Dean Smith denies Aston Villa are in crisis ahead of Burnley clash

Dean Smith insists Aston Villa are not in a crisis and has urged his players to roll their sleeves up for the battle at Burnley on January 1.

A 3-0 loss at Watford on Saturday ensured the newly-promoted club would finish 2019 in the relegation zone.

Five defeats from their last six in the Premier League has seen Villa drop from 15th and three points above the bottom three to 18th and a point from safety.

Next up for the Villans is a trip to Burnley where they will hope to end a winless run on the road stretching back to October 5.

“A crisis is when you are down to 12 players and you are getting beat 7-0 or 8-0 every week, so there will be no crisis meeting,” Smith said.

“The fact is we are not performing in the highest league at the moment, but it’s a tough league to perform in.

“We have some injuries coming back with (Keinan) Davis and Tyrone Mings, both are training and hopefully they will be available. We will take stock and we know we will have to pull our sleeves up for the battle at Burnley.”

Smith was furious with his players after defeat at Watford and accused them of not showing enough commitment in the first half.

He has tried different tactics to arrest Villa’s slump but, aside from a nervy 1-0 win over Norwich on Boxing Day, they have been winless in the top flight throughout December.

“We have changed the system for the last two games. We played with a 4-2-3-1 (at Watford) and played with a 4-4-1-1 on Thursday,” Smith added.

“System and tactics, you still have to be professional and work hard as players and make sure you don’t get outrun by the opposition. That is the basics of football.”

The former Brentford manager felt some of his squad were “lacking confidence” and needed to “believe in their hype and potential.”

Villa talisman Jack Grealish has shown he is up for the fight with seven goals and five assists in all competitions this season.

But Smith admitted: “It is difficult when younger players are going through runs as we are at the moment.

“Jack gets fouled for the third goal (against Watford) and we’re still expecting probably too much from him at such a young age, but he has been our stand-out player so far.”

Wednesday’s clash with Burnley will see summer signing Tom Heaton return to his old club for the first time.

The England goalkeeper made 200 appearances for Sean Dyche’s team during a six-year stay at Turf Moor.

Smith said: “He is a top professional and he is what I expected. He is a really good goalkeeper and good to have in the dressing room. He is probably the leadership and experience in the team we need at the moment.”

Villa will be without Matt Targett (hamstring), John McGinn (fractured ankle) and Jed Steer (Achilles) for the club’s opening match of the new year.

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