A Friday night trip to promotion-chasing Brighton AFC was always going to be a stern test for Villa, considering the Seagulls solid home record and ability to get clean sheets. Trains may have been cancelled and it may have been difficult to get to the away bar because of the smoke (see pic below), but all-in, it was one of the best away trips this season, so far.
So, what can Villa fans take from their unseasonable trip to the seaside?
SET-PIECES ARE BACK
Never mind goals from open play – set-pieces were the trademark of Villa’s last team to win promotion from the second tier and under Bruce they could be back again. Like it or lump it, teams that win don’t waste free-kicks or corners; something Villa have been guilty of for season upon season.
A deserved goal for the now-reliable Nathan Baker is a sign that the gift horse of a free kick or dangerous corner will no longer be looked in the mouth.
Last Friday night was Albert Adomah’s official coming-out party. The Ghanaian looked like every bit of the player we were billed as buying when he joined the team and he was the stand-out player of the game for Villa.
Villa fans have been calling out for creativity for season upon season, hoping the likes of Jordan Veretout would provide that killer ball from midfield. Turns out goal-creation can come from the wing and if Adomah can have more games like he had on Friday, he will become the asset we fans wanted.
Jack Grealish flourished under the jovial father-figure guidance of Tim Sherwood – one of the few positives fans can take from the Sherwood regime.
For season upon season, fans have been anxious about Grealish’s development, wanting him to shine in a game and take it by the scruff of the neck. His second half performance against Brighton showed that maybe Bruce’s man-management style is going to bring out the best in the young starlet and hopefully finally take him to the next level – and stay there.
AND FINALLY, GABBY…
Gabby has become a more devisive character than the President Elect of the USA. There are some who will never forget Gabby’s short-comings, attitude and lack of goals, questioning his worth to the team at all.
But others (optimistically, but still) will take heart from his showing against Brighton. For season upon season, fans just wanted to see a glimmer of the Gabby of old. Is he still as fast as the Holte End say he is? Probably not. Is he still sharp in front of goal? Arsenal haven’t thought about signing him since that momentarily blip in the early 2000s.
But did he show some signs he could yet contribute to the team, especially with the jet-lagged Ayew heading to AFCON in January. Dr X has talked about getting some loanees in to cover those absences, but if Gabby can account for one less temporary signing, that can only be a good thing. If Bruce’s management can bring him out of his funk, that might be just as praise-worthy as promotion itself.
Follow Adam Keeble on Twitter @keebo00