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'Players don't know': BBC pundit claims £35m ace isn't fit & comments on Smith's tactics at Villa

Dean Smith, Manager of Aston Villa looks on prior to the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Watford FC at Villa Park on January 21, 2020 in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Aston Villa suffered a damaging defeat in the Premier League over the weekend.

Danny Drinkwater of Aston Villa and Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park on February 16, 2020 in...

Micah Richards has suggested that Danny Drinkwater isn't yet fit enough to showcase his true worth to Aston Villa, as he also believes that Dean Smith has been too offensive in the Premier League.

Speaking to Football Daily on BBC Radio 5 Live, Richards thinks that whilst Smith's three at the back system worked at Burnley, he feels the Villa players 'don't know' where to be, as he was talking about the defensive backline.

On Sunday, Villa dropped more valuable points in their race to stay in the Premier League when Bjorn Engels' last-minute mistake allowed Heung-Min Son to run through on goal and snatch the winner.


Former Villa man, Richards, who was in the Villa dressing room last season, admitted that he is starting to worry about their current situation, as he believes Jack Grealish is their only way of survival.  

"The three at the back worked at Burnley and they played really well," Richards told BBC Radio 5 Live. "But it seems that they haven't got the grasps of what to do. There were so many times where the three centre-halves [against Spurs] were five yards in front of the halfway line so many times. It's like the players don't know where to be.

"By the [defensive stats and dropped points] it's showing that towards the end of the game that they are not fit enough or they are not being able to see the game out. It is worrying times. The only way I see Villa staying up is keeping Jack Grealish fit.

"Danny Drinkwater was brought in [to that midfield to add experience] but it seems he's still trying to get his fitness back. People thought he would come in and be the finished article but I know how hard it is coming back from injury to hit the ground running. That [midfield] position hasn't been sewn up by the players.

"In terms of game management, sometimes I have been there and you are screaming and shouting and you are telling people to drop in. Sometimes, no matter what you say or do, it's just the way football goes - I just feel like the way Dean Smith plays, he's sometimes too offensive. In the Championship, it was great because you could pick off teams, you could make mistakes but you would always score a goal. In the Premier League, they are getting punished." 

Dean Smith the head coach

Drinkwater joined Villa last month on-loan from Chelsea after Burnley opted to send the £35 million man [The Guardian] back to Stamford Bridge because of a lack of game time. 

There's no doubt that Drinkwater has struggled massively ever since he stepped through the doors of B6, but it could be argued that his inactivity and injuries during the past two seasons is now costing him and Villa. 

Despite his situation, Smith has kept faith in him and started him, just like he did against Spurs at the weekend, but like his previous home league match, he was taken off before the hour mark after producing yet another poor display.

There's no doubt that Drinkwater will continue to be backed by his coaching staff, teammates and the fans, but he simply cannot start for Villa when they visit Southampton on Saturday because he simply has no form, rhythm or sharpness. 

Danny Drinkwater of Aston Villa in action during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park on February 16, 2020 in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

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