Jack Grealish

Dean Smith: Aston Villa safety ‘feels better than going up’

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Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has an incredibly challenging couple of years, on and off the field.

A surprise hire from Brentford after Villa fired Steve Bruce in 2018, Smith led his childhood club to the Premier League last season.

Villa sat 11th after nine weeks of their first season back in the PL but took just two points from 10 matches between Feb. 1 and July 9. That stretch also included the coronavirus pause, which saw his father die of COVID-19 in late May.

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His father, Ron Smith, was a steward at Villa Park.

“I was brought up a Villa fan,” he said. “It is a proud moment and feels better than going up last season. It was a big change we had to make at the football club. We had to build a new team, a new squad. We used the pandemic to the best. I lost my father through that period and there was a lot of disappointment, but we knew we had to work hard.”

Villa took eight of the last 12 points available to gain another season of Premier League football.

Smith saw his guidance of the club questioned during the downtimes and had to answer plenty of questions about the status of club star Jack Grealish, who has been a transfer rumor mill mainstay for years.

So, of course, Smith was asked Sunday if he expected to see Grealish at Villa Park next season.

He replied with humor.

“I expect Jack Grealish to get drunk with me tonight… that’s all I can say. I will speak to the owners tomorrow.”

As for Smith’s standing with the players, it seems solid. Villa’s Irish mainstay Conor Hourihane has been with the club since 2017 and hopes for more with Smith next season.

“Dean’s been fantastic hasn’t he? Got us promoted last year and the job this year was to stay up and get us some momentum,” Hourihane said via the BBC. “Hopefully we can build on this and take it into next year. People wrote us off three or four weeks ago and we’ve come up trumps.”

Aston Villa strikes early, outlasts Arsenal, climbs out of bottom three

Aston Villa - Arsenal recap
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Aston Villa – Arsenal recap: Arsenal’s only route to Europe is the FA Cup and Aston Villa controls its Premier League destiny after Trezeguet fired the hosts to a scrappy 1-0 win at Villa Park on Tuesday.

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Villa’s good day makes Watford’s bad day worse. The Hornets’ 4-0 loss to Man City means they are in the bottom three with minus-27 goal differential to Villa’s minus-26. Bournemouth is three points back of both, also holding a minus-27 GD.

Arsenal’s 53 points means the club cannot finish any higher than eighth. Had Arsenal had won, it would’ve had hope of finishing seventh and guaranteeing a place in Europe. Now it’ll come down to the FA Cup Final.


Three things we learned

1. FA Cup only Arsenal path to Europe: Mikel Arteta’s men held out hope that a late hot run could propel them into the top seven and a place in the Europa League. A win over Liverpool stoked the fire, but Tuesday put it clear out (despite plenty of the ball at Villa Park). Arsenal maxes out at 56 points and can only make the Europa League by beating Chelsea in the FA Cup Final on Aug. 1. What a massive moment that will be for Mikel Arteta as he hopes to recruit reinforcements and convince Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stick around the Emirates Stadium.

2. Trezeguet only scores big goals: The Egyptian belted a sweet low drive home off a first-half corner kick to give Villa a lead. Trezeguet scored twice in a win over Crystal Palace on July 12 to snap a 10-match league winless run. He also authored the winner against Leicester City in the League Cup semifinal that sent the Villans to Wembley. Not a bad season of moments.

3. Villa comes together in a big way: Dean Smith didn’t celebrate Villa’s goal, much like he remained calm when the Villans went ahead against Everton. His calm demeanor matched the resolute nature of his team once it went ahead. No, it failed to find the insurance goal that would’ve made the night a bit easier to control but the Villans barely wavered despite giving almost 70 percent of the ball. Tyrone Mings wasn’t perfect but he combined with center back partner Ezri Konsa to make 13 clearances and block three shots while holding Arsenal without a shot on target.

Man of the Match

There’s no picking against Trezeguet, who might have the same stature in Birmingham as his namesake does in France.

Aston Villa – Arsenal recap

The most notable early incident saw an injury force Frederic Guibert into the mix in place of Ahmed Elmohamady.

Villa got another massive goal from Trezeguet, the Egyptian at the back to collect a flicked corner kick and smash a screened low shot past Emiliano Martinez on the near post side.

Eddie Nketiah was among the lively Gunners, though Douglas Luiz had another strong performance in handling Arsenal’s attackers over the first 45 minutes.

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Jack Grealish was lively and came close to a rocket goal. He also could’ve had an assist with a brilliant run to send young Keinan Davis into the box. Davis beat Martinez but could not slide his left-footed shot inside the far post.

