Ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Villa Park, we spoke to Mike Field of Vital Villa about our opponents. Read on to see how they’ve reacted to Dean Smith coming in, and who can be in the frame for them tomorrow.
How would you rate your season so far?
A complete disappointment really, but given all the off-pitch issues at Villa, that disappointment isn’t doom and gloom for me as it feels like we are finally moving in the right direction again. We seem stable off the pitch with people who know what they are doing, by no means are we there yet, but on the pitch we are showing signs of finally forming an identity that might be pleasing on the eye – as well as productive – as opposed to approach games with a ‘safety first’ approach. It feels quite light at the moment even though we’re on the back of two straight defeats.
What are your early impressions of Dean Smith, and has he made any key changes?
I was a fan of his style and Brentford largely have turned us over since we dropped into the Championship, I just didn’t expect our new owners to go for a gaffer with such a lack of experience, as the phrase goes. The main thing we’ve seen so far in terms of changes is we are upping the tempo and looking to be on the front foot which is a massive difference from how we are used to being set up. He hasn’t ripped up the rulebook yet so to speak, but the key change appears to be attitude and approach so far and it’s gone over extremely well with the majority I would say.
How do you expect to set up tactically on Friday?
There’s some discussion about whether or not this will be the game where Smith takes a closer look at some of our highly rated Under-23 players, as a number missed out on their last game. Whether he does a pivot in that direction or not, I would imagine the shape and formation will be similar to what we’ve seen so far as he continues to assess the players. It’ll largely be a 4-4-1-1 I would think and I wouldn’t expect our approach to be any different from QPR for example – we’ll just hope we’re slightly more clinical this time!
Who is your one player to look out for?
For many, Jack Grealish hasn’t lived up to his form of last season, but 99% of our play still appears to go through him, and although we haven’t quite taken advantage of it yet in my mind, the more you watch Jack, the less you’ll be watching John McGinn. Our game will hinge on one of those two more likely than not.
And finally, score prediction?
My initial answer says 3-1 to us as I think there will be a reaction to our QPR disappointment. What I can’t tell you is whether that comes from my brain or sheer hope.
Meanwhile, I returned the favour and you can read their piece with me here