Dean Smith believes Aston Villa have a stronger squad now despite the departure of Jack Grealish, whom he admits they over-relied on last season.
Villa have had a very productive summer transfer window so far. Despite losing captain Grealish in a £100m move to Manchester City, they have made several exciting signings of their own. For example, Emiliano Buendia, Ashley Young, Danny Ings and Leon Bailey have all joined on permanent transfers, while Axel Tuanzebe has returned on loan.
The idea is that Villa will have more depth compared to last season, which they started strongly before tailing off to finish mid-table. They particularly struggled when Grealish was absent.
Thus, facing a future without him may be somewhat daunting. But manager Smith believes they have strengthened sufficiently to actually be better than before.
“It was important that we strengthened the squad depth this season,” Smith said. “We felt we had an 11 that could compete against anybody including the top teams – now we’ve got more variation, more adaptability, and more depth and that’s really important.
“Obviously Jack going was a big loss. We wanted to keep him but we would have added more creativity and have added more creativity with Buendia whether Jack stayed or not. I think we’re in a good place.”
“I think we’ve got two or three who can come and do that,” he said. “I wanted to build a better team if Jack left and I feel we can do that. There was an over-reliance at times, an unconscious over-reliance on Jack.
“I think we’ve moved away from that now. Only time will tell if that’s a good thing but we believe in the team we’ve got and the squad we’ve got and what we have to do now is prove it on the football pitch.”
Smith bids farewell to assistant
In addition to the departure of Grealish, Smith has lost two members of his coaching staff this summer. John Terry left to pursue his own career in management and long-term assistant Richard O’Kelly has also left the backroom.
Discussing the latter’s exit after also working together at Walsall and Brentford, Smith wished him well.
“Knowing Richard as well as I do, he’s a selfless person,” Smith said. “It wouldn’t have been an easy decision he’s had to take and it would have been in his mind for the last month or two.
“I think he’s just made a professional decision where he’s seen the progress of the football club and felt it was time to step aside.”
Villa get their season underway away at Watford in a 3pm kick-off on Saturday.