Spotlight’s on Villa in top flight

By Graham Hill

DEAN Smith is already having to defend some of his key players in the build up to what is only Villa’s third game back in the Premier League.

For Smith, it is a reminder that the spotlight is so much brighter than it is in the Championship.

Just as players might be able to get away with mistakes on the field outside the top flight, it is also much harder to deflect the media glare once you are in the elite. On Thursday ahead of the Everton game, Smith was mystified to discover he was facing question about record signing Wesley who has yet to score for Villa after joining in a £22million deal.

A player such as that would be given time to settle into his new role at Villa Park in the Championship. It would not be up for debate nationally. But Smith now knows everything about the Premier League is cranked up a notch or two.

And skipper Jack Grealish was not be expected to deliver man of the match displays every week in the second tier.

The fact that he did in the last quarter of the season was because a lot of the pressure was off him following a three-month injury lay-off.

Now he is expected to perform against the best – particularly as he has said publicly he wants to be part of the England set-up under Gareth Southgate.

But while Grealish has been as creative as ever, his errors are now highlighted.

It means the boyhood Villa fan lifting himself for the Premier League season ahead.

But Smith knows the star midfielder will make the adjustments he needs to.

Smith told reporters: “What people won’t see is three or four times against Tottenham he picked up the ball on the edge of his own area and caused the opposition problems.

“That one time he’s given it away. We have to make sure if he’s doing that he doesn’t make the mistake

“It’s always a balancing act. At that period in time there wasn’t an out ball for him. It was probably the team’s fault as much as Jack’s. If he had an out-ball he would have played it but unfortunately he didn’t so he ended up taking another touch.

“I thought Jack against Bournemouth gave the ball away two or three times in the first half when I wouldn’t expect him to.

“Second half he took it to them. He should’ve done better with the chance but he was starting to look like the Jack we saw in pre-season that will move forward in this league!

“He played deeper against Tottenham but we worked on playing deeper as a team anyway. The have midfielders that can punish you. Against Bournemouth it was more as an attacking midfielder hence the chance he got.”

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