‘win, lose or draw, it’s like we’ve been stuck playing in second gear the whole season.’
The other week, the Birmingham Mail ran an article about where Villa would be now, if Roberto Di Matteo was still in charge. It’s calculation was simple – divide the number of points (10) by the number of games he had managed (11) and then times that amount by the amount of games Villa have played so far this season (43).
Naturally with that kind of average, things wouldn’t look took rosy for RDM, so what was the motivation of the article? In proved nothing using nonsense science. So, was it to make Steve Bruce look good in comparison?
You can’t judge what would happen over a season by a 11 game run. Take Steve Bruce’s start to 2017. His first 11 games also resulted in 10 points and he only reached that figure by winning the last three of those matches (and he was lucky to play two of the then bottom three).
Whilst he was never MOMS choice for the judge, in fairness, Di Matteo was starting from scratch with his 11 games, while Bruce had 13 games to find his feet before 2017 even started. So Bruce’s 11 game streak is even poorer.
As we reach the end of the season and excuses are made for Villa’s failure to make any impression in terms of returning to the Premier League, some supporters have cited that too many draws under Di Matteo has cost us.
It didn’t help, but it’s a false narrative.
Going back to the two streaks of 10 points from 11 games of both Di Matteo and Bruce. During his 11 games, RDM suffered only two defeats compared to Bruce’s seven in his period. Yet, no one blames the defeats under Bruce for derailing any play-off push.
Bruce’s seven wins in eight games that followed, seemingly wiped away all memory of his contribution to our play-off failure this season.
When you look at Steve Bruce’s record at Villa in isolation, it’s apparent that RDM’s results had little significance in the overall picture of Villa’s plight this season.
Below is a table of the Championship since Steve Bruce came to be Villa manager. It doesn’t take into account this weekend’s fixtures (including the Blues game).
Before this weekend Villa were 12th in the Championship table and you can see that in the games solely under Bruce, Villa are an 11th placed team. That’s hardly any improvement.
It’s surprisingly, as you’d expect us to be at least top ten on Bruce’s efforts alone, but it highlights how the start of 2017 and recent games have impacted on Villa’s position.
So, in short, despite the huge investment at the club, Villa are currently nothing more than a mid-table Championship team under Bruce.
Bruce’s Initial Goal
When Bruce took the Villa job he was bullish that Villa were going to finish strong.
“There’s only one way for this club to go and that is up,” he told BBC West Midlands.
“If I don’t think I couldn’t [get promoted], I wouldn’t be here.
“There’s no honeymoon period. We’ve got 35 games to go. That’s a lot of time to do something,” he added.
“When I came to Birmingham in 2001, we were 15th at Christmas and still got up via the play-offs.”
This season will certainly go down as a disappointment in the current Villa boss’s book. He considered the squad one of the best he had inherited and was happy with there being enough time, considering he had got the Blues up in a similar position without the same financial backing.
Come January 1st and after 13 games of settling down under Bruce, Villa were just six points off the play-offs. Most supporters expected the club to be involved in them come the end of the season.
Now, you will hear a lot of revisionists, saying things like “I always knew it would take two seasons” and even Tony Xia’s favourite word on Twitter now is ‘patience’.
The thing is…
Since the Premier League was formed, only ONE club that finished bottom of the Premier League and failed to bounce straight back the next season, has been promoted within three seasons of relegation (Sunderland – relegated in 2002/03, promoted in 2004/05).
it’s a worrying stat to say the least and explains what has happened to clubs like Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Derby.
Movement Under Bruce
While MOMS has been lamenting the level of performance of the team throughout the season, regardless of its final results (which Bruce has also done), just looking at the overall results under Bruce shows clearly Villa can’t go on playing the way they have.
First of all the good news.
The best indication of any improvement during Steve Bruce’s time at Villa is unsurprisingly the defence. With 34 goals shipped in 35 games under Bruce, it ranks 5th in the league during the period he’s been in charge.
It’s at the other end that Villa have serious short-comings playing the way Bruce sets up.
In terms of goals scored, Villa’s poor total of 35 goals ranks 19th in the division despite the club spending over £36m on three strikers, a luxury that no other Championship team has had.
Even with a decent defence, that return of goals isn’t going to get you anywhere near the promotion places.
Having only improved Villa’s goal difference in 32 games to -1 from the -2 it was after RDM’s 11 games, shows you the overall effect of trying to grind out wins.
It hasn’t been pretty to watch and the end result overall hasn’t been too pretty or impressive either. People sometimes confuse what the saying “winning ugly” is normally used for. It’s proper usage is when referring to a team being good, because they can win ugly when they’re having an off day. Now that implies that they normally play well to win games.
Teams that can only win ugly, will also draw and lose ugly too!
We are not talking about Villa needing to become a good team style-wise like Barcelona, but that performances need to improve to be effective, with an onus on attack and with less mistakes. As the cliché goes, it’s about getting the basics right.
This concept it seems has been difficult to grasp by some fans, who can only think in binary terms – “better to win ugly than lose playing like Barcelona” is something that’s said time and time again by apologist Villa fans. But it actually means nothing in the context of a team trying to get promotion.
In simplistic terms, you do not get promoted playing cr*p all the time!
The quality of Villa’s football needs to improve – whatever style or formation they end up playing.
As MOMS keeps saying in our podcasts, this season, win, lose or draw, it’s like we’ve been stuck playing in second gear the whole season.
Surely it’s time for Bruce now to move through the gears?
Check us out talking about these issues and more in the latest podcast episode below. For fans with brains and a sense of humour!