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Dean Smith’s tactics at Aston Villa. What went right, and where did it go wrong?

Eduard Bănulescu

Dean Smith has been relieved of his duties as manager of Aston Villa. He leaves behind an enviable legacy and plenty of fans. Here are the tactics that he employed in his time with the Villans, and how it all unraveled for one of last season’s most interesting managers in the Premier League.

Dean Smith’s record with Aston Villa

Dean Smith has been fired as manager of Aston Villa after a 1-0 defeat to Southampton. Smith’s side had lost all of their previous 5 EPL fixtures. Still, there are plenty of highlights to look back on during the former manager’s time.

Dean Smith took charge of Aston Villa when the team was in 14th place in the Championship. He won a promotion with the club at the expense of Derby County. Villa manages to avoid relegation from the Premier League on the last day of the 2019/20 season. Smith then took them to 11th place on the strength of many praised performances. He leaves the team in 16th place, 2 points over the relegation zone.

Dean Smith’s tactics during his spell at Aston Villa

dean smith aston villa

We wrote about Dean Smith’s Aston Villa tactics. Not a lot has changed in his approach. However, after losing his best player, Jack Grealish, at the start of the season, and dealing with a number of injury issues Villa’s performance shave taken a sharp decline.

Here are a number of traits that characterized Dean Smith’s tactical approach:

  • Smith was highly praised for his man-management skills, often managing to improve the quality of individual players.
  • His teams praised hard-work and intensity
  • Usually chose to line-up in a modern 4-2-3-1 formation. This can change to a robust 4-4-2, or a 4-4-1-1
  • Aston Villa liked to press high up the pitch, and exploit the moments when they win back posession
  • Attackers are encouraged to press tirelessly, and posession is often recycled to the wings

What went wrong for Dean Smith this season?

Some have pointed out that Smith isn’t actually far away in terms of points from Aston Villa’s objective, a mid-place finish. Furthermore, each of the last five defeats in themselves is not a disaster. There are a number of factors that affected the team negatively:

  • The team lost their best player, Jack Grealish, during this summer. He was transferred to Manchester City
  • The budget accumulated from Grealish’s transfer was spent on players like Danny Ings, Leon Bailey, or Emiliano Buendia. All are fine players, but have yet to fully integrate into Villa’s tactics. Furthermore, Ings and Bailey have sustained injuries
  • Villa’s efficient pressing of old is no longer a surprise to opponents. Smith’s tactics were read well, and opponents acted accordingly
  • With morale sinking, Villa’s players often conceded from individual errors. Poor marking, and lack of concentration were regualrly the culprits.

Dean Smith is a beloved former manager of Aston Villa. It now remains to be seen who will replace him and whether they will be able to outdo Smith’s excellent record.

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