Luring the Dragons
A return to Birmingham from the south coast left many Villa fans disappointed as the team put in one of their best performances yet under Steve Bruce against Brighton yet failed to pick up the win. A good point nonetheless was earned which leaves Villa still within touching distance of the play-offs (at least in points, if not position) and the belief that they can tussle with the best in the league.
Villa will welcome Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City to Villa Park on Saturday, another team that have seen a significant turn in form due to a managerial change. Only losing to Wigan and league leaders Newcastle since Warnock’s arrival in the first week of October, which makes Cardiff’s league position of 21st a little deceiving.
However, Steve Bruce still remains unbeaten as Villa manager as well as Villa being the only Championship team to be unbeaten at home, leaving Cardiff as the underdog going into the game. Villa clearly have an opportunity to show everybody why they deserve to still be considered as promotion contenders.
Here’s three ways of making it happen…apart from scoring more goals.
3 In the Hole
The performance against Brighton in the first half was nothing to write home about. A good defensive display was ultimately undone by a moment of magic from Glen Murray to cancel out Villa’s well-worked set piece earlier in the game.
However, the arrival of Jack Grealish, as he was subbed on mid-way through the second half showed a glimpse of the potential the England under-21 has. Playing his more favoured ‘No. 10’ role allowed Grealish to dictate the tempo of the game and distribute the ball better than anybody had done all night.
Despite not managing to help the team get the allusive goal which would have won Villa the game, he was playing against the statistically best defense in the league. Although Cardiff have tremendously improved under Neil Warnock, playing Jack Grealish in the hole behind Kodjia and alongside wingers like Ayew and Adomah, could be the key to unlocking the Cardiff defence.
2 Scene of the Crime
This fixture will welcome home a former Villan in the form of Peter Whittingham, one of Cardiff’s most dangerous attackers. Whittingham has become one of Cardiff City’s longest serving players as well as one of their highest ever goal scorers, a remarkable achievement from a player who has only ever played at left-midfield or more centrally.
Whittingham has once again stood up for Cardiff this year and has directly contributed to six of Cardiff’s 15 goals with his three assists and three goals. He has contributed to double the amount of goals than any other player in the side making Whittingham a key player that needs to be marked out of the game.
Maybe attaching Gary Gardner on marking duty as Jedinak sweeps the rest of the midfield would be ideal to silence the Nuneaton born midfielder. Avoiding giving any direct free kicks would also be a step in the right direction, as Whittingham is known for being lethal at dead ball situations.
1 Card Trick
As mentioned last week before the game against Brighton, Aston Villa possess many technically gifted players with McCormack, Adomah, Ayew, Kodjia and Grealish having the ability to trouble any defence in the Championship.
The referee is expected to have a quiet game in this match if the recent booking records are to be trusted, as Villa have drastically improved their disciplinary record since Bruce’s arrival. Cardiff currently are the saints of the league, who along with Sheffield Wednesday, are the team with the least amount of yellow cards with only 23 yellow cards amassed all season.
Partnering these two points could lead to disaster for Cardiff as they clearly prefer to back off the oncoming attacker when in defence, which could lead to a lot of space and time being available to exploit. As long as Bruce orders the Villa players to play the ball forward quicker and take the game to Cardiff, the game should unravel nicely for his team.
Follow Richard Wakefield on Twitter at @_RichardAVFC
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