By Richard Wakefield
Running Through Hoops
An abysmal Tuesday night performance was served up by Aston Villa as Steve Bruce fell to his second defeat in three games. The narrow 1-0 defeat to Norwich City has given Bruce a lot to think about going into Sunday’s encounter with QPR as countless of individual performances fell well below expectation.
Villa fans will be familiar with the name of Ian Holloway, who recently took over at Loftus Road, as he criticised the pre-season efforts of former boss Di Matteo and predicted a possible second relegation for Villa. However the former Sky Sports pundit hasn’t had much success at QPR this season picking up a singular win and losing his last four matches.
An improved performance against promotion pushing Derby may not have gotten any points for the Hoops but has made this fixture less of a forgone conclusion. Steve Bruce’s Villa will definitely be tested with this trip to London but a win is not beyond their grasp.
Here’s three ways of making it happen…
Stats Don’t Lie
After the inexcusable performance from Villa in mid-week, a lot of players were scrutinised by many on social media. Ashley Westwood has seen his fair bit of criticism from the Villa faithful during his tenure in the claret and blue midfield. However, Tuesday seemed to be a boiling point as people outside of the Villa bubble have started to pick up on Westwood’s extremely poor passing statistics.
Only managing to complete 18 passes all game as a central midfielder against Norwich, it’s easy to see why many fans are still not sold on what Westwood brings to the team. A return to the starting XI for Gary Gardner would be the obvious choice for Steve Bruce but the Birmingham born midfielder hasn’t overly impressed in his many appearances this season.
A rare start for Aaron Tshibola may be a risky decision to take given the lack of minutes he has had over the campaign; but the younger and more energetic box-to-box midfielder would have to really struggle to do any worse than what Westwood has shown in recent games.
Chery On Top
Being the second lowest scorers in the whole division, it isn’t a secret that QPR don’t boast the most threatening of attacking squads. With strikers such as Sylla, Polter and Washington not being able to secure a starting spot in the side, there is only one player who has consistently been picked to deliver goals and assists.
Tjaronn Chery can be deployed on the right-wing but is mainly played as QPR’s central attacking-midfielder where he has picked up four goals and three assists. Contributing to more goals than any other player in the squad, Chery has been trusted with set-piece duty, and rightly so looking at goals such as the long range effort versus Blackburn.
Villa as a collective team need to avoid giving away any dangerous set piece opportunities which could even give Chery a sniff at goal. Also putting the extra effort to prevent any corners as Chery’s crosses could easily be used to abuse the QPR height advantage they possess over Villa.
When talking about players that need to be tested in the starting XI, players such as Ross McCormack and Rushain Hepburn-Murphy are commonly brought to the front of the line. But with yet another below average performance from Villa right-back Alan Hutton, maybe it’s time to add some extra crossing ability on the right flank in Leandro Bacuna.
Hopefully Adomah will reclaim his starting spot in the match day line-up, which could make Bacuna even more effective. So many times we have seen Adomah create space for Hutton to either run in to or receive the ball to send in a threatening cross. However as all Villa fans have learned the hard way over the last five years, finesse in the final third isn’t Hutton’s strong point.
Bacuna proved that one of the strongest parts of his game is his crossing ability, something that has been missing from Villa this season with Amavi being the only player to show how it’s done. Regular crosses from both full backs could really heap the pressure on the QPR defence and provide too much pressure for them to keep that illusive clean sheet.
Twitter – @_RichardAVFC