While Villa’s recent back-to-back triple wins are too little, too late in the context of the promotion, now is an important time in terms of defining the team for next season, so they are still very welcome. Despite the actual positive results it’s perhaps hard to see any drastic improvement in the way the team are playing to suggest they would be nailed on for promotion next season. It’s certainly too early for that and Steve Bruce has the rest of the season – which is essentially an extended pre-season – to put that right.
Judging by his second-half performance, Conor Hourihane certainly showed he was heading in the right direction and the defence showed itself to be solid once again.
Bristol City and Rotherham have been teams starved of wins in recent months and Derby were experiencing a slump in form, so Villa should be beating their like. More interesting to MOMS in terms of seeing where Villa are at, are the upcoming games against both Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday. Two teams that are legit promotion contenders, thus they’ll provide a better benchmark to judge Villa on.
In the meantime, while we wait for those tests, here’s five reasons to be cheerful as Villa fans…
Sam Johnstone had been receiving a bit of criticism from some supporters since he became the latest up and coming keeper to have at stab at being Villa’s number one. While MOMS has got bored of giving our opinion on the need for an experienced keeper for any promotion push, at the moment, Villa might has well give Johnstone a shot of learning on the job and allow him to build his confidence.
Against Rotherham, there was one nervy moment and a sliced kick, but also a smart save or two from the little he had to contend with. The trip to the New York stadium was his and Villa’s third clean sheet on the trot, which is a big step in the right direction.
Those clean sheets will certainly give Johnstone a big boost going into more serious tests over the next couple of weeks.
2. Wing Delights
While Albert Adomah didn’t have the greatest of games against Rotherham, he chipped in with an assist in each of his previous games, against Derby and Bristol City. Yes, the last one was a total miskick setting up Hourihane’s goal, but hey, he would have probably scored if he made a proper connection. It’s all good.
Adomah needs to keep it up and it’s been noticeable that he often swaps positions with Jonathan Kodjia during games to keep the opposition defence’s guessing. Such movement in a 4-3-3 is vital for it to work effectively.
A better understanding with Villa’s right-back is needed though to help get Villa down the byline and behind defences on the right-hand side, instead of stopping short on the edge of the 18-yard box and trying to cross from there.
On the other flank, Andre Green certainly made an impression in both the Derby and Bristol City games before an injury cut short his positive contribution and evolution into the Villa team.
Green had certainly risen above Jack Grealish in pecking order on the left-hand side, offering more directness and pace to Villa’s attack. It’s certainly a shame about his injury as the deadwood nature of the rest of the season would have definitely been perfect to give the young winger valuable experience to prepare him for next season.
3. Jedi Knight
Mile Jedinak has offered up something of a mixed bag when it comes to performances in a claret and blue shirt this season. There’s been jetlag issues, fitness issues and a somewhat casual approach in some games, but against Rotherham his anchoring of the Villa midfield and guarding the back four, allowed Hourihane increasingly more freedom in the second half to make runs and link up with and support Kodjia.
Jedinak hardly put a foot wrong and proved to be a calming force in midfield. If he continues to play this way, expect further development from both Lansbury and Hourihane in turning Villa into a real force in the middle of the park.
4. Brum Bragging
While for MOMS there was only one aim this season – promotion, for some finishing above the Blues will bring some joy. The chances of that was looking increasingly dicey with Villa’s winless start to 2017, but with the Blues spluttering due to Zola, Villa are back on track with their recent three wins in a week.
While the Blues are still trying to find themselves under Zola, Villa should hopefully start getting serious even if it’s just to offer hope for next season.
One thing has to be said though, the Chinese ownership of the four main clubs in the West Midlands has hardly started well with rotten seasons so far for the three clubs in the Championship (Wolves seem to have a relegation battle on their hands). Only West Brom’s owner Guochuan Lai will be able to sleep soundly at night with his purchase.
5. Legit Free Retro Villa Shirt
It’s a deal MOMS couldn’t turn down to promote, one that allows UK-based Villans to get a free Villa retro shirt (from a choice of four) with minimal effort.
Play With a Legend – the company that reps ex-Villa players like Dion Dublin, Ian Taylor, Lee Hendrie, Tony Daley to play at stadium, legends and stag events – reached out to us with this offer and we thought it was too good not to pass on to readers.
All you had to do is sign-up to a new William Hill account, place at least a £10 bet (you also got a free bet to match your stake up to £25) and as long as you are based in the UK, you could order the shirt and size you want.
*** Due to the amazing demand from Villa supporters, William Hill had to pause the offer after the weekend. Hopefully, we will see the return of it in due course. All supporters who applied correctly – (a) UK based, b) new account, c) made a £10+ bet – should receive their shirt in two weeks time. Anybody who made their bet later, will receive their shirt in the next dispatch in 28 days time. ***
MOMS actually suggested fans bet on Villa to beat Rotherham at 4/5 to claim their free shirt – so it was a total win-win-win! A free Villa retro shirt, extra cash and three points!