Another game in September at Villa Park, another 0-0 draw. If Villa were lucky to escape the previous game against Brentford with a point, this time around against Middlesbrough they will consider themselves a tad unlucky not to bag all three.
Playing against 10 men for an hour though, they ultimately only have themselves to blame.
After Adama Traore went for an early bath after an adrenaline-filled wreckless challenge after three minutes, Villa boss waited until half-time to make any real changes to try and take advantage of the situation, after witnessing his team’s disjointed effort to win it.
There were certainly enough chances in the second half to win it comfortably and Henri Lansbury’s sending off didn’t impact the game too much, as Villa continued to create the better chances until the final whistle.
Villa now only have one win in seven league games and the start of what was billed as a significant month has begun on a mute note.
Aston Villa Player Ratings vs Middlesbrough
Sam Johnstone – 7
When Villa were a man up after three minutes, Johnstone was largely a spectator, as Villa probed their opponents without any payoff. When the numbers were levelled up though, Middlesborough forced Johnstone into two fine saves.
He’s getting the MOTM once again, simply based on him doing everything right during the match and nothing wrong.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6
Despite Villa’s stable of three right-backs, Elmohamaday found himself ahead of them all in what turned out to be beneficial move for Bruce, with Middlesbrough’s 10-men giving Villa more licence to attack.
Elmohamady did get a few early balls into the box, but overall his contribution lacked the spark and aggression of his preseason performances.
James Chester – 6
Is it just me or does Chester look less convincing than he did last season? There were a couple of mis-timed headed clearances and he doesn’t seem to be Villa’s Mr Reliable ala last season.
John Terry – 6
One thing Terry has demonstrated since his time at Villa is he’s composed on the ball and his distribution is considered, yet with the return of Mile Jedinak, he had the Australian pretty much standing on his toes during the game.
Terry and his ageing legs potentially dodged a bullet with the sending off of Adama in what was largely a comfortable night for the Villa skipper.
Neil Taylor – 5
Taylor despite not eventually having to contend with the threat of Adama had a decidingly shakey first half in terms of some of his distribution. He improved in the second-half, but it wasn’t his best Villa performance by a long shot.
With Villa’s lack of strength in-depth on the lefthand side, better is expected from him.
Mile Jedinak – 6
In terms of Villa’s defence, the attraction of Jedinak for Bruce is he gets his third centre-back into the team under the radar.
It’s fair enough in terms of not losing games, but Villa desperately need to make winning a habit and Jedinak plays an alarmingly conservative role for Villa.
The Australian midfielder rarely ventured far over the half-way line and most of the time he was picking up the ball so deep, Terry or Chester might as well have done what he did.
He’s not the DM that picks up the ball off the defensive and swiftly gets the ball moving. At the moment, he slows the game down and largely replicates what a centre-back would do in possession.
For my money, for the good of the team, his role needs rethinking.
Birkir Bjarnason – 4
There was a sound logic to playing Bjarnason against Boro and that was to utilise his tireless running and energy to dampen the threat of Traore running from deep at the Villa defence. Unfortunately, that need soon disappeared, as the ex-Villa winger was sent off shortly after kick-off.
Villa have issues at left-wing/midfield now that Andre Green is ruled out for several months, but the Icelandic player doesn’t look convincing there at the moment.
He made one or two decent runs off the ball against Middlesborough and almost scored. If he started every game of the season, his running would certainly get him a goal or two, but he doesn’t seem to be a consistent force on the pitch.
Robert Snodgrass – 6
Snodgrass certainly showed effort and endeavour in his first Villa start, but nothing really came off for him. He has the kind of intent that will couple well with Onomah’s drive to hopefully make the midfield a more dynamic proposition.
Certainly, if he had come into this game with a few more games under his belt, the result might have been different.
Henri Lansbury – 6
During the first half Lansbury didn’t have a bad game, there was a memorable crunching tackle, that showed his appetite having got back into the team, and he was unlucky not to score.
His reckless challenge that earnt him a red card (which Villa are appealing), was needless, even in terms of tacking one for the team. Ultimately, he just gave the ref an excuse of levelling up the numbers (something according to those around me in the Holte, prophesied he was going to do from the 5th minute of the game).
His sending off may have cost us the game, but at the same time, it’s taken some heat off Bruce. Ending the game 0-0, after a full 90 minutes against 10 men, would have raised serious question marks about the Villa boss.
Conor Hourihane – 6
After struggling to make his mark in the first half, Hourihane performed a lot better in the second, making things happen a bit more for the team going forward. If it wasn’t for Scott Hogan’s bizarre clearance off the line, Hourihane would have scored the winner and been the Championship’s joint top scorer with Bristol City’s Bobby Reid.
Keinan Davis – 6
Davis again showed his merits as a hold-up man, but unfortunately his teammates weren’t quick enough in mind to support him and feed off him. It will be interesting to see what Davis’s role is now Kodjia is back in the fold.
Off the Bench…
Hogan (45) – 5
Villa continue to find it difficult to play on Hogan’s frequency. The runs are there from the striker, but his teammates don’t see them. It was almost ironic that when they did finally find him, it was only from a goal bound Hourihane shot, that he somehow managed to clear off the Middlesbrough line to prevent a winner. From that moment on, you knew Villa weren’t going to win this game, even if they played 20 minutes of injury-time.
Kodjia (70) – 6
When it was 10 vs 10, the introduction of Kodjia swung the balance of the game Villa’s way, although he was playing a little deeper than expected and at times seemed like an attacking midfielder.
Unfortunately Kodjia didn’t have much in the way of chances, but his appearance certainly gave the crowd a lift.
Adomah (45) – 6
With Robert “I’m left-footed, but only want to play on the right” Snodgrass, Adomah came on in the second half to play on the left-hand side.
While he got into some decent positions he provided a mixed bag of service in what was a frustrating night for the player.
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