Dean Smith’s last stint in management was at Norwich, lasting from 27th of November 2021 to 27th of December 2022. Norwich were a team in the Premier League at that time, struggling to get some type of momentum in this division, being in the elevator up and down in the previous seasons.
Smith, who had signed a 2,5 year deal continued to work on at Carrow Road, despite the relegation, and the first two months of the campaign looked good, staying in a direct promotion position until October.
A lot of people were surprised to see him leave, Norwich being 5th when it happened. They had seen Burnley and Sheffield United going in front and a bit of a gap to get back, but not at all far from the top, just 6 points behind and in a 5th position.
To get the sack after bringing home two wins, one draw and two defeats in your last five games and being in a play-off position looks more like a success story than the opposite. Since Smith’s departure, the club have slided out of the play-off zone as well, so no luck in “sacking” the former Aston Villa manager.
His time at Aston Villa was one that he can look back on with pride. He took over at Villa Park on the 10th of October 2018, Villa was the time in 15th position in the Championship, and had seen a slide since being relegated from Premier League in the 2015/16 season. Smith made certain that Jack Grealish got a chance to shine in his team and made him captain as they won promotion from the play-off’s in that very same season.
Aston Villa returned to the Premier League with a grand attitude as they also bolstered the squad with twelve new faces and managed to survive, also getting all the way to Wembley and the Carabao Cup final, defeating Leicester in the semi’s. New players such as Ezri Konsa, Tyrene Mings and Douglas Luiz all established themselves and grew into key men as they helped the team to survival in the last game of that season, playing 1-1 vs. West Ham.
Smith build further with new signings in front of the 2020/20 season. Matty Cash made his move from Forest, Olly Watkins came in from Brentford and goalkeeper, and now World Cup winner, Emeliano Martinez was signed from Arsenal. Bertrand Traore joined from Lyon and Ross Barkley came from Chelsea on a one year loan. This worked wonders as Villa pushed for the top and reached 2nd position after winning their four first matches, the last of those four a 1-0 win away to Leicester.
Ollie Watkins, Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings all managed to establish themselves as regular England squad players, all being capped during that season and beyond. This led to more spotlight on the players and of course interest from other parties, somehting that led to a massive transfer for Jack Grealish who joined Man City for £100million.
Dean Smith knew inside his head and heart that replacing Jack Grealish would be impossble, luckily he managed to keep Mings and Watkins who are both still at Villa. Smith did try to bring in quality as he splashed out major fees for Emiliano Buendia (Norwich), Danny Ings (Southampton) and Leon Bailey (Bayer Leverkusen). Axel Tuanzebe joined on loan from Man Utd and also bringing back Ashley Young from Inter on a free transfer.
The start of that last season at Aston Villa started fairly good, being 8th as their best position, but with five defeats in a row it was goodbye from Villa to Smith, but still his days at this football club must be looked back on with pride.
Before his move to Villa, he had years in charge of Brentford and before then being in charge of his first club as a player Walsall, where he played together with Craig Shakespeare. His days at Brentford and Walsall made him the manager he is today, bringing good results to the table on shoestring budgets. One very shrewd move was the signing of James Tarkowski joining Brentford from Oldham in 2014, the fee was undisclosed, but believed to be in the region of £150.000.
So what type of football will Dean Smith bring to the table. From what he has said himself in his first interview, he will put demand on the players, he needs to instill belief. Smith believe he can turn this around, and has previous done this at Aston Villa in his first season. A key of course is having Craig Shakespeare by his side, but also bringing with him John Terry, who we all know can defend and also what he did at Aston Villa, working and improving good defenders such as Konza, Tuanzebe and Mings who all have been under the guidence of JT.
Dean Smith, Craig Shakespeare and John Terry are all in now and hopefully they will be able to bring that extra energy needed to lift the spirit, because this looks possible, just 2 points up to safety and not being played out or lost with a great number of goals, it’s to get that winning edge back, though playing Man City on Saturday might not be the easiest game to start with.
Smith is also a pragmatic man and can bring his team out in many different systems as seen at Norwich and Aston Villa, playing different systems against different teams. He has set his teams up in 3-4-3, 3-5-2. 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 as available players makes him adaptable.
First of all it looks as if Dean Smith probably are more eager to get the energy back in the team, and just play to the standards of any system used on the day vs. Man City. Probably not seeing this team selection in the next one and probably change system again when taking on another team.
Lets hope this will work, but it’s after the Man City game that we will hopefully start to judge Dean Smith, and if he surprises us all with a special at The Etihad, then of course that would be fantastic.
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