The Chalkboard: Grealish breathes new life into Dean Smith’s Villa

Aston Villa are finally starting to play the Dean Smith way, and it’s all thanks to the return to fitness of Jack Grealish.

The Villans swept Middlesbrough aside on Saturday afternoon, with goals from Anwar El Ghazi, John McGinn and Albert Adomah carrying Smith’s side to a convincing 3-0 win.

While Boro were woeful, the home side were absolutely excellent at times, with some of their attacking patterns representative of the free-flowing football Smith instilled at Brentford.

The likes of Grealish and McGinn had an absolute field day, and the former’s transformative effect on the side is truly stunning.

On the chalkboard

At Brentford, Smith had a mixture of skilful and speedy attackers, like Ollie Watkins and Sergi Canos, who loved driving at defenders and causing havoc.

Until recently, he has struggled to find the same dynamism from within his Villa squad, and there were growing concerns that Smith could not replicate his free-flowing Brentford brilliance at Villa Park.

Grealish’s directness from the centre of the park changes everything though, drawing players in and creating space for the other attacking outlets.

The 23 year-old has scored two and assisted one since his return, but it’s his energy and drive that really makes all the difference, allowing Smith’s side to play on the front foot – just like his Bees team always did.

Grealish and McGinn combined for five dribbles and five key passes on Saturday, constantly looking to cut through the visitors’ defensive lines, and Villa fans should now be very excited for what the future holds.

If they do not earn promotion this year, there is no need for panic. With a couple of smart signings that fit the Grealish mould, Smith could produce a fearsome attacking force next season.