‘So far in 2017, in 24 league games under Bruce, Villa have won 8, drawn 4 and lost 12’
Top of the List
After Aston Villa sacked Roberto Di Matteo last season, Villa Technical Director Steve Round drew up a list of 10 candidates for Villa owner Tony Xia to replace the Italian with. Steve Bruce was top of the list.
In the same week in October 2016 that Bruce began his job as Villa boss, Neil Warnock also took over at Cardiff City.
Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City comfortably beat Villa 3-0 this weekend by being fitter, sharper and the hungrier of the two teams. A one-off head-to-head win is one thing, but since both managers have taken their respective jobs, Warnock has actually out performed Bruce over a full 37 games.
Below makes grim reading when you consider Warnock is a manager that most Villa fans would have taken a strong aversion to as a potential Villa boss. In fact, it’s doubtful he even made Steve Round’s list of ten for the Villa job.
Warnock Bluebird Rise
The Bluebirds were second from bottom, four places below Villa, when both managers started out in the same week last October.
Also, let’s not forget Villa massively out spent Cardiff City too.
Over the course of the whole season, Villa’s spend was £75m+ on new players, while Cardiff City spent around £2.6m.
Having missed out on the summer window, both Bruce and Warnock could only operate in the January window. Bruce spent around £20m, while Neil Warnock had to make do with free agents and loan to bolster the ranks.
Bruce had aimed for the playoffs, when he took the Villa job, citing he had turned around Birmingham City and got them promoted within fewer games.
Last season, at one stage, with still 32 games to play, Villa were just five/six points off the play-off spots. They were still easily attainable. Also, in January, Bruce brought in several players that were deemed the best players at various rival Championship clubs, namely Lansbury, Hourihane and Hogan.
With no money to spend, Warnock relied more on Churchillian speeches fused with expletives and installing dogged determination and organisation into the Bluebirds.
Factoring in the difference in resources, Warnock certainly out-performed Bruce over the final 35 games of last season they were both in charge for.
If Warnock was punching above his weight to gain a top-half finish with Cardiff last term (not to mention topping the Championship at the time of writing), what has Bruce doing with Villa finishing in the bottom half? He’s meant to be the ‘Championship Expert’ with four promotions to his name, isn’t he?
The fact that Cardiff scored 15 more goals than Villa over last season’s 35 game period (let’s not forget Villa spent over £30m alone on strikers), highlight’s Bruce’s main problem. Despite the personnel he has to pick from, he hasn’t organised this Villa team to be effective going forward. They simply aren’t scoring enough goals to be successful in this division.
While Bruce undoubtedly failed last season, many were content to put last season down as a false start. Surely with a full pre-season under his belt and getting in more of his own players, we would see Bruce transform Villa’s fortunes?
The evidence so far, suggests there’s been little change. Take away a fine performance by Jed Steer in the League Cup clash against Colchester, and it would have been a poor first week.
What’s startling is, if Bruce’s Villa team lose against Reading in midweek, Villa would have lost the same amount of games as they have won under Bruce.
Even more worrying is there is little sign of improvement. So far in 2017, in 24 league games under Bruce, Villa have won 8, drawn 4 and lost 12.
Not exactly impressive considering the club’s vast investment in transfer fees and wages in the past 12 months.
Looking at Bruce’s buys in the January window that had hoped to be the spine of a promotion push, who has actually impressed?
Of course, in terms of this season, it’s only two league games old. A home draw against Hull isn’t the end of the world and any team that wins at Cardiff this season will be doing very well. Villa will also have the cavalry coming to reinforce the ranks soon when Mile Jedinak and Jonathan Kodjia return.
The last time Villa got promoted from this division, they didn’t win any of their first four games. In fact, Graham Taylor only managed one win in the first seven games of the 1987/88 season. So now is not the time to panic just yet.
However, looking at Taylor, there’s another managerial comparison that Bruce does not match up well against.
Villa’s stuttering start under Taylor in 1987 was largely down to them being his first games as Villa manager, but he soon turned it around swiftly enough to win promotion within the same season. Bruce has already had 35 games to sort Villa out in before this season even kicked-off, yet there’s been little sign of any change or progress.
Promotion is vital this season for Villa for obvious reasons and Tony Xia has spent accordingly for that outcome.
The time for Bruce to deliver is now. No excuses.
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