In Dean Smith’s first match since completing his third anniversary with the club, this was about as a disastrous result as you could get. Adding to the fact it was a Midlands derby, albeit not to the level of playing The Blues, it certainly felt like an extra kick to the proverbial gonads.

So what were the five things we learnt from arguably one of the most perplexing and soul destroying defeats we’ve had to date?

Mental Capitulation!

I don’t know where to begin with what I witnessed during this match. We certainly weren’t fluid throughout the game and patchy at times, but when 2-0 ahead with ten minutes left against a team that offered next to nothing for the first eighty minutes, this should have been as routine as a walk in the park. It’s just a shame the team took this phrase literally and capsized during their stroll.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, but when we took the lead, we seemed to drop our intensity, which was epitomised by Mings casually lumping the ball in the air to no one in particular, almost as if to say ‘we’ve won this, onto the next game’. There was still twenty minutes to play! Matty Cash going off with an injury was also a factor. As soon as he came off, they scored, and the catastrophic performance ensued. Let’s hope this is just an anomaly and not a sign of things to come.

International breaks are farcical!

I cannot make excuses, as this seemingly sounds like it, but these International breaks could put a crimp in our season. It was understandable for Smith to take off Luiz and put on the very dependable Nakamba.

Dean Smith purely did this because Luiz and Martinez had only arrived in Birmingham a few hours before the game from their exploits for Brazil and Argentina respectively. Luiz is so composed on the ball, and when he left, we lost the plot in the latter part of the match.

If it wasn’t for FIFA’s desperation to host another Copa America for their financial gains, they should have scrapped it, taking into account COVID. Unlike the Euros, which is set every four years, there is no formal structure with the South American equivalent. Therefore they could have used the schedule to have these World Cup qualifiers during the summer instead and avoided the ridiculous scenes seen in September between Brazil and Argentina.

If we witness a similar type of defeat when we play Brighton after the International break in November, this will undoubtedly have more validity, so I hope it doesn’t come to fruition, and it’s just clutching at straws!

Magnificent Mcginn

I’m taking a break from the negativity and giving credit to the brilliant John Mcginn. He was terrific throughout the match, and his value is undoubtedly increasing game by game. His incredible ability to hold off a player and spin away from them before they’ve even blinked is exceptional. He did this a couple of times before producing the same pirouette, followed by an exquisite cross with his weaker right foot for Danny Ings to meet on a sixpence.

He then went from provider to goalscorer. There was a slight hint of fortune about the finish itself as it took a deflection off Neves. Wrong-footed Sa (the damn irony of this is sickening!), but the awareness to get to the ball first from Watkins blocked shot and the confidence to hit it first time from outside the area, was luck earned; there is a difference! Mcginn is essential for us, and I do not doubt if he continues to perform this way, he will be on the winning side far more often.

Tactical Tweaks

Our tactics appeared to be working so well; if only football were the length of a rugby match, we would be lauding praise on the coaches and players. I will be a non-conformist and focus on what I witnessed before the zombie virus plagued our first eleven.

I was enjoying what I saw on the whole. Danny Ings’ work rate was incredible, and he got us out of trouble on a couple of occasions, from what I can recall. This ensured Wolves’ attacks were broken up, and we breathed a sigh of relief. I also found it particularly interesting when Konsa and Mings would, from a fan’s perception, randomly sprint towards the final third of the opposition half when Wolves were in possession in an attempt to win the ball higher up, which if successful could have ended with us scoring. This was my assumption anyway, and it looked innovative, perhaps implemented by Aaron Danks, who was brought in to improve our attacking cohesion.

As the season takes shape we’ll see if the tactical nuances from our new coaching team will not only provide us with more goals but allow us to strike the balance for our usually robust defence.

Smith In!

This doesn’t need to be stipulated, but as Twitter is a place to find many unsavoury comments on the man who has done so much for this club and never gets the kind of recognition he should, it’s time to remind fans; what he has done! He took over during a hostile time (we all know about cabbage gate!). He led us to promotion from the Championship within seven months, kept us in the league in his first season and took us to 11th place in his second spell in the Premier League. The 55 points accumulated would have ordinarily achieved a top-half finish when looking at preceding seasons, so this also has to be considered.

There have been moments of luck along the way, but there is no doubt Smith is a progressive manager who is always looking to find ways to help develop the team collectively and individually. The reason we lost this match was nothing to do with Smith. Enforced substitutions had to be made, and players neglected the fundamentals of their responsibilities. It has been a highly successful three years for ‘Don’ Smith, and this should never be forgotten, come what may.

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to read this piece. If you enjoyed it please leave a comment or message me on my twitter handle, @Villa4LifeAlex.

Until next time, this is Alex signing off, UTV!


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