• Dan Tracey


It is fair to say that Aston Villa are a different beast without the services of Jack Grealish and although they did manage to get the better of Fulham last weekend, there were assisted by the Cottagers’ generosity in defence.

However, a win is a win at any level of the game and such success would certainly have been welcomed by manager Dean Smith, as victory over Fulham subsequently ended a rather unwanted run of results.

A run that saw Aston Villa fail to win any of their last four league outings before the weekend and due to that run, any hopes that the West Midlands outfit had of European football were soon extinguished.

While the downturn in results has come about largely because of the absence of Jack Grealish, as the England midfielder has not featured for the club since February 13th and Villa’s 0-0 draw with Brighton.

Such has been Villa’s struggle without Grealish, that if you were to look at their form since his absence, they have only managed to win two of the seven Premier League matches that he has been unavailable for.

A period of absence that may have supporters of the club asking what if and if they were able to call upon their key man in the past couple of months, there is every chance that Villa would still be part of the European conversation.

With that ship now sailing, the objective is to finish as high up the table as possible and such an aim will be made harder with the news coming out of the Villa Park camp – news that once again involves the 25-year-old.

As they prepare for a trip to Anfield this weekend, they will do so without the talents of their most prized possession and after suffering an injury setback, Dean Smith has stated that Grealish’s return is still some weeks away.

A bitter blow for those who follow the 1982 European Cup winners and one that could put Villa’s hopes of a top-half finish in jeopardy. However, one must remember where they have come from and especially, after a nervy previous Premier League campaign.

When you consider that this was a side trying to mastermind a great escape during “Project Restart” last summer, there should be a great amount of pride in what will undoubtedly be a substantial improvement in fortunes.

Then again, their early positive start to proceedings is one that would have obviously raised expectations throughout the fanbase and even those who pull on Villa’s famous colours from week to week.

Now the main objective will be to collect as much Premier League prize money as possible and if Grealish can find fitness in the final couple of weeks of the season, then a top ten finish is not yet off the table.

Of course, with the season coming to a conclusion, the focus then turns to transfer chat and although the club do not need to sell their crown jewel, do not be surprised if they attempt to ward off a bid or two.

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