Rare Away Win
Aston Villa away wins in recent years have become about as frequent as your birthday or Christmas, so the three-nil win at Barnsley was most welcome in terms of getting Villa’s season going.
Such wins should have been routine last season, yet Villa only earned one point from their two games against Barnsley last term.
The difference in their latest encounter boiled down to the first half very much being about the two defences on display. Villa’s was assured and controlled, while Barnsley’s panicked twice, which led to Villa’s opening goal and then a penalty.
Bruce fielded his preferred two-up-top, 4-4-2 formation, something he’s failed to do for a while now. Perhaps the Villa boss has finally got the personnel at his disposable to pull it off.
Villa were happy for Barnsley to have possession (61%), but where much effective than their hosts with the ball when they got it.
Ultimately, it was a comfortable victory with plenty of legit reasons to be cheerful.
1. The Obvious
Villa managed four away wins in 23 games last season, if you want to know the main reason we finished in the bottom half of the table.
Last season the three promoted teams were all in the Top Five for away form. Villa in comparison were ranked 21st.
Bruce’s attempts at solving the issue have been alarmingly conservative. There was the three centre-back failed experiment earlier in the season, but should Villa really be paying so much respect to Championship teams considering the players they now have in their own team?
Bruce changed his tact against Barnsley by playing two forwards and it paid dividends.
Let home teams fear our visit. Surely that’s the way forward?
2. First Goal
Considering his excellent contribution so far this season, Keinan Davis certainly deserved his first goal for the club when he headed in Villa’s third.
Again, he provided a complete ‘big man’ performance. Good feet, vision and strength.
He’s been like a bonus signing this season and MOMS expects him to play a big part going forward.
3. Three Cleans
Three clean sheets on the trot suggest that John Terry and his troops have finally got their organisation down pat. Ahmed Elmohamady seems to have won the right-back spot with his contribution to Villa’s goals showing he gives us more than Hutton did going forward.
4. First XI
Finally after 40-odd games Steve Bruce seems to have found a first XI. A settled side that he can go to.
We have a defence that is solid and Elmohamady provides an additional attacking threat down the right.
The midfield including Snodgrass, Adomah and Hourihane has goals and assists written all over it.
Snodgrass’s tenacity for a wide man also allows Bruce to free up an extra striker and Adomah was also noticeably tracking back on the left against Barnsley, which was encouraging to see.
Bruce might have found a striker in Davis that can actually compliment the selfish nature of Kodjia, with Davis able to provide for Kodjia and occupy backlines to open up space for him and others.
The only place I would still have a question mark about in terms of nailing down the ideal XI is the DM position.
For my money Mile Jedinak plays way to deep at the moment. At times, he’s literally on the toes of his centre backs and hardly ever crosses the half-way line. If he was freed up a bit, I’d choose him over Glenn Whelan, who is a bit more mobile.
Ultimately though, it’s a minor detail. Either or will do with the other 10 players.
5. Potential Team Unit
On the day of Villa’s 3-0 win at Barnsley in 1987, Villa won 2-0 at WBA and had nine points from their first eight games. They were promoted that season.
After the Barnsley result Villa were on 10 points from eight games.
Yes, better off than that promotion season under Graham Taylor.
Taylor managed to turn it around after a poor start and achieve the desired promotion, so Bruce will take heart from that.
With games against struggling Bolton and Burton this month, he should hopefully have Villa back on track sharpish.