‘It also looks like we might even have a manager for a full summer and maybe even a second season. Weird.’

It’s been a nice few weeks to be a Villa fan. I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to say that again but it’s true. A raft of wins and a less embarrassing league position and it finally seems that things are getting better for Aston Villa as the season hurtles to a finish.

Work In Progress

After four straight wins against Sheffield Wednesday, Wigan, Norwich, and QPR, optimism was high ahead of a trip to relative minnows Burton Albion. Seeing Villa fail to continue their winning streak likely put any chance of Villa’s playoff miracle to bed. More than that, it was a timely reminder that good run or not, there is still a mountain of work to be done at this club.

I don’t wish to be a doom and gloom merchant, far from it. Aston Villa Football Club is slowly but surely waking up from it’s slumber, but Saturday afternoon highlighted some long running flaws that have yet to be ironed out, even with an expensive team of new recruits and Championship stars.

 

Burton and QPR were further examples of the fact that even during our better spells, Villa are not putting teams away, or winning comfortably. When one compares this with some of the other scores from the same weekend (for example, Norwich’s 7-1 demolition of Reading), it’s clear that Villa are missing some vital ingredients.

Something that further highlights how much more improvement is needed comes from the very league and competition around us. While the Championship is often touted as one of the most competitive or toughest leagues to compete in, evidence from so many of the games I’ve watched at least, is that the quality is not that high at all.

Very few teams have been that impressive or particularly consistent and yet Villa are still a distance behind. Norwich, who based on the scoreline against Reading, could be mistaken as a real top quality outfit, are in fact just one place above Villa in the table. And our season has been a disaster for the most part.

If Villa have a good summer than there is no excuse for not returning to the big time at the second time of asking.

Old Habits

More than ever Villa must be wary of repeating the bad habits that got us relegated in the first place.

The first of these is the much discussed over reliance on one player. The Kodjia situation is far too similar to that of Benteke during his stay. Bruce must find a way of getting Hogan firing alongside Jimmy Danger. So far when the two play together they are perpetually too far apart, and show very little by way of partnership.

This relationship must be nurtured for a more effective Villa. If the worst happens and Kodjia is poached in the summer, than Hogan must be ready and prepared to step up. It seems like stating the obvious again but the importance of this can’t be understated.

It’s fair to say that most of Villa’s three point hauls have fallen under the category of ‘winning ugly’. Picking up points when the team isn’t at the races is a handy knack to have but winning ugly every week is not sustainable. If our sights are set on the bigger things in this division or the one above, Villa must improve their control and presence in games.

We aren’t going to become possession monopolists overnight but that isn’t necessarily required. What we must do is become more clinical. Even our more influential players seem to love rolling the ball directly to opposition players in bad positions. Cut this out and a huge amount of pressure will instantly be lifted during games.

Bruce must get the team working, thinking, and moving forward together. While comparisons to O’Neill’s Villa can be tiresome the key ingredients of the last decent Villa side must be replicated. A team that doesn’t always dominate possession but who shared the burden,  countered as a unit, and had several players ready to finish off any given move, instead of isolated individuals. Emphasis must be put on the word ‘team’.

Claret and Blue Future

While I feel my worries and the need for improvement are valid, I must say that the fun side of supporting Villa is returning. Our squad is also starting to fill with players I actually quite like too, which recently seemed a distant memory.

Some more comfortable wins would be nice but at least we can now head into games knowing that we might actually win, and that if we lose or draw, it’s not catastrophic. As things begin to settle it’s starting to feel like being a football fan is supposed to. Rather than dreading the weekly deja vu I can’t wait for Villa’s double header this weekend. We’re not asking for miracles but a bit of hope and entertainment is nice.

It also looks like we might even have a manager for a full summer and maybe even a second season. Weird.

UTV

Make sure you’re following Finn on Twitter here – @FinnMongey

All new MOMS podcast episode discussing the climax of Villa’s season – listen below

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