How did former Aston Villa boss Dean Smith fare with his transfer dealings at Villa Park?

We’ve taken a look at the hit and miss signings for Aston Villa while Dean Smith was in charge at the club

<p>Dean Smith was sacked after 5 successive Premier League defeats for Aston Villa </p>

Dean Smith was sacked after 5 successive Premier League defeats for Aston Villa

With the January transfer window set to open, it’s an exciting time for Villa fans as they wait to see the first ins and outs under Steven Gerrard’s management.

To get you in the mood, we take a look back at previous boss Dean Smith’s best hits and worst misses in the transfer market for each position.

Sign up to our BirminghamWorld Today newsletter

Manchester United are reportedly looking at Aston Villa's Argentina international Emiliano Martinez as a possible successor to 'keeper David De Gea. (Star). Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images.

Goalkeepers

Hit – Emi Martinez

Smith pulled off a real coup in landing Argentina international keeper Martinez shortly into the 2020/21 Premier League season.

Martinez had seemed destined to become a loan player for the rest of his career having been sent out to six different clubs by Arsenal. Martinez made just 15 appearances for the Gunners between 2012-2020 but, crucially for Villa as it turned out, he finally made his breakthrough at the Emirates Stadium towards the end of the 2019/20 season and produced a starring performance in helping Arsenal to victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

Despite this, Bernd Leno appeared to remain the first choice of Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta and Smith took his chance to swoop for Martinez in a deal worth up to £20m.

Since then, Martinez has been a physical and assured presence in the Villa goal and has remained a fans’ favourite since saving a penalty on a victorious debut against Sheffield United.

In his first season at Villa, Martinez equalled Brad Friedel’s club record of 15 clean sheets in a Premier League season and was also voted Supporters’ Player of the Season.

Miss – Lovre Kalinic

It’s quite incredible to think that Smith’s first signing – the Croatian international goalkeeper snapped up from KAA Gent for £5.4m in January 2019 – is still contracted to Villa until June 2023 yet finds himself on loan at Hadjuk Split and with his career in B6 standing no chance of being resurrected.

Kalinic conceded eight goals in his first three games and played just seven times for Villa in the Championship before being loaned to Toulouse in January 2020, having slipped to fourth choice Villa keeper in the meantime.

Now back on loan in his homeland, Kalinic will not look back on his experience of English football with any fondness.

Tyrone Mings of Aston Villa applauds the fans following the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park

Defenders

Hit – Tyrone Mings

Mings has been a consistent performer for the club both before and since taking over as skipper following Jack Grealish’s departure.

His arrival from Bournemouth for £21m has been a relative snip, having played a huge part in

stiffening up Villa’s defence and inspiring the club to promotion and then stepping up to prove he is every bit a top half top flight defender.

The commanding Mings has been an influential figure in the dressing room and firmly established himself in the England set-up – playing his part as England reached the final of Euro 2020.

Mings - who has made 101 Villa appearances and scored seven goals - and fellow centre-back Ezri Konsa are now one of the most impressive central defensive pairings in the top flight.

Miss – Bjorn Engels

The £7.2m capture from Reims was starting to establish a decent partnership with Mings after making the move to the West Midlands and it was clear why Smith had tracked him whilst Brentford boss.

However, injuries on multiple occasions hampered his progress and the Belgian was unable to force his way back into contention.

Engels did not make a single appearance for Villa last season before he moved back to Belgium to join Royal Antwerp and end a B6 career which spanned just 17 games.

Danny Drinkwater has become a bit of a forgotten man in the Premier League after his disastrous move to Chelsea in 2017. The midfielder has since endured three disappointing loan spells and is now on his fourth trip away from Stamford Bridge following his arrival at Reading earlier this week.

Midfielders

Hit – Douglas Luiz

Luiz has been a revelation since his bargain £15m switch from Manchester City on the eve of the 2019/20 season.

Luiz’s defensive qualities and his composure and skill in possession were one of the key factors behind Villa’s turnaround in form which clinched survival in dramatic fashion.

The Brazilian – who won a gold medal with his country at the 2020 Olympics - brings a confidence to the midfield which is clearly dented whenever he is absent and, having made 83 appearances, is one of Smith’s biggest transfer successes.

Miss – Danny Drinkwater

Villa’s January 2020 loan swoop for the midfielder who won a Premier League title with Leicester City before making a £35m switch to Chelsea got some of the faithful excited.

However, the warning signs were there that things were not as they should be with Drinkwater, who was allowed to cut short a season-long loan spell at Burnley to head south as a replacement for the injured John McGinn.

Injuries and lack of form hindered Drinkwater, who only featured sporadically at Villa and he has never recaptured the form which helped inspire the Foxes to glory.

Drinkwater’s time at Villa Park is best remembered for his training ground head-butt on team-mate Jota, whose switch from Blues also turned sour.

Forwards

Hit – Ollie Watkins

The club’s then record signing has netted 19 goals in 52 appearances at the time of writing and is a firm fans’ favourite.

Watkins’ rise from non-League football in 2015 to the Premier League in the space of five years has been meteoric and he deserves much credit for the way he has coped with the pressure which comes with a £28m price tag which could rise to £33m.

Watkins, whose pace and work-rate make him a constant menace to defenders, made the nation stand up and take notice of his abilities when he scored the ‘perfect hat-trick’ in Villa’s stunning 7-2 rout of Liverpool in October last year.

He ended last season as Villa’s top scorer with 14 goals and has worked his way into the thoughts of England boss Gareth Southgate, with one goal to his name in five England appearances.

Miss – Wesley

Smith made Brazilian forward Wesley the club’s record signing when he shelled out a huge £22m to net the Brazilian striker from Club Brugge.

Wesley did bag five goals in 25 appearances for Villa before his debut season was ended by a horrible ACL injury at the midway point of the campaign.

However, Wesley’s performances were far from convincing for the money spent and few Villa fans expected much from him when he made his return to competitive football towards the end of last season after a 480-day hiatus.

It has been little surprise to see him loaned to Brugge for the 2021/22 campaign, but Wesley will still have another two years on his Villa contract when his spell in Belgium comes to an end.

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. BirminghamWorld is Birmingham’s latest news website, championing everything that is great about our city - reporting on news, lifestyle and sport. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going.