Once in a while there’s a live TV performance that issues a statement of intent for the season ahead.
In terms of Aston Villa, for the best example, you’d probably have to go back to the 1989/90 season. The previous season the newly promoted Villa had escaped relegation by a single point. Despite having a bright start to the new season, expectations weren’t too high for Graham Taylor’s men. Only 17,637 turned up at Villa Park for their Live TV clash (a bigger deal back then) with Everton, who also had started the season well.
When Villa raced to a 6-0 lead with still over 20 minutes to play, viewers watching on their TV sets, had an epiphany that Taylor’s Villa team were going to be up there challenging come the end of the season.
Villa’s eventual 6-2 win was a massive statement of intent and singled a complete turnaround for Villa, who went from being one place off relegation the season before to one place off winning the title, when they finished runners-up to Liverpool.
Fast forward to the present day, and if Steve Bruce wanted to make a statement that his Villa team were the real deal for automatic promotion, then to impress in front of the TV cameras against the in-form Wolves in their own backyard was the perfect setting.
Instead, it was Wolves who beat Villa in such a controlled, fluid and eventually lethal fashion, that most were instantly tipping Wolves for the Championship title. Meanwhile, Villa supporters were left alarmed at the apparent gulf between the two teams in terms of their football and style.
Bruce after a full-year in charge, has constantly stressed the message that he needs time to turn things around and get his own players in. Yet, Wolves boss, Nuno Espírito Santo, with zero Championship experience, seems to have transformed a long stagnant Wolves team within the space of a few months into one of their best teams in decades.
While we wait for Villa’s next game against Fulham to get back on track, where’s five reasons to be cheerful…
While the red alert light was flashing at the gulf in style and approach of the two teams, there’s no shame in Villa losing away to the team now top of the league. It looks like Wolves is going to be Villa’s hardest fixture of the season, so lets put it down to experience and move on.
If we return to winning ways in our next game, then the loss will be no big deal.
2.Evidence of a Better Way
In purely football terms, let’s be honest, Villa’s time in the Championship has been enough to put anyone off football, based on our own performances and those of our opposition.
Th Championship has been as bad and boring at times as watching England play.
The way Wolves played though was probably the best any team has played against Villa in this league, and it shows that this cautious approach of Bruce of trying to grind out results and being hard to beat has its limitations.
Wolves showed there is another way of playing, getting the desired results and exciting the crowd, so at least we now have evidence of this to use against some of the excuses we’ve been hearing from Villa HQ and the local media.
Despite having to play on the opposite side of the pitch that he is used to, Alan Hutton, while limited in what he could do going forward on the left flank, made two or three top-draw last-ditch tackles to spare Villa’s blushes further.
His sliding tackles were timed to perfection and he was certainly Villa’s top performer of the day.
While Callum O’Hare only made a brief cameo substitute appearance, he showed more purpose having a go at Wolves than the rest of the team did during the game.
Admittedly, with his quick feet and his forward intent, he looks like he’d probably thrive more if he was actually playing in the Wolves team. They certainly would be more on his wavelength.
Is Bruce now set on 4-4-2? He would probably have to switch from it to accommodate O’Hare properly.
However, playing away against the better teams in the division, playing an attacking midfielder like O’Hare instead of two strikers, who got cut-off and isolated in the Wolves game, could offer the youngster a way into the team.
The bottom line though is it’s good to see him getting minutes, as he looks to have something to offer at this level, even now.
Grealish’s Last Stand
O’Hare will have fresh competition though with the return to fitness of Jack Grealish, who started Villa’s U-23 2-0 away win against Wolves this Monday night.
Grealish played the first 60 minutes alongside O’Hare in a match that was settled in the first half with two Harry McKirdy goals.
After Bruce’s plans to make Grealish a focus of his team at the start of the season, before he got injured, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of role he’ll have now.
It’s an important season for Grealish to now show that he’s the real deal. If he can’t make an impression on the Championship, big question marks will soon start to form.
He’s got more competition now, do he’ll have to play well and be consistent, as this team can’t carry any bit-part passengers any more.
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