By Graham Hill
ASTON VILLA boss Dean Smith launched a strong defence of £22million club record signing Wesley and smiled: ‘He’s only one goal behind Mo Salah!’
The Brazilian striker has yet to score after his big money move from Bruges this summer.
Villa spent £127million on new players and Wesley was the most expensive of all.
But he has attracted critics with ex-England midfielder Paul Ince telling BT Sport after the defeat by Bournemouth: :”I’m one of the biggest moaners in the world but at least I could play the game,
“He didn’t do anything but moan and fall on the floor. He needs to start doing a lot more and start playing football.”
But Smith insists it is too early to be questioning whether the globetrotting 22-year-old can cut it in the Premier League – and wants the snipers to back off.
Wesley goes up against a watertight Everton defence at Villa Park on Friday night – with Marco Silva’s yet to concede this season and recording 10 clean sheets in their last 12 matches.
But Smith believes the Villa striker will live up to his potential after scoring 14 goals for Bruges last season – but only five of them coming since November.
Smith told reporters on Thursday: “There’s certainly no frustration with Wesley from me and his teammates.
“I think a lot can be made out of nothing really, he’s two games into a season – and one goal behind Mo Salah at the moment.
“I’m not judging centre forwards this early in the season.
“What are we coming to when we’re making judgements on players after two matches?”
Smith maintains that the 6ft 3ins striker is a key member of his team.
But Villa have lost both of their opening top flight games and Smith will hope Wesley clicks sooner rather than later.
The Villa boss added: “There’ve been questions about him playing in the Premier League, but he played in the Champions League last season, he’s not too shabby.
”I can see that every day in training, he’s shown potential in his performances so far and that potential will come through.
“He never hides away from the ball, he goes and competes.
“He’s already created enough chances for for other people be scoring.
“He showed me enough in pre season to show me he’s going to be a top player.
“His English is very good, he understands more than he lets on.
“He left Brazil when he was 16 and went to Slovakia and then Belgium.
“So he knows Europe very well, he’s someone the players really like, he trains very well.
“And he does a lot of unselfish work, look at his goals tally last season, but look at his assists as well.
“They’re very high.
“I think we are getting the best out of hm, he’ll get better and better.”
Neil Taylor is set to come up against Seamus Coleman tonight for the first time since the Everton player’s horror injury after a challenge by the Welshman.
The Republic of Ireland captain Coleman suffered a double leg break in the incident in March, 2017, which saw Taylor sent off and banned for two games.
Coleman was out of action for a year following the international clash but is now set to go up against the Villa defender once more.
But Smith admits he will have no special message for Taylor before the game.
The Villa boss said: “Things like that happen in football. He’s probably played 100 games since then, it’s an incident that happens and we move on. It’s not really been a concern of mine at all.
“Neil Taylor’s performances have been good in the first two games, defensively and going forward.”