Back to back wins for the first time since May 2015 and the feelgood factor is finally returning to Villa Park.
Making The Right Calls
Once again Steve Bruce has show that he is actually watching what’s going on on the pitch and is making selection decisions based on that. It’s hard to fault Aly Cissokho’s effort, but he is too prone to errors in the wrong areas. Bringing Amavi in for more first team football was the right decision, and one many of us have been calling for for some times now.
Westwood has finally lost his unexplainable immunity from being dropped. While Gary Gardner is hardly setting the world alight, he has stepped up his standard in comparison to early in the season. It’s hard not to understand the decision to bring Jordan Ayew into the fold after his contribution in the previous game but Bruce must take care not to fall into the habits of his predecessor.
Beginning with two forwards in wide positions again and one up top is something that Di Matteo regularly did to little effect. It will be tough fitting in all our forward players this term but they must be utilised in a way that will be effective and this must include having at least one winger on the field to support them.
The introduction of Albert Adomah proved to be yet another effective substitution from the new boss. However, it also highlighted the need for attacking midfielders and wingers to support the forward line.
As has been the case for some time now, Villa are crying out for some real creativity in midfield and as such it is interesting to see the manager select Leandro Bacuna. I’m often a big critic of Bacuna but his inclusion shows that Bruce is at least trying to find options and solutions to increase creativity in the middle of the park. As mentioned above, playing wingers will help but the midfield need to be creating more.
Finding the right positions and opportunities in the team for Grealish and McCormack could be key. Both men have the ability to think outside the box. In this regard Bruce has something of a headache., but it’s a healthy problem to have.
Keeping It Tidy
For all the talk of attacking depth at the club it would be unfair not to mention the efforts of the defence in the last couple of games. Nathan Baker has grabbed his opportunity in the XI with a few solid displays, including a vital block late in the game against Fulham on Saturday. Tommy Elphick, who has been inconsistent in recent weeks, may have a job on his hands displacing the ever committed Chester and Baker.
Competition in the squad at both ends of the pitch is a huge plus for Villa’s campaign. Finally Villa are edging closer to having genuine options in many areas of the pitch instead of being forced to pick the least terrible eleven every week. A few shrewd additions in midfield and full-back in January and this really will look like a proper squad.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that one of the first things the new manager had to do was to make a decision on who will be No.1 goalkeeper and stick to it. Since Bruce’s arrival it is clear that young Gollini’s confidence has skyrocketed. That has been reflected in his performances, including a clean sheet this weekend. The kid is clearly talented and this boost in confidence and trust will do wonders in helping him reach his potential and becoming a valuable asset to the team.
The Return of The Good Times?
There is a long way to go before Villa are back where they need to be, but so far the new regime has shown what an injection of organisation and confidence can do to a struggling team. While Villa are still yet to find full flow this term, there have been steady improvements under Bruce. Fans, we are finally getting what we wanted, some joy and entertainment out of football again.
On Saturday several Villa mad friends of mine even pointed out that Villa, particularly Kodjia’s goal, almost felt like the Villa of the 1980’s and 1990s in brief patches. It’s impossible not to see some Daley-esque characteristics in the delivery and swagger of the attacking move in question.
We are not on a par with that era yet but having characters like Kodjia at the club is helping. Kodjia has recently had a few forward drives that showed shades of the late Dalian Atkinson, although it will take a lot more before any real comparison to previous Villa heroes could even be entertained. If this lot can show half the talent and charisma of Villa’s teams around the pre and early Premier League era then we’ll be doing alright.
A birthday goal for Kodjia was well deserved and refreshing, as usually goals on people’s birthdays, first club goals, and goal scoring landmarks tend to be against Villa and not in our favour. Another turning point hopefully.
Seven points from nine is a great return and the Bruce era is already outshining those who failed before him. Villa haven’t exactly skyrocketed up the league but we are rapidly closing the gap. Two more wins could see us close-in on the playoff contention spots.
It’s clearer than ever the value of three points over one in terms of the table and the feel good factor at the club. Unbeaten at home takes on a whole new value when Villa Park is witnessing wins instead of narrow escape draws.
Next up, the Blues. To underestimate them purely on the back of a poor game at Burton would be foolish, but a win in the derby and Villa will truly be back on track. It would also give Bruce the perfect tonic for anyone still bemoaning his blue past.
The team is growing in confidence and picking up wins. Now is the perfect time to remind our noisy neighbours who the big dogs in town really are. In just two weeks I’ve gone from dreading Sunday the 30th to counting the minutes in excitement.
I’ll leave the last word to the Holte End, “Birmingham City we’re coming for you”
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