After a run of only two wins in six Premier League games, Aston Villa's European hopes have taken a significant blow.
Yesterday's defeat at home to Midlands rivals Leicester City leaves them four points off Liverpool in fifth and, with Jack Grealish potentially facing a spell on the sidelines, some of the free-flowing football we got so used to seeing against the likes of the Premier League champions, Arsenal and Crystal Palace seems like an increasingly long time ago.
While it's important to have some perspective given their major improvement on last season, it does appear as if the recent run of form is starting to grate.
Indeed, while discussing yesterday's result in the match discussion thread on The Athletic, reporter Gregg Evans was asked if Dean Smith's patience was being 'tested' by the likes of Ross Barkley and Douglas Luiz, amid their respective dips in form.
In reply, Evans said he believes that is the case and that the Villa boss was 'furious' with the manner of their first-half performance, heading into the break 2-0 after goals from James Maddison and Harvey Barnes.
"I think Smith's patience is being tested, yes", he wrote.
"He was furious with the first-half performance today and ripped into the team at the break."
GIVEMESPORT's Jonathan Gorrie says...
From an attacking point of view, his outing yesterday was hugely frustrating. According to WhoScored, the England international did not muster a shot or complete a dribble, despite ranking second in those metrics across the season for Villa.
With that in mind, it'll be interesting to see what the summer brings for him. While former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard was understood to have been open to bringing back to Stamford Bridge, it's unclear as to where he stands under Thomas Tuchel.
While he has certainly been impressive at times for Villa, Barkley simply not take his chance to lead the attack in absence of Grealish. Should that continue, perhaps the question of trying to sign him on a permanent basis would get more difficult to answer, particularly with Morgan Sanson arriving in January.
Luiz, meanwhile, may be struggling from fatigue. Registering only one tackle and zero interceptions yesterday afternoon, the Brazilian was below his seasonal average of 1.1 and 1.3 respectively during a relentlessly busy campaign for him.
He has missed only two Premier League games all season during the most congested footballing calendar in living memory, playing the full 90 minutes in all but seven and even the earliest point he was substituted in those games came in the 75th minute.
There is still so much to happy about this season for Aston Villa but perhaps rotating their squad now by bringing in the likes of Sanson and Marvelous Nakamba (as Evans himself points out) would be a good way to freshen things up.News Now - Sport News