Villa have lost some silly points this season due to some strange managerial selections, that Steve Bruce has then openly questioned himself after the game. QPR at Villa Park was the latest one and potentially the most costly.
Most Villa supporters had expected at least some changes, especially Birkir Bjarnason coming in for Jedinak, who’s 33-year-old legs could have done with a rest after his efforts against Wolves. Hourihane too, could have done with some bench time to sharpen his focus.
Maintaining mental focus for a routine match is always difficult after big game and so it proved to be against QPR. Villa looked in dire need of fresh impetus.
After a 3-1 defeat to Ian Holloway’s team, with just nine games to go, the aim of automatic promotion has taken a major hit.
If other teams don’t slip up in the remaining fixtures, then Villa will end the season in the play-offs, which as it stands will contain three other teams that have all beaten Villa this season.
It’s not going to be easy.
Villa Player Ratings vs QPR Home
Sam Johnstone – 6
Can’t really pull him up for any of the goals as the blame was on the shoulders of the defenders in front of him. Again, he showed decent awareness when electing to the throw the ball out to get Villa going. An improvement on some of his wayward kicking.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 5
While Elmohamady had the most touches of any Villa player in the game, he did nothing with any conviction or out of the ordinary when going forward.
John Terry – 5
Was second best to the QPR centre-forward Matt Smith. Smith won 12 aerial balls compared to Terry’s two. While of course the two players weren’t always directly up against each other all of the time, it shows who was bossing who.
James Chester – 5
Great consolation finish by Chester to make it three goals in three, but defensively he was ravaged, as QPR got bodies in the box to win the aerial battle. With Chester being sub 6ft, QPR boss Ian Holloway obviously set his team up to exploit it. A rare poor defensive performance by Chester.
Neil Taylor – 5
Was exploited a couple of times when QPR scored. Showed himself to be a functional player when going forward when Villa were chasing the game. Like Elmohamady, looked lacking in ideas.
Mile Jedinak – 5
I’ll be honest, I had expected Bjarnason to get the nod over Jedinak, to a) give Jedinak a rest and b) freshen up Villa and give them more legs in the middle. Bruce against his own better judgment (according to his post-match interview) played Jedinak and it backfired.
The decision to play Jedinak was no doubt to counter the threat of QPR’s aerial threat, but Jedinak won less than half what he normally wins in the high.
With Villa the home team, Bruce should have been concentrating on what we would be doing, rather than compromising his own team in trying to stop our lower in the table opponents on our own soil.
With Villa chasing the game, the 33-year-old should have been subbed at half-time for Bjarnason.
Robert Snodgrass – 6
Snodgrass battled away as he always does but his efforts weren’t helped by some of the lack of effort by his midfield teammates. His deliveries weren’t as sharp as in recent games, but he still bagged another assist.
Jack Grealish – 6.5 MOTM
Pretty much offered Villa’s only resistance and with 91 touches had a lot of the ball (more than normal). He was often swamped though and frustrated by the intensity of QPR’s pressing. Despite this his pass completion was over 90%, which suggests his teammates weren’t really making much happen around Grealish.
Perhaps he should have done better with his headed chance that was dealt with well by the QPR keeper.
Albert Adomah – 6
Along with Grealish, Villa’s best chance of fashioning a response from open play. Didn’t really get the chance to cut in from the left as usual. Could have done with some help from a more adventurous full-back.
Conor Hourihane – 5
Hourihane’s showing was one of the reasons Villa got beat so easily and overrun in midfield. As it’s been mentioned in this column in the last few weeks, Hourihane has gone missing during periods of games, but results and the odd goal have glossed over this.
He should have been rested for this fixture to also allow him to refocus a little.
Lewis Grabban – 4
After really impressing in recent weeks, he turned into a ghost. With only 14 touches, we might as well have played Hogan! Maybe another player that Bruce probably considered resting since he ran himself into the ground playing alone up top against Wolves.
Off the Bench
Birkir Bjarnason (74) – N/A
Never mind not starting, but how Bjarnason could remain on the bench until the 80th minute is beyond me.
As he demonstrated with his goal against Wolves and his all-action substitution appearance against Bristol City, he’s a player that does take the game to the opposition. He should have started, but since he didn’t, he should have come on at half-time.
Baffling by Bruce.
Scot Hogan (66) – 5
If Grabban wasn’t getting any purchase against QPR, then replacing him with Hogan wasn’t going to make much difference. If he’s coming on, play him with Grabban to give QPR more forwards to think about.
Keinan Davis (55) – 5
Perhaps should have started in an attempt to keep the team fresh. Coming on for Neil Taylor, he didn’t have the impact that Bruce would have liked. Certainly nothing wrong with him coming on, but why take off a wide player that would help get balls into him?
I’d have had him on with Bjarnason at half-time for Jedinak and Hourihane to go 4-4-2, if we’re taking into account the first XI that played.
Team Performance – 3
Considering what was at stake, this was a shambles of a performance and after matching the intensity and effort of Wolves at the weekend, Villa were completely out-battled by their visitors in every department.
QPR also had a mix of back-up players and youngsters in their team, so it was a sorry effort all round by the Villa team.
It was very surprising to see the same first XI start, especially after the tempo of the Wolves game and the constant excuses of playing three games in a week.
Villa have an expensive assembled squad for this division, so it’s puzzling when it’s not used to freshen things up, especially when considering QPR’s league position and our home advantage.