Once again Aston Villa came up short against a team with legitimate claims for promotion.
Despite having the majority of the ball throughout the game against Derby (67%), Aston Villa seemed to be devoid of any real masterplan or inspiration. They managed to muster just two shots on target (after only one in their last game against Millwall). Ironically, they seemed to be more prolific in creating chances for the opposition, with Derby’s chances aided by their visitor’s frequent lapses in concentration.
Several of Villa’s players were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply, although none more so than Glenn Whelan who gifted Derby’s opener, which was dispatched by ex-Villan Andres Weimann.
With Bruce sticking to playing without a recognised striker until the hour mark, Derby never looked like they were going to concede. They kept Villa at arm’s length, before Jedinak’s casualness in looking for an offside decision was punished and the home team finished the job in injury-time.
On the basis of the last couple of weeks, unfortunately, it increasingly looks like Steve Bruce has a team that will have trouble earning an automatic places, with the play-offs looking like their most likely destination.
Aston Villa Player Ratings vs Derby
Sam Johnstone – 7 MOTM
The Villa number one made a series of smart saves throughout the game, including making up for some early hesitation in the second minute to save from David Nugent. After that his afternoon was spent bailing out several of his teammates after their individual errors.
Overall, Johnstone didn’t have to do that much to be Villa’s MOTM today.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6
For someone who saw a considerable amount of the ball (the most of any Villa player), he rarely seem to do anything effective, especially when venturing in the Derby half. A distinct contrast to his early season performances. A failure to get down the line and behind the Derby backline limited Villa’s threat.
Mile Jedinak – 5
Prone to numerous individual errors and being sluggish at times, an out of sorts Jedinak also got mugged a couple of times in one of his poorest performances for the club.
While he was comfortable in the air, he didn’t seem quick of mind to pick up runners and was flat-footed to through balls.
Was it case of being rusty? Unfamiliarity in the centre-back position? Or should Bruce simply play a centre-back as a centre-back (i.e. Elphick)?
James Chester – 6
In the absence of John Terry, the Villa defence seems a different beast, often relying on the poor quality of the forwards it faces to escape until today. Should Chester be organising the defence better? The offside trap was sprung for the second goal and the rearguard looked unsettled at numerous points in the game.
Neil Taylor – 6
Saved Villa going one-nil down in the first minute with a vital last-ditch tackle, which was his main highlight and potentially a huge moment for the team, if they had gone on to deliver. He seemed to have a frustrated discussion with Jedinak at half-time. Apparently, something wasn’t right on the left-hand side of the Villa defence.
Glen Whelan – 4
Minus two straight off the bat for the massive cock-up of a back pass that gifted Derby the opening goal. Afterwards, he noticeably failed to pass it forward and was the obvious player to sub, although it should have been at half-time.
Robert Snodgrass – 5
Snodgrass’s woeful pass set up Derby shortly after Whelan’s gift. Going forward, the Scot certainly wasn’t on the same wavelength as Grealish at times, which undermined the younger player’s efforts. Perhaps his poorest performance in a Villa shirt.
Conor Hourihane – 5
Nothing spectacular I still think he should be playing further forward and dictating the game more.
Josh Onomah – 4
Onomah didn’t know where he was playing at times, in his role as the most central of the three forward players. If he was the ‘centre forward’ then when Villa were threatening the Derby penalty, his positioning at times was puzzling.
Despite a couple of nice Hollywood touches, it was a frustrating afternoon for the Spurs loanee.
Jack Grealish – 7
Looked to get things going and was tidy on the ball. Had a long surging run through the midfield early doors, but at times lacked options with limited movement by his teammates. Also, Derby did well to crowd him out and often Grealish was running at three or four Rams defenders.
Albert Adomah – 6
Didn’t really drive Villa forward as per usual and Derby had obviously done their homework on him by playing deep. Rarely did he have an opportunity to run at their backline with any intent.
Off the Bench
Scott Hogan (65) – 5
Hogan only managed seven touches. He cost almost £10m, he’s a striker, what does he think now of Bruce preferring to go with no recognised strikers rather than playing him?
The main question mark over signing him was always his injury record, rather than his actual finishing. He proved with his brace against Wigan in the cup that he still knows where the goal is, so what’s the problem?
Why sign him, if you can’t play in a way to maximise his effectiveness?
Gabriel Agbonlahor (83) – N/A
Hardly touched the ball.