Hearts were in Villan throats in the 77th when Nicolas Pepe headed a corner kick off the far post but Pepe Reina pulled the bouncing ball off the goal line.

Grealish then found McGinn outside the 18 for a well-hit shot that Martinez parried and Arsenal cleared.

Everton gets GDS goal to snare point from hard-luck Villa

Everton - Aston Villa recap
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The watch buzzed and Villa’s hearts sank, as stumbling Everton came back to take a point from Villa in a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park on Thursday.

Theo Walcott’s late header crossed the line just before Ezri Konsa could clear it, minutes after the Villa defender had given his club a dramatic late lead and hope of avoiding the drop.

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The point moves 19th-place Villa three back of Watford and West Ham, who play each other on Friday. Villa plays Arsenal and West Ham to complete its PL fixture list, and is also behind Bournemouth on goal differential.

Everton’s 46th point comes from its 10th draw. The Toffees need to win out and have Burnley lose out to finish top half.


Three things we learned

1. Konsa saves his best for first: Twenty-two year old center back Ezri Konsa’s first Premier League goal was an impactful one. The ex-Charlton and Brentford man lunged to redirect Hourihane’s free kick home late for a deserved goal as Villa dominated the shots totals. If he clawed Walcott’s equalizer off the line he’d be in line for possible pub grub naming in Birmingham.

2. Ancelotti’s summer-long headache: Legendary Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti knows he has his work cut out for him as the Toffees continued to wobble to the Premier League finish line. Realistically how many players can be expected to stay and start for Ancelotti next year? Richarlison, Mason Holgate, and Lucas Digne? Michael Keane, Seamus Coleman, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin? Surely there’s change coming to Goodison Park.

3. Who will Villa support on Friday? Villa is now three points back of West Ham and Watford before the two sides meet on Friday, and Dean Smith’s men will tangle with West Ham on the last day of the season. Does Villa root for a draw to keep both teams within focus or just go full-on anti-Irons? We’re betting the latter.

Man of the Match

Grealish and Konsa were both good but Douglas Luiz was a huge part of the win. He won all 10 of his duels for Villa, according to SofaScore, drawing three fouls and completing all four of his dribbles.

Everton – Aston Villa recap

Villa had some moments in the first dozen minutes including a Mohamed Elmohamady cross that was absent receiver in the 12th.

Another Elmohamady cross was popped over the bar by Mbwana Samatta in the 15th.

Everton then lost center back Mason Holgate to an apparent leg injury.

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Villa’s key man, no surprise, was Jack Grealish. The Villans aimed to find him on the left more often than not, and Grealish cut in for right-footed shots on multiple occasions.

Yet wit Grealish standing over a dead ball, the visitors would go ahead through Konsa’s flick of a Conor Hourihane-taken free kick to wrongfoot Jordan Pickford.

It should’ve been 2-0 off a delightful Grealish cross to the back post that Anwar El Ghazi chopped over the bar under pressure from a charging Pickford.

Andre Gomes set up Dominic Calvert-Lewin for an 86th-minute shot wide of the near post. It was foreshadowing, as Walcott’s looping header defying Reina and the flying boot of Konsa to ring as a goal on Anthony Taylor’s Goal Decision System watch.

Trezeguet gives Aston Villa hope in big win

Aston Villa - Crystal Palace recap
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Trezeguet scored twice to give Aston Villa new life in the relegation battle after a 2-0 defeat of Crystal Palace at Villa Park on Sunday.

It was Villa’s first Premier League win since a Jan. 21 home defeat of Watford, a run of 10 matches with just two draws.

The three points move Villa onto 30, four back of Watford and West Ham with three matches to play. Villa faces West Ham on the last day of the season.

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Palace loses its fifth-straight match and will be bitter that VAR took an early lead off the board in controversial fashion. Palace’s 42 points are 12 clear of the bottom three and eight off the top eight.

Ex-Villa man Christian Benteke was sent off after the final whistle.


Three things we learned

1. Game on: Dean Smith’s Villans needed this and will probably become the biggest Watford fans despite the Hornets status as one of two teams four points above them on the table. That’s because Watford faces West Ham and so does Aston Villa. With West Ham’s third match against Manchester United, that could clear the way for Villa should they manage a win against Everton or Arsenal. Of course that West Ham-Villa match is the final day of the season, so surely the Villans would sign up for being alive heading to London.

2. Trezeguet delivers big time: Look it’s always going to be weird that Egyptian international Trezeguet has the name of a former French international on his shirt despite no relation. It’s just gonna be that way. But no Villa fans care about that right now (sorry for the aside). The 25-year-old’s brace account for his first goals since a late Fall purple patch saw him score three in five Premier League outings.

