Villa’s away curse continues, but the 1-1 draw at Bristol City wasn’t a total failure when you consider they had lost 10 of their previous 13 away fixtures.
Overall, taking the last week into account, it’s been a decent enough turnaround for Villa, after a poor start to the season.
Against Wigan in the League Cup, it obvious from the get go that Steve Bruce would be resting most, if not all, of the entire Villa team from Saturday’s 4-2 win against Norwich, and so it proved to be.
A leak earlier in the day of the squad list had confirmed this, but also surprised Villa fans with the inclusion of forgotten players such as Tommy Elphick, Ross McCormack and Gary Gardner.
It’s expected that two or three of these players will leave Villa by the end of the window, but still Elphick and Gardner started, to supplement young guns like Jake Doyle-Hayes and Mitchell Clark.
Against Bristol, Bruce switched again. While the team, bar Samba for Hutton, was the same against Norwich, the Villa boss decided to go for three centre-backs. The strategy ultimately back-fired, as Villa looked imbalanced and awkward at the back, as Bristol caused the new formation problems all throughout the first half.
While there wasn’t to be the three points from Ashton Gate to send Villa skipping into the International break with fresh impetus, Villa are at least still in the League Cup and also now boasting perhaps the best squad in the league.
Until the season begins again after the international break, here’s five reasons to be cheerful as Villa fans…
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a Villa midfielder provide a bit of positive drive and sparkle to Villa going forward from midfield. Fabian Delph did it occasionally in his later seasons with Villa, but it was a little too late. The loan capture of Spur’s Josh Onomah, could potentially be the biggest game changing loan Bruce has made this summer in terms of freshening up the team.
As well as the 20-year-old looking to get Villa moving forward at every opportunity and noticeably passing forward with urgency, he brings other players into the game.
There’s a potential understanding with Keinan Davis building, whom he seems to want to get the ball to swiftly and Conor Hourihane also benefited from his presence in the Villa midfield.
Certainly he’s made Villa more dynamic and it will be interesting to see how Bruce juggles his midfield with the further incoming loan of Robert Snodgrass.
Speak of the devil, the loan of Robert Snodgrass certainly gives Villa serious depth now in various positions. He was the assist king in the Championship while at Leeds, getting close to 20 assists for the season a couple of times. He also demonstrated a prowess from freekicks, which he also excelled at while playing for Norwich.
Moves of £6m to Hull and then £10m to West Ham this January, suggest Villa have got themselves a Premier League player still in his prime.
The question is where will he ultimately fit in? And what will it mean for the likes of Conor Hourihane or Albert Adomah?
Youngster Conveyor Belt
After the surprising rise of the Kienan Davis revolution, who looks the real deal, Villa continued to blood more players in their League Cup win over Wigan.
Jake Doyle-Hayes in midfield was perhaps the pick of the bunch, as he was one of Villa’s best performers on the night, while fellow debutant Mitch Clark put in a decent shift at left-back. Callum O’Hare got another crack in midfield and didn’t disappoint.
With Villa wasting so much money in recent seasons on under-performing and badly chosen players, it’s good to see the club’s management finally seeing a bit of sense of blooding more Villa players from the youth ranks and giving them a chance.
Ultimately, if they show promise, supporters will feel more inclined to back their own, than any random oversea’s imports or journeymen mercenaries coming to the club.
A balance of homegrown youthful vigour and the experience of Bruce’s old boy’s club could be the promotion-winning formula…
Who Needs Kodjia
There is a theory that Villa are only fully functioning when Jonathan Kodjia plays. MOMS doesn’t believe that to be necessarily true.
Last season, when Bruce set up conservatively to defend and snatch a goal, then playing Kodjia as the lone striker was probably the best bet, but it did limit the potential of Villa’s team.
While we might snatch the odd victory and draw, with Kodjia able to create chances out of nothing, we never looked like dominating teams or blowing them away.
How many times did we score four goals in a game with Kodjia? None. Yet, we did it twice in the past week without him.
In the Norwich game, when you see how the unselfish and alert Kienan Davis brought players into the game with his hold-up play, it provided Villa with more dimension to the attack. A midfielder scored a hat-trick, which says a lot.
If Kodjia had more awareness and was less single-minded, I’m pretty sure Villa would have scored a lot more goals last season. Even Kodjia would have probably broke the 20 mark.
Kodjia was celebrated for his 19 goals last season, but as a team, our goal scoring exploits were pathetic. Only three teams scored less than Villa’s 47 goals for the season. Two of them got relegated and the other one was the Blues.
Bruce still harbours a desire to play two up top, but what are the right two?
It’s complicated, because with Hourihane and Snodgrass, the temptation is to play either one of them off a lone striker.
While Kodjia is out injured, it would be good to see at one point, Davis linking up with Hogan, in an archetypical little & large partnership.
The plot thickens, but finding a solution will be key to Villa’s promotion ambitions.
Villa’s results on the road are poor, there’s no escaping that, but this hasn’t dimmed the volume of the club’s away support, which was super loud at Bristol to the extent it sounded like a home game.
Villa’s away support feature regularly in this column. It would be easy just to take them for granted and class their efforts as just standard/business as usual, but Bristol on a Friday night was certainly a decent effort in terms of decibels!
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