By Richard Wakefield
We Go Again
Steve Bruce finally tasted defeat as Aston Villa manager as his side fell 2-0 at Elland Road to Leeds United, but will look to rebound and maintain Villa’s season-long unbeaten home record against struggling Wigan Athletic. New boss Warren Joyce at Wigan hasn’t hit the ground running, only achieving a singular win against out of form Huddersfield Town since he was appointed back in November.
A win for Villa against Wigan should be straight forward looking at the league positioning and squad strengths of the two clubs but Wigan are surprisingly unbeaten in five on their travels.
Here’s three ways of making it happen…
Everybody makes mistakes, but it still doesn’t make it any less infuriating when it causes a loss in a crucial game such as last week. A mixture of Tommy Elphick and Pierluigi Gollini’s mishaps caused Leeds to take the lead last week which inevitably led to Steve Bruce’s first Villa defeat.
Even before the Leeds game the consolation goal that Cardiff scored was due to an Ashley Westwood error in judgement. Other mistakes that come to mind include the Gollini punt that hit Hefele in the clash against Huddersfield costing Villa two points and the poor back pass to Gollini in the opening game against Sheffield Wednesday, which gave Villa their first defeat of the season.
Although it seems like Gollini is at fault for the majority of these mistakes, he hasn’t been helped by some of the questionable passing and defending that he has to watch from between the sticks.
Steve Bruce needs to instil a sense of confidence and calm about Villa’s play at the back. With Baker’s absence a similar defence to last week will be fielded, which doesn’t strike many fans with too much confidence. Although there are a few experienced players at the back, maintaining a cool head and not allowing the pressure of match day to consume them should be enough to prevent anything questionable from happening
Steve Bruce’s press conference on Friday morning went as many would expect, but when asked about who he saw as Wigan’s main threat, he left out leading goal scorer Will Grigg and instead proclaimed that Yanic Wildschut was the danger man. The natural winger was deployed as a lone striker in their last outing against Brighton and didn’t produce much in terms of goals or assist but it’s obvious from this decision what Warren Joyce’s plan will be.
Due to Wigan lacking a natural target man, who can use his physical presence to hold the ball up for others, Joyce has gone for the alternative of trickery. Wildschut’s superb first touch and dribbling skills helps bring the midfielders around him into play and creates opportunities. His pace also will no doubt cause a problem for Villa’s defence.
Linking with the point of avoiding silly individual errors, Wildschut will be lightning rod for errors, if players like Hutton and Elphick charge in wrecklessly, trying to take the ball off him. Taking a step back and allowing Wildschut to hold the ball will be key to keeping a clean sheet against Wigan as for what Wildchut has in pace and dribbling, he lacks in technical ability.
Hope for Hepburn
The teenage transfer saga continues and doesn’t seem like it’s going to die down as January looms over the season. Rushain Hepburn-Murphy is supposedly next up to be part of Rangers new transfer policy of taking young English talent for a compensation fee due to a cross border loophole.
Steve Bruce has proclaimed that he will try anything to get the PL2 September player of the month to stay at Villa and an appearance against Wigan on Saturday will go a long way in securing that.
In terms of how this will help Villa capture the three points, while he is far from the finished article (judging by his U-23 outing against Norwich City), Hepburn Murphy has an explosive amount of pace with a lethal finish for somebody of his age and experience.
Murphy possesses the qualities of what many wish Agbonlahor could showcase on the pitch this season. With Gabby possibly being out of the clash with Wigan, Ayew and Gestede hitting some poor form and McCormack struggling for form and fitness, playing a team in the relegation zone like Wigan could be the perfect opportunity to introduce a surprise package Hepburn-Murphy to help gain needed Championship points.
Follow Richard on Twitter – @_RichardAVFC