Defiant Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has responded to his critics by insisting they are making “massive progress”.
Villa have one win in seven games ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Tottenham.
Smith is facing criticism from some fans after spending over £200million since promotion in 2019.
But he stressed Villa have the youngest average age of a starting XI in the Premier League this season at 25 years and 238 days.
He claims his 11th-placed side have made huge strides to improve after only just staying up on the final day last season.
Smith now has skipper and England ace Jack Grealish back fit but cites his absence for 12 successive games with a shin injury as a key factor in their slump.
Smith, 50, assessed: “I do the job to the best of my ability as I always have done.
“I believe we are making massive progress as a football club.
“The one thing I can’t criticise my players for, is their attitude and effort this season.
“We have come up against some good sides who have beaten us which is going to happen in the Premier League.
“I think we were all looking upwards in January, such was our good form in the first half of the season.
“The second half we have been a little less consistent. That can certainly happen.
“We have the youngest average age team in the league.
“I think if you look at the players individually they are getting better and better.
“Defensively we have not dropped off in any stats this season.
“What we have dropped off with is creating big chances, certainly in the second half of the season.
“That has coincided with our best player, who creates a lot of chances, coming out of the team injured.
“We will finish up probably where we deserve to finish up.
“Certainly on expected goals we have not moved from the position we have been in all season and will probably end up , which is around 11th.”
Grealish has come off the bench in Villa’s last two games and is scheduled to start on the final day at home to Chelsea but could also start at Spurs.
Smith admitted: “He might do.
“I’ll be having conversations with the medical staff to see how he’s feeling after the progression he’s made and the loading.
“There was a plan for him to play 15 minutes in the first game, 30 in the second and I probably squeezed a couple more minutes out of him both times.
“The plan was probably not to start him against Tottenham.
“But I’ll have a chat with Jack, and the medical staff, to see where we are with that.”
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