Survival will still be their main aim – Villa would be delighted at staying up on the final day of the season, as they did in 2019/20. But, a little more accustomed to the Premier League, they may hope to play their way into situations where Grealish can get on the ball between the lines more often. The second-worst defensive record in last season’s Premier League suggests they can’t throw too many players forwards, but a little more attacking support could be vital.
In Wesley, Mbwana Samatta and Keinan Davis, Villa have three strikers who can hold the ball up and bring others into play, and Smith may be tempted to push Grealish closer to them when long balls are played forwards. The signing of Matty Cash also gives them an added threat from right-back and, crucially, another player who can take defensive attention away from Grealish. That is essentially what Smith needs – a team that allows their main playmaker to focus on what he does best. More midfield rotations between John McGinn, Douglas Luiz and Conor Hourihane should create space further forwards, where Grealish can take advantage. If they manage to do that, they could aim for more than just surviving by a single point.