Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has called on his players to start showing leadership qualities if the club is to haul itself out of a relegation battle this season.
Villa have plunged into the bottom three on the back of a horrific set of results that has seen them lose their last four league matches and seven of the last nine, from which they have taken only four points.
While Smith can accept some results such as defeats to Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in that run, he has been left bitterly disappointed by the lack of a performance in the last three losses to Leicester, Sheffield United and Southampton.
With the exception of captain Jack Grealish, Smith is now calling on other players to stand up and be counted ahead of crucial clashes against the two clubs below them in the table – at home to Norwich on Boxing Day and at Watford on Saturday.
Smith said: “There are really good characters and personalities around the dressing room, but when they are missing others have to step up to the plate.
“The players are aware of that. I thought Jack stepped up well on Saturday (in the 3-1 loss to Southampton), but we need others to follow and take some leadership on their shoulders as well.”
Despite what appears to be a dire situation, Smith insists “there are no panic stations, no crisis meetings”.
“We have lost four games (in a row), and we have not performed as well as we should have done in those games,” said Smith.
“But it is not too long ago we were walking off the field at Old Trafford (following a 2-2 draw with Manchester United) disappointed with a point when we should have won all three.
“After that we have gone to a Chelsea team who were at the top of their game on the night and lost by a goal. From then the performances against Leicester, Sheffield United and Southampton have not been good enough.
“The players are well aware of where we are sat and what we have to do to perform.”
For the first time, Smith has confirmed he requires fresh faces during the January transfer window, despite spending £127million on 10 players during the summer following Villa’s promotion from the Championship.
The loss of influential midfielder John McGinn for three months with a fractured ankle has highlighted to Smith that his squad is not deep enough.
“Sat here last year we were a mid-table Championship team,” said Smith.
“We have come a long way in a short space of time and had a big turnaround in the summer. We still need additions in January as well.
“We are still working hard and battling on a lot of fronts. That will continue. Our competitive edge has to be there in whatever game we play in, whether we are in the bottom three or the top three.”
Aside from McGinn, Villa will again be without centre-back Tyrone Mings and striker Keinan Davis with hamstring injuries.
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