The key changes Dean Smith made that changed Aston Villa’s season

Since Dean Smith arrived at Aston Villa he’s been a breath of fresh air to the football club.

He’s revitalised the Midlands side, who are now on the verge of a Premier League reunion, standing potentially just 90 minutes away from the top-flight.

Having lost the play-off final last season to Fulham, they now have a tremendous opportunity of making up for lost time.

Since then, there’s been a host of changes. But Smith has made three key decisions in the last half of the season that have proven vital in their quest for promotion.

Recalling Steer

Major decision number one was recalling Jed Steer. After the additions of Orjan Nyland and Andre Morreira last summer it looked like he had no future with the Villans. Steve Bruce decided to loan him out to Charlton but Smith subsequently recalled him on the final day of 2018.

After initially being kept out of the side by Lovre Kalinic, he has since starred, becoming one of the first names on the team sheet.

Steer has been inspired and is arguably in the form of his career so far.

His two penalty saves in the shoot-out against West Brom were massive and should Villa go up, they’ll owe the 26-year-old plenty of gratitude.

Mings signing

In December 2018 Birmingham Live claimed that Villa were looking at centre-back options. They then signed Tyrone Mings on loan from Bournemouth.

The January deadline day arrival of the 26-year-old was absolutely game changing. With Tommy Elphick and James Chester spending a considerable period of time out through injury, it seemed sensible to bring in an extra body.

But his performances since arriving in the Midlands have been outstanding, providing far more than just some extra depth.

Without him, it’s highly unlikely they’d have embarked on the run they did towards the back end of the season. If possible, Villa must do all they can to get him back next season.

Addressing the full-backs

Another significant decision came in shifting Ahmed Elmohamdy to right back and giving Neil Taylor a consistent run in the team.

The two full-backs have been consistently reliable performers and have gone about their jobs in a silent yet deadly fashion.

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Fittingly, their reinstatements at full-back came in a 4-0 win over Derby in March. Elmohamady had spent large parts of the season playing higher up in right midfield but moving him back helped to stabilise the defence.

Taylor has meanwhile done the same. Before that win over Derby, he’d spent the last two matches on the bench. Reintroducing him was a masterstroke and ahead of the play-off final, Villa’s right and left back will be crucial.