After an encouraging unbeaten run Steve Bruce finally got his first taste of defeat at Villa, thanks to two second half goals from Leeds. Momentum seemed to be building for Villa to continue their push up the table but with this loss, and those above us winning, the reality of the situation Villa are in became visible once more.
Time To Panic?
Simply put, no. There will be plenty more ups and downs this season and Bruce has shown no evidence that one setback at the club will send the team into a spiral. Previous weeks brought some of Villa’s best football this term and that must be remembered, and built on.
This result should be a wake up call. The job is far from done and it will take much hard work and clinical finishing if Villa are to be in promotion contention come the new year.
A few good weeks won’t be enough in this marathon season and the players must maintain their intensity. After a spell of setting the place alight Albert Adomah had a quiet game, missing one gilt edged chance to hit the back of the net.
Ask most Middlesbrough fans about the winger and they will point to consistency as one of his main weaknesses and that is something that Villa will need to monitor carefully. Adomah has been our most creative outlet so he either needs to be kept firing, or given more support by other members of the squad to lighten his load.
There has been some amazing inversions of expectation since this summer. With the new owner in place some expected Villa to head straight for the top of the table. The lingering rot in the squad became clear early on on expectations became more cynical. With the new boss in place the feel good factor returned, and rightly so, but we can’t expect anything for free in this league.
Villa are on the mend, but it’s going to be a fight before we earn that return to the big leagues. This result is only one game, just as the win against Cardiff one was. Results only become significant when grouped so as long as there is no implosion of morale after one loss then there is still space for improvement and maintaining the good times. It’s hard not to feel that there has been some overreaction to this loss.
It’s important that we stay behind the team and help rebuild the clubs identity without overwhelming the squad with negativity and pressure, and I have no doubt that we will. A return to Villa Park on Saturday should bring an opportunity to give the team a lift hopefully get the three point top open again.
What Bruce Did Next
Having hit his first real hiccup it will be fascinating to see how Steve Bruce reacts, and what changes he makes following defeat. Despite the disappointing loss to Leeds we must remember that Bruce is working with a squad that Di Matteo couldn’t buy a win with. January is closer than you might think and he should be able to bring in a few key recruits to further improve the team.
While January brings opportunity it will also mean the temporary loss of key man Jonathan Kodjia. With that in mind Bruce must begin to make plans for the absence of the striker.
Gestede is a useful player in the squad but showed again that he lacks the required pace and mobility. Despite Bruce’s best efforts at rehabilitating Gabby Agbonlahor he has proved in recent cameos that he still doesn’t possess the cutting edge or striking instincts needed to keep us in the business of goals and he is past his best. While many of us are calling for more opportunities for Rushian Hepburn Murphy, both the manager’s choices to date and the youngster’s lack of experience mean he’s unlikely to fill Kodjia’s boots.
With all the above in mind, it’s time to get the best out of Ross McCormack. The management team needs to get him in shape and in form. If they can do that than Kodjia’s goals may not be so sorely missed, and more focus can be given to recruiting in key midfield and defensive rolls when the window opens.
The Right Hands?
Once again this week brought goalkeeping troubles for Pierluigi Gollini. The Italian stopper had been growing in confidence in recent weeks but his inexperience means that while he is probably the right choice now, an additional keeper is needed in January. That’s not to say that the young keeper’s Villa career should be over, simply that he needs to be developed alongside someone more experienced.
Having a tutor and some competition will be vital in helping him to fulfil his potential, and helping to plug the crack in Villa’s back line. Without that it seems that he is destined to repeatedly take one step forward followed by one back in terms of development and confidence.
Knowing how fragile morale and confidence has been in the squad means that all eyes will be on how Brucey will motivate the lads on Saturday. Next up is Wigan and our man in the dugout will be determined to return to winning ways against his old employers. Would you bet against him?
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