After a winless streak of five games in the league (six including the cup), the fixture gods certainly smiled on Steve Bruce when they served up Rotherham at Villa Park. While Rotherham have improved since they last came to Villa Park two seasons ago, there was something inevitable about a routine 2-0 Villa win and even Tammy Abraham scoring the first goal (I did call it in the Blackburn player ratings).
Abraham and Bolasie (who came on as a sub) scored their first goals for Villa and Bruce once again switched Jedinak to centre back, as he went two up top for the first time for a long time.
It should be interesting to see Bruce’s line-up for the forthcoming Sheffield Wednesday game at Villa Park, to see if he’ll have the courage of his convictions to play Kodjia and Abraham together again. It’ll be a sign that the Villa boss knows that Villa have to force the issue more when it comes to come games, if they want an automatic promotion spot.
While some may talk up the Championship as a difficult league, after eight games, the fact you can go winless in five of them and still be in the top six of the table, suggests that there isn’t too many recognisable top teams this season.
That will give both Bruce and Villa supporters hope that there is still time for Villa to make a big impression.
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Villa Player Ratings vs Blackburn Away
Orjan Nyland – 6
Rotherham seemed to have singled out Nyland for some target practice, but unfortunately they rarely hit the target to trouble him. He still lacks the confidence to come off his line to deal with danger, but his first clean sheet will give him a boost.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 7
Is Elmohamady the best of Villa’s squad of right-backs? Probably. While he’s not as direct and dynamic as MOMS would like in the final third, his deeper deliveries from the right flank have led to several assists since he’s been at Villa, like the one for Bolasie’s goal. The fact he had the most touches by far of any Villa player (95), demonstrates which side Villa were focused playing down.
Alan Hutton – 6.5
Decent enough performance by Hutton. I’m still not totally convinced when Bruce is fielding two players out of position in the back line, as he does when he plays Jedinak at CB and Hutton at LB. A few times Hutton tended to drift in-field to allow Rotherham space on the left to launch attacks.
James Chester – 7
Comfortable night for Chester, as he looked a lot more composed than he has in recent outings. Almost got on the scoresheet again.
Mile Jedinak – 7
After he faded in Saturday’s game against Blackburn, it was a surprise to see Jedinak start against Rotherham, at all, never mind at centre-back. Surely, this was an opportunity to bed Tuanzebe in? Bruce probably wanted the aerial presence of Jedinak in there, but didn’t want to play a DM, due to his plan to play two up top. Plenty of aerials won and clearances made by Jedinak.
Conor Hourihane (76) – 7
A deserved start for Hourihane after his recent impactful substitute appearances. Had some decent efforts, especially one pop that seemed to be going top left bin in the second half.
Jack Grealish – 7
Returned to a wide left position familiar to his earlier outings when he broke through into the team. This maybe his position for when Bruce wants to go two up top at Villa Park. Had more purpose than in recent games.
John McGinn – 7.5 MOTM
Worked tirelessly closing down the opposition’s midfield and won the ball back in Rotherham’s half several times, which is always a useful trait. Contributed some key passes and allowed Villa to control the game for the most part.
Anwar El Ghazi – 5
A bit of a reserved and shy performance, certainly not building on his last home outing against Reading. Seemed to play within himself and lack aggression in his play. Not surprising he was subbed.
Jonathan Kodjia (68) – 7
Lovely two-touch lay off for Abraham’s goal was a shock to the system, when considering his reputation for being selfish. It was the first evidence that Kodjia and Abraham could work as a formidable duo up front, if Kodjia is more disciplined in his play.
Tammy Abraham – 7
As predicted in the last player ratings vs Blackburn, Abraham scored the opening goal, after a sweet team move by Villa. Abraham looks like he’s got goals in him just from his intelligent movement and willingness to make himself available. If Villa’s forward play around him can get up to scratch, then he should be well into double figures this season.
Off the Bench
Albert Adomah (80) – N/A
Only had six touches, so tough to rate.
Yannick Bolasie (72) – 7
Bolasie is starting to warm up and will no doubt be buoyed by scoring on his home debut. It already looks like he’ll add a bit more unpredictability to Villa’s forward play.
James Bree (85) – N/A
Only a few minutes, but Bree needs to see regular action to progress and not feel frozen out, so a welcome few minutes.
Manager Rating: 6
It was the perfect game for Bruce to introduce a two-man attack, so props for that decision, although the midfield is still a work-in-progress, in terms of getting the best out of Kodjia and Abraham up top.
Grealish on the left flank was obviously to accommodate him and Hourihane in the team. Just Grealish and McGinn in the middle with two attacking wingers, would make Villa a little soft in the middle when playing more of a 4-4-2.
Going 4-4-2 meant Bruce dropped his normal DM, or in reality pushed Jedinak back into the back four, as he wanted to retain the Aussie to deal with Rotherham’s direct aerial threat. It’s probably why Hutton got the nod over Taylor too.
Obviously there’s an argument that it would make more sense to bed down Tuanzebe at centre-back with Chester, so it would have been more beneficial to keep playing him there.
Is Bruce giving too much focus to what the opposition do? Should he concentrate more on what Villa do and let the opposition worry about us – especially at Villa Park?
Time will obviously tell.
On the plus side, at least Bruce took the opportunity to try something new, it’s just a shame he probably made the wrong move to call out the fans and press, after the game.
If he wanted to give it the big ‘un, maybe might until he’s strung a few back-to-back wins together, rather than ending a six-game winless run at home to a promoted team.
In the situation he’s in now, the best and only cause of action is to prove his doubters wrong on the pitch.