To say it’s been a turbulent start to the season for Dean Smith and his Aston Villa side would be something of an understatement.
Having been beaten by newly-promoted Watford on the opening day of the season, many feared the worst.
A win over Newcastle steadied the ship, but a 2-0 loss at Chelsea soon set hearts racing among the Villa faithful once again.
But since then, Villa have managed to string together some form with wins against Everton and Manchester United giving fans optimism for the season to come.
The loss to Spurs just before the international break was disappointing but not a disaster and, ultimately, the team looks ready to kick on this season.
So what chance a European place come May?
“I think Dean Smith has done a great job,” The AVFC Faithful tells FansBet.
“Taking us from 15th in the Championship to top half in the Premier League is unmatched.
“As a result he overtakes Martin O’Neill as the best manager in my lifetime I’d say.”
It’s now three years since the lifelong Villa fan took over and since his arrival, the club have gained promotion from the Championship.
And the club now look a solid Premier League side having avoided relegation on the final day of the 2019/20 season.
He has revolutionised a club that looked to be going nowhere in the Championship when he arrived in 2018 and since then there has been year-on-year progress for one of English football’s true sleeping giants.
“As long as we keep progressing with the project then Dean will be Aston Villa manager,” says @AVFCFaithful_
“Progression is key. As soon as we lose that then of course he’s under pressure.”
The side continues to develop even after a seismic shift in the summer, including the departure of Jack Grealish, who exited Villa Park for Manchester City in a record-breaking £100 million deal.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Villa ended up being the Premier League’s fifth biggest spenders before the August deadline passed as they parted with £93million to bolster their squad.
Some of that cash was spent on Jamaica international winger Leon Bailey, who arrived from German outfit Bayer Leverkusen for £25million.
Bailey shone in the Bundesliga, scoring 28 goals and contributing a further 21 assists in 119 German top flight appearances.
Also arriving in the summer was Emiliano Buendia from Norwich City in a £38 million deal.
The winger was Smith’s No.1 target this summer and the Argentine struck his first in Villa colours in the 1-1 draw against his former side Brentford.
Completing the trio of newcomers was striker Danny Ings, with the England international signing a three-year deal after joining for an undisclosed fee from Southampton.
“Of course, replacing Jack was always going to be a big ask,” explains @AVFCFaithful_
“But I feel we are a better team this year; wins over United for example prove that, as that’s a game we definitely don’t win last year.
“We’re a better team and we will benefit when we have a full strength squad which we’ve failed to have all season, which is remarkable really.”
With their manager reportedly in discussions with the club over a new contract, most Villa fans will surely believe he is deserving of the new deal he requires to oversee the continuation of his long-term plan.
The team’s improvement has coincided with the evolution of Smith as a manager, too, who continues to display experience and composure through his judgement, tactics and decision making.
However, a challenge for a European space come the end of the season might just be a step too far in the eyes of @AVFCFaithful_.
“Personally I think it would be too much of a push,” he explains.
“It’s a rebuild season after the departure of our whole project so, as long as it’s an improvement on last season, which would be top half, I think it would be a successful season.”
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