It seems that right now, Dean Smith can do no wrong. Even in the face of a pretty crushing loss on opening day against Tottenham Hotspur - there’s no major doubt in the fanbase towards his clear abilities. You never get the feeling that Dean Smith isn’t in control.
Even when we all noticed the lineup and saw that the player of pre-season (if there was ever such a thing) Frederic Guilbert was left out - you knew it was for a reason. Dean’s eventual explanation - that he wanted two defenders (with the utility man Ezri Konsa taking Guilbert’s spot), two midfielders and two forwards works well enough. He clearly opted for Ahmed Elmohamady to start at right-back because of the presence of Trezeguet, and the pair connected well enough to warrant the decision. While the decision can be questioned, it’s not like it ever turns out to be an arbitrary coin-flip decision (like the one Steve Bruce made today when selected the Newcastle bench, placing on four defenders to cover two places). Dean knows his stuff.
His change of plan for Villa was a necessary change. Facing a posession hungry Tottenham, Villa wouldn’t be able to play in their usual style. The high-line faded, and the squad relied too heavily on a press that eventually destroyed their energy levels, but apart from sitting back there was no other way for the side to play. Dean’s Villa waited for a counter - and then countered. Tottenham saw this coming and in the second half they hoovered up the ball and made Villa hunt them down, expending energy.
Eventually, it ended 3-1 and the scoreline seems so much worse than it was. Villa burst into a counter to take the lead and almost performed another moments after through Jack Grealish and Trezeguet. Tom Heaton, Engels and Tyrone Mings kept Villa in the game - but the Tottenham goals were always coming. Villa’s midfield faded after chasing the ball all game and collapsed away, giving Spurs avenues to create chances. That can’t be helped.
Even when facing a dominant Spurs, Villa’s individual defenders were able to step up and prove themselves. Engels and Mings set themselves up for a siege and on another day may have kept Villa in the points.
Dean Smith knew where it went wrong - and it was in that midfield. The effort expended to regain the ball was ultimately wasted and he knows that his side must spend more time on the ball to conserve energy. They’ll change things up slightly for Bournemouth, but this loss provides some valuable information - and was a good test for Villa.
Ultimately, there are far too many positives stemming from a 3-1 defeat for Villans to condemn the loss. Villa gave a good account of their abilities on the biggest stage. They look like they belong - and so does Dean Smith who has earned his shot at the Premier League. There are no points on the board yet - but soon enough, there will be.