In typical Villa fashion, Bristol City left Ashton Gate the happier with all three points. There was a nagging sense of inevitability when Abraham’s equaliser hit the back of the net. Heads dropped and the floodgates opened. Sound familiar?
If football was a game of 45 minutes, Villa would have racked up three wins and two draws so far this season. However, we live in the world of the 90 minute game and Villa sit 16th in the league with five points going into the international break.
Despite changes in personnel, it was the proverbial game of two halves, as Aston Villa remain vulnerable when exposed to pressure. Dominant for the first hour, we simply fell apart after Bristol were gifted their first goal. If Villa are to do well this season, that problem needs to be addressed and quickly.
Thankfully, we do appear to have an owner now that can see the problem. Although Tony tweets everything, yes everything, he did speak sense following defeat. Stating that Villa forgot teamwork, focus and respect, you can’t help but agree.
However, it’s a marathon not a sprint and there’s still 41 games to go.
Villa have gained more yellow cards this season [in five games], than we had points last year
Starting XI Verdict:
New signings Mile Jedinak and Ritchie de Laet came straight into the starting 11, replacing Gary Gardner and injured Rudy Gestede, who both started at the iPro last Saturday.
Jedinak partnered Ashley Westwood, in the hope of adding some grit into the middle of the park. Whilst de Laet came in at right-back, allowing Leandro Bacuna to move further up the field, slotting in on the right-wing.
With Gestede out, Jordan Ayew and Ross McCormack lead the line for Aston Villa. You’d have expected Ayew to have one of his best games of the season so far, in what you’d consider to be the Ghanaian’s favoured position. Instead, the chance fell away as he sulkily sauntered around the pitch.
Ayew is a player that frustrates me far more than any other. The striker has so much potential and on his day is prepared to cover every blade of grass, which we have all seen. But, in equal turn, he will play for himself and no one else. On several occasions, he had the chance to put Villa 2-0 up. On all but one of those occasions, he went alone when there were better options.
Having said this, if Jordan Ayew is to stay – which I would hope to see – then he could be an important player this season. He’s the type of player that can create a chance from nothing and adds versatility to the squad, as he can play in a number of positions along the front line. He has also developed his defensive game compared to last season. Coupled with an understanding with fellow forwards Gestede and McCormack, that front three could be lethal.
Di Matteo’s Game Management:
This man must have a dodgy half-time team talk because that second half was embarrassing. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the dressing room just to see what Di Matteo actually says to his players.
I’m not going to jump on Di Matteo’s back, especially when we are just five games in, however this does seem to be a recurring theme.
Of course, it’s not just the manager’s fault for Aston Villa’s capitulation in the second half. The players have to take as much blame for it as their boss. Yet, it does beg the question as to why we are so good in the first half but not the second?
At this stage of the season, fitness should not be an issue, but too many players look leggy and lacking focus in the latter stages of the game. If this is the case, there’s no depth on the bench. There’s no replacement that you think “yes, he could do the job and change the game.”
When de Laet left the field, Libor Kozak was brought on in a bid to turn the game around. Instead of being pleased, there’s a feeling of disappoint. We should be happy that Di Matteo has brought on a striker and is going out to attack. But, there’s a sense of is that the best we can do? Hopefully between now and the transfer window’s end, we can get in another striker and a couple more squad players to gain that strength in-depth we appear to be lacking.
James Linington had a busy afternoon, especially when it came to handing out yellow cards. Seven Villa players were on the receiving end as tempers began to flare following the collapse in the second half.
Added to the 13 we have already been given this season, it takes our tally up to 20; meaning Villa have gained more yellow cards this season, than we had points last year.
Apart from that, Linington had little to do during the game. It could be argued Bristol should have been given more cards themselves; however it would have had little influence on the game.
Based on the first half alone, Jack Grealish ran away with it. The 20-year-old’s enthusiasm, ability to draw a foul and vision were all evident in the game against Bristol, as he scored his second goal of the season.
Bacuna’s cross was volleyed beautifully by Grealish, who looked a constant threat throughout the first 45 with his quick feet and surging runs. But, like his team mates, he faded in the second half as he was devoid of the ball.
Last season, he lost his way and his place in the team thanks to injury and off the field matters; however his attitude has been perfect going into this season. He has since shown maturity beyond his years, and does not look a shin pad out-of-place in this Villa team.
There is no doubting his ability, or his potential, but actions speak louder than words. If he is to continue in this vein of form, then Grealish could be Villa’s shining light this season.
Bristol City’s MOTM:
With the absence of Jonathan Kodjia, a talking point for both sides, Bristol always looked the weaker team on paper. However, Tammy Abraham came into his own. The striker, on loan from Chelsea, started the comeback for the Robins, before setting up Joe Bryan for their second goal of the afternoon.
An isolated figure in the first half, he lacked support and found the going hard against centre-backs Tommy Elphick and James Chester. But he never stopped working and, afforded better service in the second half, he demonstrated strength of character aplenty to come out on top.
Follow Molly on Twitter at @m0llyfaith
And make sure you follow MOMS on Twitter too – @oldmansaid