There’s a lot of positivity in and around Aston Villa currently and rightly so, but an exciting part of it is that we’ve not yet reached our full potential.
Villa are fresh from securing a win over Man Utd at Old Trafford at the weekend, as we’ve now moved ourselves up into eighth place in the Premier League table with our first win at the home of the Red Devils since 2009.
While it’s important not to get too far ahead of ourselves, the way in which we’ve gone through the gears in recent weeks as our squad edges closer to getting back to full strength is undoubtedly a major positive.
There are countless positives to assess off the back of that win in Manchester, but there are also four key areas in which Villa can still improve and become an even more competitive side.
Watkins, Ings partnership
There’s a lot of quality between the pair, but their understanding and chemistry on the pitch when playing as a two up top hasn’t yet clicked.
While their work-rate and commitment can’t be faulted, such is the level of their pressing and tracking back to defend from the front, it’s their ability to work together and offer an attacking threat which hasn’t quite worked thus far.
Watkins is still waiting for his first Premier League goal of the season, while Ings has gone four league games without one. In turn, as they continue to learn how to get the best out of each other, it’s hoped that this becomes a prolific partnership over time.
Buendia still finding his feet
The 24-year-old Argentine appeared to enjoy a breakthrough with his brilliant goal against Brentford, but soon after that he reported for international duty and was away for around three weeks.
He has since played a total of 12 minutes in our last three league outings, and particularly with the system switch to a 3-5-2, it’s been difficult for him to slot straight back in.
It’s unclear how he fits into that formation and who would be dropped for him, but he’ll no doubt have a big role to play for us this season and we’ll see the quality he brings as the year progresses.
Injured players and those lacking full fitness still to come
Whether it’s Leon Bailey, Morgan Sanson or Bertrand Traore, there are still a number of players in the squad who are either currently sidelined by injury or still working towards full match fitness.
We’ve seen what Bailey can bring to the table against Everton, while Sanson was impressive before having to come off at Chelsea and Traore showed last season that he can provide bags of technical quality and creativity to our attack.
Add these players into the mix, and Villa and Smith will be in an even stronger position in the coming months.
Youngsters ready to make impact
Jacob Ramsey has now solidified his position in the team, while Cameron Archer, Carney Chukwuemeka and Jaden Philogene-Bidace are very much now part of the group.
Smith has done a brilliant job of developing and improving a whole host of Villa players since he arrived at the club, and he’ll no doubt do the same with that quartet.
In turn, as they grow in confidence and belief, they will hope to make a more decisive impact when involved and that will certainly help turn games for us late on and give us more impetus going forward.