Dean Smith will become the ninth man since 2010 to take the Villa Park hotseat when Aston Villa face Swansea City in the Championship on Saturday.
The ex-Brentford boss was appointed during the international break following Steve Bruce’s dismissal as manager. His aim will be to guide the Villans back to the Premier League at 11/2.
But what problems are facing the new man on the block? We’ve highlighted three below.
The case for the defence
There’s no skirting around it. Villa’s defensive record has been awful this season. The Midlands giants have shipped the joint-second highest number of goals in the Championship with 20.
Smith won’t be able to make wholesale changes in the short-term. So it’s down to making the best of what is available to him. That could mean prioritising the midfield and reshaping the defence.
Mile Jedinak could be pushed forward and used in a more natural pivoting role, which would allow Axel Tuanzebe to partner James Chester in a centre-half combination.
Can he get a tune out of Scott Hogan?
Scott Hogan has become something of a forgotten man at Villa Park. The Irishman has scored just seven goals in 50 league appearances since joining for £9m from Brentford in January 2017.
So the appointment of his former Griffin Park boss could be a timely piece of business.
The ex-Rochdale man thrived in West London with Smith at the helm, netting 21 goals in 33 league matches. Smith also helped the forward through a difficult period following a serious knee injury.
An understanding already seems to be there between the pair. If he can make Hogan the main man, as he did in their time together at Brentford, then Villa could be in business.
Villans fans will also be hoping that Smith brings the talented Henri Lansbury in from the cold.
Utilise what they have
Above all, Smith’s appointment is progressive. He’s a manager who gets the best out of what he’s got, and usually that involves improving the talents of young players.
For all Bruce’s experience, he didn’t really do that. Smith should be able to coax more out of Jack Grealish, Tammy Abraham, Anwar El Ghazi, John McGinn, Yannick Bolasie and Jonathan Kodjia, et al.
It’s not just about improving them as players, either. It’s also about setting them up in a way which utilises their talents. He should adopt a similar model to his time at Brentford in that regard.
After spending most of his career coaching players who are rough round the edges, now he has the chance to mould naturally gifted footballers into a genuine force.
That should be an exciting prospect for Villa, who are 10/11 to beat Swansea this weekend.
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