Finally! At the third time of asking, Aston Villa have been promoted back to the Premier League after a real battle against Derby County in the Championship play-off final.
And former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol has put the Villans’ return to English football’s top flight down to Dean Smith and the stability he has managed to install into the team following his appointment last October.
“[Smith] got them in a style of playing. He got them to a stage where every single player knew his job,” Nicol told ESPN FC.
“They weren’t flamboyant. They weren’t boring. They were somewhere in between. But they were stable, so when you have a side like that and go into a high-pressure game, that eight out of 10 every week from the team carries you through those difficult times. And stable is the word.”
Looking at Aston Villa’s team, you would have to say Nicol has certainly raised a good point. They have become a stable side under Smith and looked like the most balanced outfit out of all the play-off teams.
What arguably got them over the edge, though, was probably that extra little bit of quality they had compared to Derby.
Tyrone Mings’ ability at the back and Anwar El Ghazi in attack really showed on the day, for example.
For as good as the likes of Mason Mount and Harry Wilson are, it just feels like Aston Villa had a little bit more than their opponents.
That ultimately proved to be the difference, as well as the stability Nicol has spoken about.
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