunity to kickstart the season; playing the three sides below us in the table was an ideal time to put some breathing space between them and us, with the added bonus that it might make Villa a more attractive proposition to any player we might fancy signing. Instead of the possible nine points we got three, and they came off the back of a performance that was almost as inept as the other two.
There are serious problems at Villa Park. The new signings aren’t making the improvement that was expected, some of the old stagers are in poor form and the manager seems gripped in the latter stages of inertia. That means some serious decisions have to be made.
If Smith is to remain, he has to be given money to spend and it has to be on players for the short-term rather than for some hypothetical project that could be derailed at any time before it comes to fruition. If the board have seen enough and think that he’s no longer the man for the job then that also has to be done quickly enough for a replacement to have the whole of the transfer window to work his magic. But whatever happens, and in whatever form new arrivals might take, they have to hit the ground running.