Aaron Danks this week joined Austin MacPhee in a new look for Dean Smith’s coaching staff within the Aston Villa first team.
He has previously worked at Anderlecht and West Bromwich Albion as their lead offensive coach. An area in which Villa quite possibly need all the support they can get after their opening three games.
Danks commented on his new role by saying “Absolutely delighted to have been given the opportunity to coach and represent @AVFCOfficial. Look forward to giving every ounce of enthusiasm and passion on the grass.”
His arrival possibly comes at the right time for this Villa squad. As of right now, Villa have recorded an expected goals (xG) of just 0.7 xG from open play situations. This is the lowest amount in the league, with Norwich City at 19th having recorded 1.1 xG from open play situations.
They have faced both Liverpool and Manchester City in their opening fixtures, Villa on the other hand have faced three teams who are arguably all in the relegation fight this season as they faced Watford, Newcastle United and Brentford.
This is obviously largely due to the seismic changes that have occurred at the club as Jack Grealish left for a record fee and both Richard O’Kelly and John Terry left their roles just before the season began. Regardless of this, the struggles clearly need to be addressed, the appointment of Danks should steady the ship and see an increase in the quality of football played by this new look Villa side.
It is clear the impact the introduction of a new coach can have on a squad. As previously mentioned, Villa brought in MacPhee as a set piece specialist in order to equip this team with an added weapon in their arsenal, in the form of posing a threat from corners, free kicks and throw ins.
The Newcastle game clearly showed the impact he has had, as Villa scored from a routine following a throw in and won a penalty from a corner.
Villa’s 1.1 xG from set pieces is the seventh most in the league and they have looked extremely threatening with whatever MacPhee has chosen to operate in each game.
If Danks can come in and have a similar effect on the offensive output of this side then it will benefit the likes of Buendia, Leon Bailey, Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings as they would likely thrive in an expansive and attacking side.
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The team clearly has the fire power for him to work with. With Bertrand Traore, Watkins and Bailey all suffering with injuries to begin the season, it is clear that some of the attacking issues Villa have experienced may be due to the fitness within the squad. With players of this quality, having a coach like Danks should mean Villa fans see the best from all of them in the system Dean Smith chooses to operate.
There has been natural progression from this side already. Against Watford they recorded ten shots with an accuracy of 10%, Newcastle they had nine shots with an 11% and most recently in the Brentford game the team had seven shots with an accuracy of 71%. This increased threat from their play is a promising sign that this squad just needed to settle. As they grow as a team and work with Danks they could bombard the oppositions goal.
With Chelsea, Everton, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur coming up, it is clear the tactical plan must be perfect if Villa are going to take anything from these games. The additional boost of players returning from injury will excite the fan base, the potential impact Danks could have however may make the difference.
Villa haven’t set any worlds alight with their play so far, but the signs are promising. With Buendia looking to come alive against Brentford and the same game also seeing the return of Watkins. It won’t be long before fans are seeing what this side is truly capable of.
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