Experience is paying off for Aston Villa says Dean Smith

Dean Smith believes the absence of Ross Barkley has created a chance for others to stake their claim for a regular place in Villa’s team.

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith

Barkley is set to miss at least the next two matches with a hamstring injury and Smith is pondering his options for tonight’s trip to West Ham, with Conor Hourihane and Bertrand Traore the most likely candidates to replace the Chelsea loanee.

Both have had to make do with places on the bench due to Barkley’s excellent form and Smith said: “Players aren’t stupid, they see a player get injured and see an opportunity.

“That’s what they have got now. It is a chance now for Bertrand, for Conor but also Marvelous (Nakamba), Jacob Ramsey and Anwar El Ghazi to see a spot in the team.

“They sniff that, certainly. It is difficult to change a team when players are performing well.”

Tonight sees Villa return to the venue where they secured survival on the final day of last season, yet on this occasion they are aiming to extend a 100 per cent record away from home this term.

Smith’s team, who failed to keep a clean sheet on their travels through the whole of last term, are still to concede on their travels.

He said: “I think confidence had been growing (away from home) last season and we have taken that into this one. The players felt that as well. I think we have more experience now of the Premier League and added quality to that squad. We are harder to beat.

“There have been some really good performances from the players but there has also been an incredible work ethic without the ball and organisation. That is what we wanted.

“When you have that organisation and the qualities we have got up front we have been able to go and take opportunities.”

With Barkley out, Jack Grealish will take a bigger share of the burden for orchestrating Villa’s attacks.

The skipper was the hero at the London Stadium back in July, scoring the goal which kept his club in the top flight.

But he insists those memories are already well in the past.

“I am not one of those people who thinks I have scored there so I will have another good game,” said Grealish.

“I can’t really because I had scored every time against Brighton before last weekend and had a blank against them.

“It is another game I will go into looking to build on goals and assists and the main thing is getting three points.

“I know in myself I have had a good start to the season and we know as a club we have too.

“If you had asked anyone at the start of the season if we would have been happy with 15 points after eight games we would have taken it. We have to build on it now.”

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