Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has issued a jovial and upbeat response to claims he is facing the sack at Aston Villa and insists there is “no panic”.
The pressure is building on Smith with Villa having suffered a fourth straight defeat on Sunday. That came after West Ham got the better of Villa, though the 4-1 scoreline was perhaps given a helping hand by a harsh red card administered to Ezri Konsa. Smith himself was certainly far from happy.
A fifth defeat on the spin at Southampton on Friday could prove fatal to Smith’s hopes of retaining his job.
Indeed, reports earlier this week claimed Villa had already held talks with Paulo Fonseca.
The Portuguese coach – strongly linked with Tottenham, not once, but twice – has also been mentioned as the new Newcastle boss. But with the Magpies seemingly turning elsewhere, Villa have reportedly sniffed an opening.
And there is also a feeling among some fans that Smith has taken Villa as far as he can.
Indeed, Smith is enduring his worst run as Villa boss for 20 months – which includes, arguably, the worst 45 minutes of his tenure in the defeat at Arsenal a fortnight ago.
Despite the 4-1 home loss to West Ham last weekend, Smith felt he got a response from his players following that dire first-half display at the Emirates Stadium and the 50-year-old was in bullish mood ahead of the trip to St Mary’s.
“I think the perception from outside of the football club is always different,” said Smith.
“If you’re asking me if I sleep well, yes, I sleep well. I still play well at golf. My wife is still talking to me so, if that answers your question, then yeah, I feel fine.
“There is no panic, we’re in control and determined to put things right. There has been a reaction from all the players because they are disappointed with the results.
“We are not far from turning it around and we are in a determined mood, that’s for sure. There is a collective responsibility and the players have been working hard.
“We are in a high-performing elite sport and within those games there have been marginal moments which transpired. We’ve made some small mistakes in games that have cost us, we were missing five players for the West Ham game.
“I’m fortunate that I can take things with a lot more context than other people because I see what happens on the training ground every day. I get the physical output data, I see the mental side of the players.
“I’ve been in this situation (before) and we stayed up in our first season in the Premier League.
“I’m happy to take the criticism for them. I’m a big boy, I’ve been in professional football since I was 16 years old so I’ve seen an awful lot of things.
“I just want the players to perform. I was actually quite pleased with what I saw at West Ham up until 80 minutes.
“In football you’re going to have wins and losses, that happens. It’s how you deal with them.”
Villa missing injured Danny Ings at Southampton
Smith will be without Danny Ings on Friday night. The striker missed the West Ham defeat with a muscle injury and he has lost his battle to return against his former club.
Douglas Luiz also missed that game with a muscle problem and he will remain sidelined as well.
Ezri Konsa is suspended after his red card in the loss to the Hammers but Jacob Ramsey looks like being fit despite being forced off with a twisted ankle on Sunday.
Morgan Sanson returns to contention after recovering from Covid-19, while Jaden Philogene-Bidace is also back in training after illness.