Dean Smith has re-assured Jack Grealish that he won’t have to carry Aston Villa this season.
The England international found himself a marked man at Villa Park as Leeds United turned the screw on Friday night.
Visiting boss Marcelo Bielsa explained after the Whites’ 3-0 victory that they had squeezed Villa’s playmaker, denying him space after the break.
Grealish still found the time to back up one effort that was booted off the line with a mazy pitch-length run that saw six players trail in his wake before hitting a shot against keeper Illan Meslier.
Ross Barkley saw a couple of long-range efforts drift wide and Ollie Watkins was off-beam with a late drive that would have been little more than a consolation.
But Grealish was still Villa’s main threat – although his boss said he won’t have to shoulder the burden this season.
He said: “I’m not sure the secret’s out with Jack – I don’t think there was too much of a secret to keep.
“Last season, it’s true he carried us at times with his quality.
“Against Leeds, he’s had two big chances – one was kicked off the line and the other was a good save from the keeper.
“If either of those would have gone in, it would have been the first goal and we might have been looking at a different game.
“Two minutes after that save from Jack, Leeds went up the other end and scored. I felt that changed the game, that first goal. We lost a yard and they gained one.
“But we feel we have got enough quality in the team to supplement him at the moment.”
Leeds’ boss Bielsa pointed out after an impressive showing that he had two-and-a-half years to put his ideas into practice.
Smith agreed that Villa were still making significant signings – such as Barkley’s – up until two-and-a-half weeks ago.
He said: “We’re a work-in-progress – to a point.
“We have had 12 months with one group of lads who have been together. Now, we feel we have added quality to that.
“Five players have come in and they are getting to understand what we are after.
“It was a disappointing result. But it certainly doesn’t overshadow where we have come and where we are trying to come to.”
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This defeat was Villa’s first of the campaign after they went into the game with dreams of topping the Premier League for the first time since October 2001.
Smith added: “It’s the first time we’ve been behind this season. It’s something we need to learn from.
“That was the key. It was just how we dealt with the first goal.
“After that, I was disappointed with the next 40 minutes. They won by three and, if we’re being honest, we probably got away with that.
“Having said that, I’ve watched all the games Leeds have played this season and that was the best they’ve played, without a doubt.”
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