A powerful Jonathan Kodjia finish at Loftus Road ensured three points travelled back with Villa last Sunday. However what awaits Steve Bruce on Boxing Day is Championship minnows Burton Albion in front of a sold out Villa Park. With the Brewers yet to pick up a win on the road in the league, Villa’s unbeaten home record surely cannot be under threat, can it?
Nigel Clough’s men will travel to Villa Park on the back of a impressive performance against league leaders Newcastle despite coming up short. The Burton manager will also carry his words with him to Birmingham as he was quoted saying that Villa will have to wait till next season to get promoted.
Probably a realistic assessment of Villa’s situation, but by no means should this be the time for Bruce to wave the white flag with so many twists and turns waiting to happen this season. Only a six-point gap separates Villa from the play-offs, three points on Monday would go a long way in positioning Villa in a play-off berth as early as January.
Here’s three ways of making it happen…
Setting an Example
A hot debate between Villa fans in between match days is the Rushain Hepburn-Murphy saga, which is seemingly finally coming to an end as a three-year deal has been tabled to the youngster leaving the ball in his court. A way to kill two birds with one stone by Steve Bruce would be to give Andre Green a start on the left-wing, it would solve Villa’s left side of midfield problem and show young RHM that the Villa boss will promote within the club when necessary
The left-midfield has had a lot of potential suitors in Bruce’s formation but none have bathed in glory when deployed on the left-wing. Jack Grealish has proved his technical ability is much more suited to a central position. Jonathan Kodjia’s goal scoring ability needs to be exploited at striker. Nobody has a clue where Ross McCormack should be played, unlike Agbonlahor who should be the first name off the team sheet.
Green has revitalised his from in the youth set up since his average at best performances under Di Matteo. Being shoe horned at an unfamiliar right-midfield position, earlier in the season in ten minute cameos, didn’t let the youngster showcase his natural flair which could come useful when trying to unlock a stubborn Burton defence.
Grabbing multiple assists and goals in his last few appearances for the under 23’s, letting Green have some creative freedom in his preferred position alongside other creative players could be a recipe for success in introducing this potential young star.
Despite Burton not picking up three points on their travels this season and sitting a place above the relegation zone, they have only lost by a two goal margin or more in four matches. The majority of their matches have been tight affairs with the Brewers not being goal shy as shown in their encounter with Newcastle last week.
A possible explanation for this unpredictability within Burton’s rank is their formation, which varies from three at-the-back in attack to five at-the-back in defence. Attacking in numbers and trying to compress the opposition in their own half is the style of play Nigel Clough has tried to get his players to adopt, something Villa haven’t responded well too with so many late equalisers being the evidence.
Steve Bruce has given Villa fans some confidence however in the defensive capabilities of Chester and Baker, which should give Villa a fantastic opportunity to exploit the space that the committed Burton players have left behind them. Albert Adomah, Jonathan Kodjia and the previously mentioned Andre Green, could thrive in the space left on the wings making Villa more likely to score on the counter than by controlling the game.
Threat From Above
Since the beginning of the season, Aston Villa’s goalkeeper selection was under scrutiny with the choices being a serial back-up goalkeeper in Mark Bunn and a highly rated, but very inexperienced youngster in Pierluigi Gollini.
A few heads were turned when the team sheets were announced on Sunday against QPR as Mark Bunn got the nod for the No.1 jersey.The former Norwich keeper was untroubled for large parts of the game, but when he was finally called into question, as QPR tried to mount a comeback, all through balls and crosses that had any inclination of danger were quickly dealt with. Gollini on the other hand has been criticised for not having a similiar calmness and has shown poor decision making in his 18-yard box.
While far from ideal as Villa’s number one, Bunn didn’t disgrace Bruce and repaid him with a confident showing at Loftus Road. Another start for Bunn against Burton could be pivotal in safeguarding the possibility of three points, as Burton will not doubt at some stage resort to launching long through balls or crosses, if they find themselves behind.
Follow Richard on Twitter, here: @_RichardAVFC