Finally, as many of us hoped and predicted, Adama Traore came good for Aston Villa.
Despite the ex-Barcelona protegé handing Villa the game against Middlesbrough on a plate, Villa managed to underwhelm as only Villa can.
This has been the case for several weeks now since the Norwich result gave us the audacity
to hope that the goals, and points would start flowing. Instead Villa have continued to drift through games without doing a whole lot.
Henri Lansbury’s red card seemed symptomatic of exactly where Villa are these days. Unable to capitalise on opportunity or to grasp responsibility for making things happen. Once again Villa proved their own worst enemy.
The Right Tools, Doing The Wrong Job
In recent weeks Bruce has picked arguably his best available team on several occasions, yet he just can’t seem to get the best from them. His job hasn’t been made easier by some injuries to key players.
Against Boro, Villa sorely missed the direct running and ball carrying of the likes of Green, Onomah and Grealish, which would have added another dimension while trying to break down the opposition defence. However with this in mind the decision to push Elmo back to full-back to fit in seemed odd, especially with other full-backs available.
In terms of selection, I have a nagging feeling that Snodgrass will be put in the team every week, even if it means moving other players to less desired positions. If he can deliver that’s fine, but if his wages guarantee him a place I’ll be worried.
This squad is one that Bruce has largely built and he needs to get the best out of his players ASAP, if he is to have any future at the club.
Things are looking far too similar to Di Matteo’s tenure to persist.
He is starting to select better line ups, and making attack-minded subs, but he is failing to crack the issues that creating a balanced team should resolve.
The team struggles to balance width and central play. Delivery is mixed at best, and when it has improved our strikers have continued to seem isolated in the final third.
It was baffling to see Scott Hogan on the bench against Boro, when he and Davis would have complimented each other well up front from the off.
Praying For A Saviour
Seeing Jonathan Kodjia return to action is a massive relief. Our over reliance on Mr. Danger is not healthy, but right now, it’s necessary. If he can lead the way with getting goals than I’m willing to cut him some slack for his direct and borderline selfish tendencies. Welcome back Jimmy!
Villa’s chances created and shots on target has been woeful so someone keen to go direct may be exactly the tonic we need.
The key in reintegrating Kodjia is to help get the best out of another striker alongside him. Whether that’s alongside the physicality of Davis or the predatory movement of Hogan is up to Bruce, and who best capitalised on opportunities.
We all know what Hogan is capable of, although he seems cursed at the moment!
If JK can do his thing then hopefully his confidence and swagger will filter down through the rest of the team.
The 12th Man
It’s tough at the moment as a Villa fan. We keep letting our expectations soar only to feel deflated on a bi-weekly basis. That said this team is crying out for a confidence boost and that’s something the fans can provide.
Bruce and the players needs to be more positive in his approach but the fans need to be too. If we can give the players a lift it may be the difference between frustration and building momentum.
Fans are entitled to be annoyed at Bruce and underwhelming results but negativity off the pitch breeds negativity on the pitch.
Booing the team any time they don’t win is not productive, or fair. Especially, if the team are currently five games unbeaten.
If some positivity can breed confidence in the team then things can only get better for us all. It’s a cliche but it’s true. Mind you it’s hard to be positive as a Villa fan these days!
The Difference a Day Makes
I’m doing my best to practice what I preach, even if at times it feels like fooling myself.
Looking at things with a calm head it’s clear that things can change fast, especially this month. One good win on Saturday could transform morale in the squad. If they do, then we’ll be hailing the time given to let this team click.
If not, let’s hope the board is doing their homework on potential replacements for Brucey before the panic sets in.
The fact is that while it was hardly vintage football, Boro was far from Villa’s worst performance this term.
A few slight luck alterations and Villa could have been celebrating a win. The outcome was disappointing, particularly after the early red but Middlesbrough and Brentford are decent teams, and we must realise that we are not entitled to beat any team unless we can do it on merit.
Villa are racking up draws not losses which means the fight isn’t over yet, as long as the wins start coming.
Maybe they will this Saturday, or am I delusional?
Make sure you follow Finn on Twitter at @FinnMongey