After resting most of his first team for the cup defeat against Burton, Bruce only doubled the embarrassment of the week with a performance that saw Villa 4-0 down after only 49 minutes.
Villa have largely benefited from the poor finishing of their opponents and a slice of luck, as their unbeaten run against mediocre opposition papered over the reality of a team looking ill-prepared for promotion. An away trip to an eager and organised Sheffield United team was a set up in difficulty, but far from the hardest test they’ll face this season (see December’s fixture list).
Like with the Burton game, I’m really finding it hard to even bother rating the players, but here goes…
FREE WORLDWIDE DELIVERY & 10% off on all of Villa’s three kits and training gear. Click here or above (for 10% off, sign-up to Kitbag’s email list on the bottom of the page of their site)
Villa Player Ratings vs Sheffield United Away
Orjan Nyland – 3
Soils his pants when a ball is crossed into the box. While he is capable of saves that Gordan Banks would be proud of, he’s more accustomed to be seen picking the ball out of his net. At fault for two of the goals.
Bruce analysis – So, as a manager, when your given aim is promotion, do you really loan out a decent enough stop-gap keeper that knows the league and replace him with one that will probably need at least 10 games to get used to it and comes to the club with question marks already above his head?
Axel Tuanzebe – 4
Regardless of Villa’s lack of legit centre back options, Tuanzebe doesn’t seem to have all the attributes of a right-back you’d wish for. He doesn’t have the endeavour going forward and plays within himself when over the half-way line. He was out of sorts against the Blades.
Bruce analysis – Does Tuanzebe drastically improve the Villa team? You’d have to say, no. Tuanzebe is obviously a work-in-progress and at the moment a utility player, but he’s Manchester United’s player. Shouldn’t Villa be developing James Bree instead?
Since Tuanzebe is here now and Villa are in need of centre backs, as opposed to a right back, why Bruce didn’t give him another game at centre back against Burton, I’ll never know.
Alan Hutton – 4.5
Struggled positionally at times (once again) and partnership with El Ghazi both defensively and going forward is very much a work in progress.
Bruce analysis – By all means have Hutton covering left-back if there’s an injury, but to start the season again with him as the number one left back, when he’s a right footer who already has positional issues? It’s not a recipe for a balanced and successful (i.e. promoted) team.
Mile Jedinak – 4
All at sea when the opposition counter, invites danger through his immobility. Could ultimately be Bruce’s downfall. He wins headers, but is that the sole reason to pick him at centre back?
Bruce analysis – Proved last season, he shouldn’t be considered part of the first choice centre-back partnership. So, why has Bruce put himself in a position where Jedinak is first choice…mainly because there’s no other options.
James Chester – 4.
All the confusion around him, seems to have finally got to Chester. A poor display from Villa’s only legit centre back.
Glen Whelan – 5
Sheffield United ran rings round Whelan for most of the game, although he was largely tidy with his passing, he made the most passes in the team and still had the highest completion rate (95.2%).
Ahmed Elmohamady – 4
Did he play? Apparently, he had the most touches of any Villa player.
Jack Grealish – 5
Largely cut a frustrated figure. It took him 21 minutes to win his first kick, which shows you his lack of involvement/impact early doors. Failed to inspire.
John McGinn – 5
Wasn’t expected to play and looked a yard off it, mentality and physically. Surely one of the ‘unfit’ players that Bruce regrets playing.
Bruce analysis – If you knew he wasn’t 100% why pick him? Doesn’t that further risk injury?
Jonathan Kodjia – 5
When I see Kodjia aimlessly running at six opposition players without a teammate in sight, I start to question what all these managerial staff are getting paid for?
Bruce analysis – Bruce doesn’t seem to have a plan in terms of how to connect the rest of the team to Kodjia. If I see Tammy Abraham isolated up front, I’m going to start throwing rotten tomatoes at the Villa dugout.
Anwar El Ghazi – 5
A neat finish to score Villa’s consolation goal, but was ineffective for the rest of the game, hitting hopeful balls and doing little in the way of tracking back.
Off the Bench
Some losers, who cares?
PS – No man of the match for this game
Manager Rating: 1
Bruce’s post match interview summed it all up. Yet again, admitting in hindsight, that he had made obvious selection errors. This time, playing unfit players (lets not even go into his defensive set up). John McGinn had expected to miss out, yet played. Grealish another doubt earlier in the week seemed devoid of spark. Meanwhile, Villa did have decent alternative midfield options on the bench (as well as one playing centre back). Did Bruce not say, a few weeks ago, that last season had taught him to use his squad more?
The idea at the start of the week was to navigate through to the next round of the League Cup and get a positive record at Bramall Lane.
Against Burton, Bruce rested the majority of his first team and failed to inspire the team that did play; who on paper, were still good enough to win against Burton. And the game his main men were rested for…it was a shambles.
After the international break, Villa will have increased attacking threat with Tammy Abraham and Yannick Bolasie, plus, maybe the return of Scott Hogan. But into a third season with Bruce, I’m still not convinced he has the know how to turn them into an attacking force.
The bigger concern is at the back though, considering he’s left the team with one legitimate centre back in the squad. A decent squad, as a rule, normally has four. It’s mind-boggling.