Go back a couple of weeks and Villa owner Tony Xia claimed on Twitter that Villa’s interest in West Ham midfielder Robert Snodgrass was a “made up rumour” and “never in our radar” (sic).
Cue Xia’s Twitter cheerleaders giving the journalist that asked Bruce if the Snodgrass rumours were true, a social media bashing at the time.
Even not with FFP , they were not in our list …complete made up rumors
— Dr. Tony Xia (@Dr_TonyXia) August 9, 2017
A fortnight later and Snodgrass was a Villa player.
Either Villa have a bit of a faulty radar, or the reality that some fans seem to forget is that Xia is just the figurehead and employs others to do the transfer nitty-gritty.
The ex-West Ham player is the seventh midfielder that Steve Bruce has brought into the team in the space of two transfer windows. His name is added to the roll call of Henri Lansbury, Conor Hourihane, Birkir Bjarnason, Ahmed Elmohamady, Glenn Whelan and Josh Onomah
With all this investment in the midfield already, did Villa really need to be paying a reported £45,000+ per-week for the services of Snodgrass?
Throughout his career with Leeds, Norwich and Hull, the Scot had thrived on the right-hand side or attacking midfield position with abundant assistants and goals for a midfielder.
In many ways in terms of his previous record as a Championship midfielder, he’s as impressive as a midfielder, as Ross McCormack was as a striker at this level, before we bought him.
Despite being predominately left-footed, the left flank is not the side that Snodgrass feels comfortable on and West Ham boss Slaven’s Bilic’s attempts to play him there caused friction between the two earlier in the year.
Snodgrass, 29, joined the Hammers from Hull in January and only made 15 appearances last season. Bilic seemed to have bought Snodgrass to try to fill the hole left by the departing Dimitri Payet. Relations seemed to have soured swiftly between the player and manager. Hopefully, this breakdown with his previous manager will not be any kind of attitude problem that carries through to his time at Villa.
Snodgrass played on the left half as many times as his “preferred” CAM and right-sided position, why is he moaning 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/EYfYpDYcG2
— West Ham News (@WHUFC_News) August 30, 2017
Bruce having bought Snodgrass during his time at Hull, had a good relationship with the player, and as a Bruce favourite, he’ll no doubt be close to guaranteed as a starter. I mean, why would the player drop a division to be squad filler?
Ironically, playing on the left would have perhaps served Villa better than his preferred positions, as Villa only have Andre Green as a viable option on Villa’s left.
Meanwhile, on the right-hand side, Albert Adomah and the recently acquired Ahmed Elmohamady are battling it out. While Conor Hourihane seemed to be the answer in the attacking-midfield berth, after Jack Grealish had been sidelined with injury.
Is Steve Bruce just stockpiling the player, because the opportunity arose?
McCormack was mentioned earlier, a player that despite his previous record and merits before signing was bought without what seemed a clear predetermined role to play for Villa. He suffered as a result.
Despite raving about Hourihane when he signed him in January, Bruce noticeably went cold on the ex-Barnsley player during the end of last season. He rarely played him unshackled in his attacking midfield position and in pre-season, he was even auditioning Jack Grealish for the attacking midfield berth in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Cue the Norwich win and in his post-match interview, the Villa boss didn’t seem that excited about Hourihane’s hat-trick, the first Villa hat-trick since David Platt.
“He found it a bit difficult here to settle in,” said Bruce, after the Norwich game. “He didn’t have the confidence and swagger that he had at Barnsley where he was the kingpin.”
While stating he hoped Hourihane’s goals would spur him on now, admittedly Bruce doesn’t seem totally convinced by the Irish midfielders credentials to be a leader in the Villa midfield.
Is Snodgrass an insurance policy? Or in Bruce’s eyes, a tried-and-tested upgrade?
Starting both of the midfielders centrally doesn’t seem to be an option considering Bruce’s liking of defensive midfielders and with so many midfielders to choose from, including the returning Mile Jedinak, it’ll be very interesting to see who he starts after the international break, in what is a potentially defining month for Villa’s promotion aspirations.
Starting Snodgrass on the right-hand side of midfield would potentially be Bruce’s first move with both Albert Adomah and Elmohamady, while showing flashes of ability this season, not really rubber stamping their position in the first XI.
Having the selection headache of several good players is a welcome one, but at the same time, Bruce must quickly find a successful formation and team selection that delivers promotion form. Then whatever the player, it’s a matter of just slotting them in.
Being spoilt for choice with a selection of good individual players doesn’t always make that process easy though. As we’ve seen already last season, what looks good on paper as a list of players doesn’t necessarily translate into creating a successful team on the pitch.
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