Aston Villa secured a coup by landing Dean Smith as their new manager, luring the 47-year-old away from their Championship rivals. The Villans made the decision to sack Steve Bruce following their last-gasp draw against Preston North End, with the club languishing in the bottom half of the table. Thierry Henry and Rui Faria were linked with the post before the Midlands side were able to agree a compensation package with the Bees for Smith, who opted to leave his post at Griffin Park despite their strong start to the campaign.
Former Villa defender John Terry agreed to become Smith’s number two after announcing his retirement from the game. The changes did not end there as Jesus Garcia Pitarch joined as sporting director, giving the club a completely different backroom operation from the team that was beaten in the Championship play-off final last season. Although Villa have endured an underwhelming start to the term, they remain only three points off the playoff places and have the quality in the squad to vie for automatic promotion to the Premier League. The Midlands club are backed in the latest Championship betting odds at 5/1 to end their exile from the top flight. Smith does face a challenge getting his talented squad on the same page with the team seemingly lacking cohesion.
The 47-year-old worked his magic at Brentford to get his team to punch above their weight in the Championship. He took the reins from Mark Warburton in 2015 and guided the club to three top-half-finishes. Smith was forced to contend with losing many of his key players during his three years at Griffin Park. James Tarkowski, Scott Hogan, David Button, Harlee Dean, Jota, Florian Jozefroon and Ryan Woods were just some of the talent was to leave the Bees. However, Smith always managed to find replacements to suit his system and play attractive football.
Brentford arguably played the best football outside of the Premier League in England during Smith’s reign. He was unafraid to deploy his team in an attacking manner, playing a possession-based game in the opponent’s half of the field. It did, however, lead to defensive problems, which may have cost them a run at the playoffs in his three years, conceding over 60 goals in two of three terms. On the surface it does not look like Smith’s style will provide an immediate solution to Villa’s woes. The Villans have only kept one clean sheet this term in their 12 matches. Their last outing was a humbling 2-1 defeat to Millwall on the road, with the home side coming from behind to secure the win after Tammy Abraham opened the scoring.
Smith’s style could bring out the best in Jack Grealish. Villa worked extremely hard to keep their star man at the club over the summer. He’s not rewarded them yet with outstanding performances on the pitch, but given the ethos of their manager, that could well change in the future. The next eight months will be a huge challenge for Smith, but should he work his magic, his team could well be lining up in the Premier League rather than the second tier for the start of the next campaign.