Aston Villa will be expected to adopt a new tactical philosophy under Dean Smith, which could benefit the likes of Scott Hogan, Jack Grealish and more.
Words by Matt Blogg (@Blogg_Matt)
Over the last 3 seasons, Villa have been set up rather defensively, often sitting on leads and seeing games out as best they can. Last season it worked rather well, leaving us with the third best defensive record in the league, but it has punished us numerous times already this season, with the Reading and Preston games sticking out. However, a change of manager is certain to bring a change of philosophy, and Dean Smith was renowned at Brentford for playing attacking and free-flowing football, so should he bring this mindset to Villa Park, who is going to benefit the most?
The first player that springs to mind is Jack Grealish. This season he has been stuck doing too much dirty work and even spent a fair bit of time out wide, and we all know he is most effective straight through the middle. Dean Smith presumably knows this as well and will allow Grealish to really focus on his attacking play, giving him the opportunity to create more and add more goals to his game. An attacking philosophy doesn’t mean defensive duties are ignored, but he will be allowed to have more of a free-reign attacking role, giving him a better chance to have serious impacts on moments and games.
The second person is a man that has sparked a lot of debate during his time at Villa, and has come to the forefront of fans’ minds during this managerial change, and that is Scott Hogan. He was Brentford’s top scorer when we bought him from the Bees and hindered Dean Smith’s side’s promotion chances, so that relationship must be pretty good. Hogan knows the way Smith wants to play and Smith knows how to get Hogan firing. It looked as though Bruce had uncovered the secret to Scott Hogan during his purple patch in Villa’s 7 game unbeaten run last season, but that was short-lived, whereas Hogan had showed this form consistently for Brentford under Dean Smith, scoring 21 times in 33 games, which is a very respectable record. Compare that with 7 goals in 50 at Villa though, and it is clear he needs a change of system. Hogan has shown glimpses of serious ability so far, and I strongly believe Smith will not only start giving him consistent game time, but will also get him firing again and he could prove a huge player for us under the new boss.
Finally, I would have to mention the wingers. Under Bruce, the wingers had so much responsibility defensively that it hindered their attacking threat to an extent. Last season it all looked so rosy, with Adomah and Snodgrass both getting brilliant goal contribution stats for the season, but even in that minor game on May 26th, Bruce had shackled the wingers so tightly that they couldn’t have an effect on the game before half time, and by that point Fulham had their lead and were not going to squander it. So an attacking philosophy will certainly improve our threat out wide, as El Ghazi and Bolasie are two very dangerous wingers when given the opportunity to be, and with attackers filling the box at every opportunity like Dean Smith has had Neal Maupay doing so far this season, we will see a lot more goals.
A brief mention for Conor Hourihane too, because if he can get the goal contributions he does when he’s in a defensive side, just imagine the numbers he could produce with a serious attacking mindset. And similarly, we could see more attacking threat from John McGinn with a new philosophy brought in by Dean Smith, with more screamers on the cards.
It was certainly time for a change at Villa, and the change many fans wanted has happened. The team will take time to adjust, so we have to be patient, but when it all clicks, Aston Villa will be a serious force again.