Leeds came for a point and got it, although once they took the lead they looked like they were going to rob Villa of their unbeaten record, until a moment of madness threw it away. In a frantic last ten minutes the game could have gone either way. But after yet another abject performance, Villa will be thankful for the point.
It needed Steve Bruce to once again throw on the cavalry from the bench to spark the team into life in the closing stages, which begs the question – what exactly is his Plan A? Whatever it is, we’re not getting promoted until he changes it.
In the meantime, here’s five reasons to be cheerful as an Aston Villa supporter…
1.Unbeaten at Villa Park
Hallelujah! the run continues to be one of the regular five reasons. The visit of an inform Leeds who have been on a hot streak away from home in recent weeks was always going to threaten it, but we just got over the line.
In many ways it reminded me of the Newcastle game, where Villa did little to earn any points until the closing stages of the game, where they could have even nicked all the points.
2. Finally a Decent Decision in the Championship
Villa’s penalty was a penalty, although the closest official to the handball incident, referee Roger East, almost continued the standard of Championship referring by not giving it. Well played the linesman who was wise to the matter.
3. Ten Minutes
Lets be honest, once again, the football and experience of watching Villa was dire up until around the 80th minute mark, then suddenly we had end-to-end excitement.
As Villa supporters we don’t normally have the luxury of many exciting passages of football nowadays at Villa Park, but the closing minutes of Thursday night made a refreshing change.
Excitement, teams attacking each other with purpose, this is why we watch football in the first place. Those fans who have convinced themselves that they are happy grinding out results with terrible football against the poorest teams in the division, either a) don’t actually suffer the game live, or b) are deluding themselves.
I can tell you this now – Villa will not get promoted with sloppy passing and marking, not running off the ball to create opinions and opportunities, and also by being greedy in front of goal, when there is a teammate unmarked in a better position.
Bruce needs to sort out his game plan. Setting up to be hard to beat is one thing, but Villa’s sloppy defending at times almost undermined that. More forward-thinking is needed.
4. ACON Silver Lining
In many ways the African Cup of Nations may help some Villa players stake their claim and make selections more straight forward for Bruce.
Albert Adomah’s not going and on the evidence of the Leeds game, needs to start to be a legitimate out ball and creative threat on the right. Stop messing about with him and let him play!
Jordan Ayew absence is a blessing in disguise in my book. He breaks up the flow of play with his selfishness, especially when he hasn’t been able to play as a central striker. He’s not an out-and-out winger who provides cross after cross, because he rarely looks to deliver the ball to teammates.
Jonathan Kodjia, while scoring vital goals is no Christian Benteke at the moment. Benteke knew when to pass it and lay on his teammates (see the games against Liverpool). Kodjia has a little of the Ayew’s in him and with more awareness against Leeds, may have helped pulled a win out the bag.
So, step forward Ross McCormack. A player who scores over 20 goals in three different seasons (including 28 for Leeds) for pretty average teams, does not lose this ability over night. With the Scot able to link-up play and bring players into the game, this should create a more varied attack.
Sometimes less options makes life easier for a manager and also forces them into trying something that they have stubbornly resisted. Throw in a new midfielder or two and hopefully Villa’s play will improve.
5. It’s almost 2017
While I can offer no guarantees 2017 will be better than 2016, it will be good to see the back of 2016 as a Villa supporter.
A lot has been said about the amount of deaths of the likes of David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen to more recently, Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher, but 2016 was hardly 1916 in terms of loss of life and tragedy.
The first part of 2016 was one of the most dire in Villa’s history with relegation from the Premier League, just before the TV money got really serious. New ownership brought new hope, but despite the new owner’s charismatic social media presence, the revival still hasn’t started in earnest yet.
Hopefully in 2017, things can get going for real and promotion becomes a reality rather than a mirage on the horizon.
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