Smith on Buendia and Villa signings, Watkins role and formation flexibility

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has been discussing the signing of Emiliano Buendia and where Ollie Watkins will play in an exciting new-look attack.

Despite the disappointment of losing our now former influential captain Jack Grealish this summer, Villa’s signings have helped maintain the sense of excitement and optimism heading into the new Premier League campaign.

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Emiliano Buendia, Ashley Young, Leon Bailey, Danny Ings and Axel Tuanzebe have all arrived thus far, while it remains to be seen if further additions are made to fill the void left behind by Grealish, as well as to strengthen the squad as a whole.

In terms of replacing the creativity and attacking threat that our former skipper provided us with, Buendia and Bailey will play key roles in the final third to ensure we’re a more dynamic and well-rounded attacking unit, while Ings wasted little time showing his class after scoring in his first Villa appearance at the weekend in the pre-season game against Salernitana.

Naturally, like all of us Smith was disappointed to see Grealish leave too, but he covered various other topics in his interview with Sky Sports, including the thinking behind the signing of Buendia as well as a major hint over where he sees Watkins playing this season amid ongoing talk that he could be forced out on to the left flank following the arrival of Ings.

Smith on Grealish exit

“We’re all disappointed Jack chose to leave the football club because he meant so much to all of us, but we also understand why he left and wish him well – obviously apart from when he plays Aston Villa,” Smith said. “We were probably 18 months behind where we needed to be to keep him, but we’ll strive to get there.

“He’s a unique player, a unique character, and I can honestly say he’s the best player I’ve worked with and I’ve really enjoyed helping his development and him becoming the person he is today.

“Yes, supporters are disappointed because he was our best player, an Aston Villa fan and from the area. But, I think, once the wounds have healed, the fans will realise what he achieved for Villa – and also understand that a player who joined at six years old has gone through the academy and now earned the club £100m – a British record transfer. I have no doubt he will get a good reception when he faces us.

“I don’t think you can compare him with any other player, and, I said the day he left, we weren’t looking to replace him. He’s very difficult to replace. So we wanted to strengthen our team with a number of players that would help us moving forward.”

Smith on Buendia signing

“Buendia was coming to the club whether Jack was staying or going because we had become a bit overly reliant on Jack’s creativity. I didn’t want an over-reliance on Ollie Watkins’ goals if Jack left. I think we’ve addressed that problem now. We’re thankful Buendia has come here and he’s here to show what he’s capable of.”

Smith on Watkins role

“Watkins hasn’t played wide for a couple of years. I didn’t bring him in to play there. He scored 26 goals for Brentford playing as a centre-forward in the Championship and came to us and got 16 goals also as a centre-forward – so no, I don’t envisage him out there.”

Smith on formations, addition of Bailey

“We could play three up front with the players we have now, we could play two up front, or one up top with a short striker. So it’s given us more adaptability this year, rather than an over-reliance.

“We’re very good at driving transitions anyway but I’ve always been a bigger believer that pace scares defenders, and Bailey’s got that in abundance. He brings more pace into the team, it gives us different options. On top of that, he’s a really good footballer. You don’t survive in the Bundesliga unless you’re a really good player.

“The squad has a lot of maturity to come, Ashley [Young] will certainly help the younger players, he’s one we brought in because we knew we needed some experience in there. Ings, also. They will help push the average age up, but also help the development of this wonderful group of young players we’ve got.”