If how good your life is, is directly related to how well Aston Villa have been doing, you’ve had some pretty shi**y years recently (try running a Villa website!). So when the Villa started the new year with a bang, literally with pre-match fireworks and five goals, you could be forgiven for thinking, finally it looks like 2018 is going to be my year!
The start of any new year provides a chance to reset and refocus, which after a dodgy December, Steve Bruce and Villa desperately needed to do in order to get the club’s promotion challenge back on track.
The agenda in the media before the game was still of an injury crisis (a myth considering the size of Villa’s squad) and the rotten Christmas schedule, but every team in the Championship is faced with the same issues.
It’s teams that skip the excuses and just get on with it to the best of their ability that will have a better chance of success.
On the evidence of Villa’s 5-0 win against the Robins, Villa were finally able to put in a performance that matched the sum of their parts. We know on paper we have one of the best squads and some of the best players in the division, but on the pitch have constantly been under performing.
It was a great result which ever way you look at it.
Lets not forget, Bristol City were second in the division, had the league’s second best away record and in their last 35 games in 2017 had the impressive record of W 22 D 9 L 4.
Hopefully we’ll see much more of these types of showings.
— MY OLD MAN SAID (@oldmansaid) January 2, 2018
Goals x 5
Five goals = five reasons. The last time Villa won at Villa Park by five goals was back in April 2013 when they tonked Sunderland 6-1. Considering the money Villa have spent and the lower Championship level of competition, recording a similar big score has been a long time coming.
Goals for Snodgrass and Hourihane will hopefully help legitimise themselves in their own heads as main men for Villa.
Meanwhile, the collectors items of Hogan and Bjarnason goals were equally important from a confidence point of view to the players, especially Hogan.
You can see it in his goal on the turn against Wigan in the League Cup and also his two headers against Bristol (the goal and the second that was saved but lead to Snodgrass’s first goal) that he has great finishing technique.
Return of the Dead
Injuries blah, blah, blah. It’s hard to take such an excuse seriously, while players that the current manager bought sit around gathering dust.
I thought Birkir Bjarnason was a decent enough buy by Bruce in terms of giving the squad depth, but the Villa boss seemed to have given up on him. He’s cameo against Bristol City showed a spectrum of what he can bring to the team. A cool finish, plenty of intelligent running and was able to keep the energy level of the team up getting stuck in across the midfield.
While I was dubious about Scott Hogan’s price tag and previous injury record, some of Villa’s potential for success hinged on the £10m man (approx) contributing. As mentioned above, he’s a legit finisher, so Villa just need to feed him more.
If Villa continue to play with Grealish and Hourihane forcing the issue more and dictating play, then the chances and goals for him should come.
Also, sitting around gathering moss have been the likes of Tommy Elphick. He’s a proven top draw Championship defender, that just needed a second chance at Villa. Finally, due to a injuries and a dubious selection decision or two, he’s got back in and proven himself.
Villa are much stronger with all three of these once forgotten players back in Bruce’s mind.
Big Man G
I’ve mentioned in the last couple of these columns that Grealish is starting to look a better version than previous seasons.
Yes, he’s getting older and more experienced, but against Bristol City, he conducted the team like a symphony orchestra. It was certainly one of the best performances we’ve seen from him and it promises much in the future.
Bruce explained after the match, the secret to Jack’s resurgence is a new fitness regime and finally growing up.
“All of a sudden it looks like Jack Grealish has become a man,” said the Villa boss.
Once every thirty years a prophecy comes true…
Thirty years ago today, @AVFCOfficial won 5-0 – and and went on to be promoted. Let’s hope it’s an omen!
— Rob Bishop (@robbishopavfc) January 1, 2018
Back in the Mix in 2018
December was unexpected. Even though Villa have rarely ventured out of third gear you would have expected a better return of points from the first five games of December.
The good news is on the evidence of the last two games it seems to have re-focused Steve Bruce and the players.
A solid showing in January and an automatic spot maybe back on after surrendering 10 points to Derby during December.
Lets give this promotion lark a proper crack now.