The final game of Villa’s uninspiring 2016/17 season will ultimately be remembered as the one that denied Brighton the Championship title. A scrappy game for most part, Villa showed more spirit once they went down to 10 men, after Nathan Baker was sent off for giving away the penalty that gave Brighton the lead.
Villa didn’t lie down when they were missing a man and showed the kind of fight that has been largely missing this season. Jack Grealish once again scored an equaliser by cutting in from the left onto his right and scoring from range, like he did when Villa went down a man away to Fulham.
The chance for Keinan Davis to get a whole half of football in the first team was a plus, after Scott Hogan went off injured, but surely Bruce should have tried out a few more new faces in such a deadwood game?
The 1-1 draw meant Villa finished the season in the lower half of the Championship table in 13th place, which is shameful considering the amounts of money that Villa have spent on players and the poor standard of most teams in the division.
There is little sign that this current Villa team will be in promotion contention next season, so much is needed to be done in the summer and in preseason to have the team ready to come flying out of the traps in August.
Until then, here’s five reasons to be cheerful as Villa fans from the weekend…
1.No Blinkers From Owner
At least Villa owner Tony Xia hasn’t got the blinkers on despite not seeming to be comfortable to any questioning of what was transpiring this season. Rating the season 59/100, he then went on to claim that 60/100 is a pass.
From MOMS’ POV though, a pass is play-offs which should be the minimum when you consider the poor standard in this league and the massive amount of money spent.
Bruce was five/six points off the play-offs with 32 games to play, failure to make the top six was certainly a big failure, so the tweet can also be seen as something of a warning to the Villa boss.
2. Over One
After only forcing a single corner in each of their last two games, which summed up their lack of attacking threat, Villa managed seven corners against Brighton and several more shots on goal than usual. It’s baby steps, but the more corners and more shots, the more chance a team has of winning. If Bruce can’t play decent football, at least be more effective and play the percentages.
3. Grealish is the New Messiah
Nevermind Ant and Dec, Jack Grealish is the new messiah on Tyneside. The main implication for Grealish’s equaliser was that it handed Newcastle the league title. Oh, the irony of football. Surely, the Toon Army will now forgive us for winding them up about the times we helped relegate them?
What happens to Mr Grealish next season will be interesting. He’s been a bit part player under Bruce, chipping in with a few decent goals, but falling short when it comes to his all-round contribution. It’s not a question of potential with the player now, he has to deliver.
4. The Season is Over
Thank god this season is over. Watching Villa had become increasingly difficult. Their negative approach to games despite on paper having one of the more talented squads in the division is like pulling teeth and fingernails at the same time.
People like to use the word ‘stability’ as the solution to the current problem of not being very good (to be polite), but Steve Bruce does need to pull his socks up in the tactics department. Villa can’t carry on approaching games as they have been doing. They’ll need a more progressive attacking approach to get out of this league, that they are in real danger of being stuck in.
I’ve never seen Villa finish as low as 13th in the second tier of the league (and that includes their last relegation). This will apply for most of the recent generation of fans too. I hope this regression has now FINALLY bottomed out.
5. Three and Out
While Villa’s home record was only the 8th best in the league (lets not talk about the away record), the fact that we only lost three games at Villa Park was certainly a step in the right direction after recent seasons.
It certainly hasn’t been much fun for season ticket holders in terms of what has played out on the pitch, but at least there is the pride again of not being easy to beat.
Villa just need to attack with more intent and add more of a killer instinct to the end product, to reap even more home comforts in the Championship.
Until next season.
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