Aston Villa: What went wrong for Dean Smith?

Dean Smith’s time at Aston Villa is over

Dean Smith was sacked by Aston Villa on Sunday after three years in charge.

Smith, who led the club back to the top flight, has paid the price for the team’s disappointing form this season with Villa having lost their last five games.

Friday’s 1-0 defeat at Southampton proved the final act for Smith, that result leaving the side with just 10 points from their opening 11 games.

His dismissal on Sunday was the second of the weekend in the Premier League after Daniel Farke left bottom side Norwich on Saturday.

Smith, a lifelong Villa fan, had been in charge for three years. The former Brentford boss took over with the club 15th in the Championship in October 2018.

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He led them to promotion via the play-offs in his first season and then went on to keep them in the Premier League, and reach the Carabao Cup final, the following year.

They finished 11th last season but lost star player Jack Grealish to Manchester City in the summer and have been unable to build on their recent progress this term.

Here, we look at why the club acted and what the factors behind the decision were.

Why now?

They have lost their last five matches but Villa’s results have been in decline during 2021 and the club decided to act. Villa have lost 19 of 38 games in all competitions this calendar year so it was not a decision just based on the last month.

Is it fair?

Smith helped return Villa to the Premier League after taking over when they were mid-table in the Championship They were a broken club but he has revived them and arguably deserved more of a chance to turn their form around, especially after their summer spending. Smith still leaves with the goodwill of the fans intact, rare for a manager in these times.

How much did Jack Grealish’s transfer impact Smith’s chances?

Grealish’s exit was always likely, despite Villa’s best efforts to keep their home-grown captain. He was integral to any success on the pitch, highlighted by his £100million release clause which Manchester City eventually triggered. He missed three months towards the end of last season with a shin injury and Villa won just three games without him.

Did Villa replace Grealish effectively?

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Villa spent big on Emi Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings as Grealish’s replacements but Smith was unable to fully utilise them. They played just 35 minutes together thanks to injury and Covid quarantine issues, meaning Smith never had a full-strength side. Record £38million buy Buendia was forced to miss games after his controversial trip to Argentina for international duty in September while Bailey and Ings have both had injury issues.

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