3. Palace, Villa stand as one behind Zaha: While Palace striker Wilfried Zaha did have an on-field skirmish during the match, it was encouraging to see Palace boss Roy Hodgson and both clubs stand with him after the forward revealed vile overnight racial abuse. The battle is far from won, and anti-racial statements need to remain loud and promiment.

Man of the Match

Well it just has to be Trezeguet, right?

Aston Villa – Crystal Palace recap

Kourtney House was injured in warm-ups, and the early bad news was compounded when Pepe Reina collided with Jordan Ayew while coming out for a corner kick that Sakho shouldered over the line.

Yet the new “tee-shirt rule” must not yet apply, as VAR took the goal off the board.

Tyrone Mings and Wilfried Zaha needed to be separated in the 26th minute after Zaha tripped up Ezri Konsa near the end line. Both saw yellow cards, as did Sakho.

Villa went ahead in first half stoppage time, Conor Hourihane’s free kick deflected by a Palace player for Trezeguet’s back-post finish.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Grealish won a penalty within 70 seconds of halftime, hitting the deck after his quick plant move saw Patrick van Aanholt tread on his foot.

VAR saw that Grealish shouldn’t have been felled by the foul.

Vicente Guaita blocked a Villa chance off a 58th minute corner kick.

It was 2-0 within 30 seconds, Trezeguet quick to react to Hourihane’s hopeful header into the 18.

Hourihane ripped a shot that Guaita popped wide of the far post to keep it 2-0.

Substitute winger Andros Townsend chipped to the back post in the 77th minute but Christian Benteke couldn’t get his header on target.

Pogba, Fernandes lead Manchester United over Aston Villa

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Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba are loving life.

Heck, all of Manchester United is feeling mighty good after the Red Devils won yet another game with ease, this one a 3-0 defeat of Aston Villa at Villa Park on Thursday.

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Fernandes had a goal and an assist, joining Mason Greenwood and Pogba on the score sheet in a cruise past the relegation-threatened Villans.

United moves six points ahead of sixth-place Wolves and within a point of fourth-place Leicester City. The two sides meet to finish the Premier League season, and the Red Devils will meet Southampton, Crystal Palace, and West Ham before that.

Villa is four points behind safety and still meets Palace, Everton, Arsenal, and West Ham.


Three things we learned

1. Bruno and Pogba unfair: The are systems that will make Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba work a whole lot harder than what’s demanded by Aston Villa, of course, but don’t let that deter you from witnessing the special combination play between the Portuguese midfielder and his World Cup-winning French teammate. Fernandes had a goal and an assist, the latter a training ground routine that Pogba scored with class, and United looks a new team. No team has benefited more from the break than United.

2. He’s got the look: The stories out of the Manchester United training ground have been coming for years and we’re now getting an eyeful of what they’ve been promising about Mason Greenwood. The 18-year-old strikes a ball like it’s his job, or even better like he’s an artisan. Few players on earth possess a way about them that the ball’s path off their foot just looks different. His strike to beat Pepe Reina was absolutely marvelous and we can’t wait to see what he does in the future.

3. Villa through the ugly stretch (hopefully): Dean Smith’s men have tried to escape the drop zone by getting points against a rough stretch of opponents and it has not gone well. Draws against Sheffield United and Newcastle have been joined by losses to Chelsea, Wolves, Liverpool, and now Manchester United. Villa finds itself four points adrift with four opponents to play: Palace, Everton, Arsenal, and West Ham. There are points there. Will Villa take them?

Man of the Match:

Fernandes — The way he won his penalty was unsavory but that doesn’t change his status as the best player on the pitch.

Aston Villa – Manchester United recap

Jack Grealish missed a back-post chance to give the hosts an early lead, as United was a bit uneven over the opening 20 minutes.

VAR helped United to a penalty soon after that, won and converted by Fernandes off Ezri Konsa.

United had a chance to double the lead in the 36th minute when Mason Greenwood got past Douglas Luiz to pump a hard shot saved by Pepe Reina.

Fernandes missed with a bullet header in the 45th minute off a Luke Shaw cross, but United scored just before halftime when Greenwood took an Anthony Martial layoff and blasted a shot past Reina. He has such a sweet stroke.

Pogba made it 3-0 with a tremendous strike in the 58th minute, Fernandes spotting the Frenchman above the arc and Villa giving him ages to address the ball.

Martial smashed the ball off the bottom of the bar at the hour mark, United threatening to put a cartoonish figure on the scoreboard..