The Search is Over?
Steve Bruce is often labelled as an old school boss, who by his own admittance prefers a 4-4-2 and playing two strikers in the Championship.
There’s nothing wrong with that at this level and it has served him ok in the past at this level.
Yet, why hasn’t it worked at Villa yet?
In terms of his Villa management career, Bruce hasn’t been able to pull off his ideal formation together with any success, until perhaps last weekend.
When you looked at the teamsheet against Barnsley it seemed to click.
There was only one concern and that was Albert Adomah playing on the left-side instead of his favoured right, but that was addressed as soon as we all saw his two-goal performance.
Wa this Bruce FINALLY finding his first XI?
As we discussed on the latest MOMS podcast (below), it seems to be the case.
On the show we looked at the potential of the Kodjia and Davis partnership, why Snodgrass allows Bruce to play 4-4-2, what Adomah brings to the party and the verdict on Whelan vs Jedinak for the DM spot in the team.
The same XI has indeed been selected against Nottingham Forest and bar injury and a bit of Whelan/Jedinak interchange, should become a regular thing going forward into the season.
Bruce’s Go-to First XI?
Sam Johnstone as we discussed in the latest podcast episode is now a name you can rely on in-between the sticks. His recent top draw display against Brentford and been supplemented by increasingly sound and comfortable performances.
The defence in front of him led by John Terry and Jame Chester has increasingly built an understanding and was ultimately the main difference against Barnsley, whose own defence crumbled.
There’s always been a weakness to the Villa midfield that perhaps encouraged to play five in there and go just with the one up top.
Robert Snodgrass though for my money brings a tenacity that not many wide men possess. He’s not shy in coming in and helping get stuck in.
Throw in a regular DM such as Glen Whelan or Mile Jedinak (although he needs to stop playing on the toes of the centre-backs) and there’s enough mettle in the middle of the park to play a regular four.
Albert Adomah also impressed against Barnsley in tracking back and supporting Neil Taylor on the left-hand side.
The only question that remains about the midfield is whether Conor Hourihane can still get forward enough from his more standard CM role to have the kind of impact going forward we’d like. He has competition from Josh Onomah to keep him on his toes though.
Snodgrass, Hourihane and Adomah, three players that are statistically proven to have goals and assists written all over them.
Keinan Davis has been a revelation and a big silver lining due to Jonathan Kodjia’s absence at the start of the season.
His awareness and quick feet, added to his power, make Davis a handful for any defence, who normally would just have to focus on stopping Kodjia.
While the little and large combo of Davis and Hogan hasn’t been tried yet, the prospect of facing Davis and Kodjia potentially would give more defences sleepless nights.
Davis also gives Villa another physical presence in their own box when defending set plays, so there’s an additional ‘team’ bonus when he plays.
Whether the duo ultimately works though will depend on Kodjia increasing his awareness and toning down his inherent selfishness.
Fingers crossed this Villa XI is the backbone to finally get the Villa promotion challenge up and running.