It was a battle between 4-4-2 formations at Villa Park on Saturday, but there only seemed to be one team playing the formation convincingly. The visiting Sheffield Wednesday team, weren’t exactly the most impressive team I’ve seen at Villa Park, but at least their players seemed to know their place within their system. At the head of it, Stephen Fletcher could have had a hat-trick on another day, as the Owls always looked the more convincing going forward.
The sad thing is, currently, an opposition team just needs to be functional to have a good chance of beating Villa.
At no point did Villa really have a grasp on the game and even a wonder goal from John McGinn failed to provide the adrenaline shot to lift the levels of the team.
Bruce did little to turn the tide for Villa after a very poor first half cried out for the Villa boss to make adjustments. His first sub came after they were 2-1 down, confirming what MOMS said in the last MOMS podcast about Bruce only being reactive with his subs, as opposed to proactive and progressive.
“It’s difficult at the moment. No matter what I do, in some people’s eyes I’m not going to be the right fit,” said Bruce, after the game.
The fact of the matter is though, Bruce has done very little to create a team that offers any cohesion or one that takes advantage of its superior players to exert its will on others.
It’s been two years now and 100 games under Bruce, yet it feels like the team hasn’t evolved one bit. For all the talk of this so-called ‘stability’ that Bruce has supposed to have brought to the club, there’s only thing stable about Aston Villa and that’s lack of any real progress on the pitch since they’ve been in the Championship.
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Villa Player Ratings vs Sheffield Wednesday Home
Orjan Nyland – 6
Nyland was well beaten for both goals, but had a generally sound game with a couple of notable saves. He still seems to be rooted to his line and taking a safety first approach to crosses though.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6
Had a decent enough game at right-back, although going forward some of his crosses were a bit ‘hit and hope’…like the one that ended up leading to McGinn’s volley!
Alan Hutton – 6
Great tackle to deny Fletcher from close-range in the second half, which saved a goal. Although, Hutton got caught out up field when Wednesday countered, allowing Reach to run through and ultimately help create Wednesday’s opening goal. That said, in the second half he was one of the Villa players trying to force the issue.
James Chester – 5
A difficult afternoon for Chester, the ball diverted off him as he attempted to block the shot, for the visitor’s first and then he got beaten in the air for Wednesday’s winner. To cap off a bad day, he also gave the ball away with poor distribution at times.
Mile Jedinak – 6
Interestingly Jedinak statistically didn’t win as many headers as usual, which suggests Wednesday had a bit more about them than just lumping it in. He gave away a sloppy freekick early doors and a resulting weak header set up an overhead effort by Fletcher that just went wide. In the second half, he was bypassed a few times, and lets be fair, Fletcher could have scored more than his single goal.
Conor Hourihane – 7
One of Villa’s more fired-up players. He had the most touches of any Villa player (95), which makes a change from it being a Villa fullback, and he also fired off the most shots (6), including one that was back heeled off the line. His dead balls weren’t quite up to his standards, but he was certainly one of Villa’s better performers in a disjointed team.
Jack Grealish – 6
Went close to equalising before the McGinn strike and tried to spark the team into life without much joy. His miss control led to the Wednesday winner.
In a previous player ratings column, I made the suggestion that Villa could potentially drop Grealish. This was more aimed at the fact, Villa aren’t getting the best out of him, if you’re not offering movement and support around him. The times we’ve seen Grealish running with the ball and ending up in traffic, because no teammate has shown for it, has been increasingly frustrating. This is a managerial responsibility, but I don’t think Villa’s current boss knows how to build a team around Grealish.
John McGinn – 7.5 MOTM
Not as wasteful as in previous games and his work rate potentially allows Villa to play 4-4-2, but there’s some fine tuning that’s needed for the formation to work. McGinn is good value though and his first goal for Villa was one of the best I’ve witnessed at Villa Park. For a volley, it was even better than Paul Scholes volley for United at Villa Park. The style of the goal is worthy of the Villa MOTM award.
— My Old Man Said (@oldmansaid) September 23, 2018
Albert Adomah – 5.5
A poor first half and wasn’t really at the races. At 1-1, he had a close range volley from a corner that was saved at point-blank range by Dawson. If that had gone in, then it would have been a different narrative.
Jonathan Kodjia – 5.5
This was the frustrating version of Jonathan Kodjia, although to be fair to him, he did permanently have a Sheffield Wednesday player tugging at his shirt. Why this wasn’t called up to/by the ref is a mystery.
Tammy Abraham – 6
I’m sure someone on the MOMS podcast said he was better than Kodjia for his holdup play. Not much evidence of that for most of the game! Still, Abraham, like many Villa strikers before him, cut a frustrated figure struggling to comprehend some of his teammate’s decision making.
Off the Bench
Anwar El Ghazi (77) – 5.5
Made minimal impact when he came on. After impressing when Villa were on top against Reading, but coming up short in tougher games, is El Ghazi a fair weather player? It would be good to witness more fight and determination from him.
Yannick Bolasie (67) – 6
Should he have come on earlier in the second half to help change the direction of the game? How he does when he finally starts games, may determine if a currently predictable Villa can turn into a winning team, week-in, week-out.
Manager Rating: 4
It was evident early on that Bruce’s 4-4-2 didn’t look as regimented as the visitor’s version. The first half was a dire a half as I’ve seen at Villa Park, but the sad thing is it didn’t come as a surprise. The search for cohesion continues.
Again Bruce showed himself to be a reactive manager in terms of his substitutes, after the first half, there needed to be more proactive action taken. Even subs potentially made at half-time.
By selecting Jedinak at centre-back, he showed he had no faith in Tuanzebe. I would have liked to have seen a quicker centre back, as the Owls attacked with purpose on the break and cut through Villa’s backline a little too easily at times.
After giving it the big one to the fans after the win against lowly Rotherham, it’s now only three wins in nine for Bruce in the league and he’s now seriously undermining Villa’s promotion prospects.