Villa will travel down to the south coast of Wales for their first fixture of 2017 leaving a very disappointing 2016 in their wake. A late rally against Leeds secured a valuable point to end the year with fans looking forward rather than backwards, with an unbeaten home record intact.
The previous meeting between Villa and Cardiff was a feisty affair with Neil Warnock’s men leaving the pitch with ten men and a 3-1 loss for their troubles.
A trip to the Cardiff City Stadium will not be an easy task with Cardiff only losing once from their last five matches. Villa’s last away trip to QPR returned three points and could act as a blueprint to Steve Bruce on how to get the job done on the road. The gap between Villa and the play-offs isn’t closing and only a win will suffice.
Here’s three ways of making it happen…
Taking a look at the only team that has managed to pry three points away from Cardiff in the last five games, Barnsley’s game plan was very simplistic when it came to picking apart the Cardiff team as they hit four past former Manchester United goalkeeper Ben Amos.
The third Barnsley goal came directly from the keeper’s comical error to run outside of the box for no rhyme or reason. The counter attack is an art, and when perfected, can be deadly.
A slow and unorganised defence partnered with a low on confidence man between the sticks are there to be exploited, especially when the pace and directness of Adomah is deployed against them.
Luring the bluebirds out of their cage to strike them when their most vulnerable is a sure fire way of securing the three points.
If anything should be taken away from the Leeds game, it is that Villa aren’t as solid at the back as we all thought we were. Yes, there are issues with Alan Hutton’s marking, but also Jordan Amavi has looked a little shaky in recent games. Neil Warnock is a veteran manager and will have watched the Thursday night game letting him see the defensive errors that Amavi has in his locker.
With most fans wondering which hand to snatch the alleged 25 million offered by a ‘mystery club’ with, Amavi’s performance didn’t shower him in glory. However by no means does this mean Amavi is a bad player, or even that bad a defender, it’s just Warnock will probably want either a fast or strong player to be playing on the shoulder of Amavi and Cardiff have an abundance of such players.
With either target men Lambert, Gounongbe and Zohore or notoriously fast winger Junior Hoilett being specifically positioned to trouble out left-back. Maybe it would be something for Bruce to think about to have Baker sit a little close to Amavi or even have the left-midfielder, probably Bacuna, sit a little deeper to help neutralise one of Cardiff’s few attacking threats.
The list of strikers at the club is exhausting but top scorer Jonathan Kodjia has not been cleared by the Ivory Coast to play. This international complication leaves Villa without their main striker but considering the amount of goals Ross McCormack has scored in this division, he should be trusted to lead the line.
McCormack’s footballing brain allows him to bring more players into Villa’s attacking play. However, there’s further question marks over who could be available to take advantage of this. Jack Grealish remains a doubt after a bad dead leg, while Rudy Gestede has been reported to be in the North East completing a move to Middlesbrough.
Also, there is the option of playing Jordan Ayew more centrally, after he has had to spend most of this season player wider.
Does anyone need reminding why Agbonlahor shouldn’t be starting and who is this Libor Kozak that people are speaking of?
Based on his term as Villa boss so far, don’t expect Steve Bruce to promote the likes of Kienan Davis or Rushian Hepburn-Murphy just yet, although they have the type of energy and quick thinking needed to effectively hit Cardiff on the aforementioned counter attack.
McCormack has scored goals before and hopefully January will be his month to light up the league once again.