Right Man, Right Time?
It’s hard to ignore the sudden sense of optimism that now surrounds Villa Park on a match day. Now under the guidance of Steve Bruce, fans are now looking forward to their day at B6, where we know we’ll see a game of 11 men competing, playing for the shirt.
Steve Bruce has turned it around. Yet it’s not just about the manager and his seven-game unbeaten run. We have a forward line with remarkable variety and quality. Yes, it has cost a fortune, but they are now starting to deliver regularly. In addition, Bruce has tightened up the ship – with a back six that are able to move the ball into forward areas quickly and defend to an extent where you’re not sat waiting for us to concede. There are still areas of improvement, but there are more positives than negatives.
Most importantly, Aston Villa are winning when we’re not playing particularly well with the last two homes games against Cardiff and Blackburn being the epitome of this.
Starting XI Verdict:
There were two changes from the draw against Brighton, with Gary Gardner and Gabby Agbonlahor left on the bench. Jordan Ayew and Jack Grealish came straight into the starting 11 in their places, after impressing in the last match at the Amex, once they had entered the field of play.
The team that looks good on paper is now also looking good on the pitch – and this was the case against Cardiff.
Jonathan Kodjia is proving his worth, with seven goals this season, and also showing his versatility. Starting the game up front on his own, he bagged a goal with a neat header that left Amos without a chance. Yet in the second half, he showcased his ability to mix it up. Moving out to the left-wing, he left Cardiff’s defender for dead and demonstrated why Villa paid £11 million (and rising) for him.
Jedinak is also living up to expectations after a slow start to his claret and blue career. Winning what seemed to be every header, whilst breaking up Cardiff’s attacks, he is no doubt one of the first names on the team sheet.
Adomah – although not his best game – has come in and been a revelation. Having got himself on goal in the game, as well as four assists this season, he has come into his own and earned plaudits, and rightly so.
Bruce’s Game Management:
Setting up his team in a 4-5-1 formation, Bruce extended his and Aston Villa’s unbeaten run to seven games – the claret and blues’ best run of form since the start of the 2011-12 season under Alex McLeish. Whilst the Scotsman’s status as former Birmingham City manager often acted against him, Steve Bruce has been welcomed with open arms by the Villa faithful thanks to his demeanour, ability to motivate and results.
You can’t really fault him up to this point. Before Steve Bruce, Villa had recorded just three wins in 48 games, yet since his arrival we have picked up four wins in seven games.
Of course, the unbeaten run could come to an end and with a busy Christmas period coming up, everything could change. However, it appears that Bruce has brought a group of individuals together and made them into a team. Everyone seems to be playing for each other, and that could be the key to success this season.
Bruce is also not a man afraid to change it up, or change it up early. With all of his substitutions in the game before the 80th minute mark, he allowed each player chance to make a difference.
Tommy Elphick made a return to the pitch with the first team, following his injury and the commanding performances of Nathan Baker which has kept the centre-back out of the team, as the latter didn’t make it back out of the dressing room for the second half.
Gabby Agbonlahor also saw some action, as Jordan Ayew made way for the striker who was looking trimmer. Whilst Rudy Gestede scored the penalty that secured the three points that saw Villa move up to 11th in the table.
Can referees get much worse?
Geoff Eltringham was the man in the middle for this game, and he was far too happy with his cards.
Although, in the end, his decisions benefitted Villa – it wasn’t without frustration. Several tackles went unpunished and Jack Grealish seemed to be on the floor more than he was on his feet.
Cardiff were reduced to ten men, as Pultier was dismissed having received two yellow cards in the 85th minute before Villa were awarded a last-minute penalty, after Grealish was once again fouled (no surprise there).
Mile Jedinak and James Chester continued their impressive form under Steve Bruce; however Jordan Amavi should not go unnoticed.
Having struggled defensively in recent weeks, the Frenchman got it right as he looked back to his best against Cardiff. Striking up the balance between defence and attack; Amavi showed pace, strength and a killer final ball that helped Villa gain all three points.
He is now starting to show the talent that he promised at the start of the last campaign before he was ruled out for the season. Since his return some of his defending has been questionable, however the 22-year-old looked comfortable in his role against Cardiff.
Cardiff City’s MOTM:
Junior Hoilett had a good game for the Bluebirds, but was unable to make too much of a difference as they left Villa Park empty-handed.
The former QPR man drifted across the front line, putting in some brilliant deliveries from his favoured position as well as going close with a couple of headers.