At Villa Park earlier in the season Henri Lansbury’s 87th-minute equaliser rescued a point for visiting Nottingham Forest. This time, with Lansbury now wearing a claret and blue shirt, Forest went one better to secure an injury-time winner that made a mockery of a Villa team fielding six players that were bought in the January window.
A ton of excuses have been made for Villa’s season so far: ‘We were never going to come straight back after being relegated with 17 points’ (well, Sunderland won the Championship after being relegated with 15 points), ‘it’ll be ok when Bruce gets his own team in’ (zero points so far with his own players) and so on.
Now there’s a new train of thought, due to the realisation that Villa’s play-off dreams now look to be up in smoke.
“Well, it was always a two season project”. No it wasn’t. Getting back in the first season was the main objective. Getting up the season after, was the back-up plan!
£55m spent in the summer and £22m of those players loaned out in the January window highlights a major hiccup in the latest Villa revolution. Remember, Villa have been looking at the bigger picture, getting in Steve Round as technical director to create a ‘Villa way’ and to buy players to facilitate that above and beyond simply getting players in for whatever manager was in charge.
The players that have been signed this season look good individually on paper, but on the pitch, they have shown compatibility issues in terms of functioning as part of a team.
It’s going to take time to get these latest new recruits playing as a team and they must also bond off the pitch, or they’ll just be a collection of the supposed best players in the Championship, as opposed to forming one of the actual best teams in the division.
The rest of the season is perhaps a chance to do this, however Bruce must show progress in terms of the performance levels and tactics. It’s alright knowing what is wrong, the real test is putting it right.
In the meantime, here’s five reasons to be cheerful after the latest couple of away defeats.
Scott Hogan looked sharp and a real direct threat, full of pace and intent. His work rate was also noticeable. Bruce has been very public about his desire to play two up top and Hogan fits the bill nicely for that.
But what of his proposed partner Jonathan Kodjia?
Despite being a hero to some already for bringing some light to a dismissal season with his goals, as Paul McGrath said on Twitter, scoring a few goals in the Championship ain’t all that. There’s certainly a selfish streak about him coupled with a lack of awareness, so will he make a great partner for Hogan?
A great striking partnership needs to have two players that compliment each other. Only time will tell, if Villa have it. Hogan though was a plus in the Forest game.
2. He’s Not Hutton
He’s only 19 but James Bree showed enough against Forest to suggest why he’s already got 50-odd Championship games under his belt for Barnsley. It’s obviously too early to get carried away, but the young defender should be first choice for the rest of the season to bed him in for next season and beyond.
After MOMS has pointed out recently that Villa had the lowest average of shots on target of any away team in the league (I also reminded Bruce about that the other week), it was encouraging to see Villa create more chances than normal on their travels.
Despite a woeful 29% of possession despite our new midfield, eight shots on target was a departure from our average of around 3.5 per game.
With a bit more luck Villa could have been potentially 2-0 up. Whether they would have held onto such a lead is another question though.
4. Decent Window
With eight players in and eight players out, few could grumble about the business done in the January window. With the outgoings of Rudy Gestede, Ashley Westwood and Jordan Ayew bringing in enough money to cover most of the incomings, bar the big spend of Scott Hogan.
It was certainly a smart window in terms of seriously rebuilding the team with respect to the long-term Financial Fair Play situation.
The midfield was potentially the best of the business. it will be interesting to see Hourihane and Lansbury with Jedinak playing as a defensive foil, when he returns from injury. That maybe the key to the two new recruits flourishing in the opponent’s half.
5. Podcast Return
After three microphones died on us in the past couple of months and problematic recording issues have lost us two shows, the My Old Man Said Podcast returned with a double-whammy of shows this week after a break of three or four weeks.
If you haven’t checked it out, you should do, if you want a dose of realistic Villa chat and entertainment. We try to bring some fun back into this supporting Villa lark during the darkest of times. For more details in how you can listen (apart from above player) check out the full podcast details.
If you want to support the podcast and website, the greatest way to do so is by becoming a MOMS Patron. We’ve got some plans in the pipeline for our greatest supporters who help us run this without having to use dark arts like most of the media on Villa do, so it would be fabulous to get to the 100 patron mark. More details in how to sign-up to be a Patron here. Many thanks!