Another New Era:
After investing £50 million plus into a squad that boasts three of the Championship’s most prolific strikers, Dr Tony Xia had every right to sack Roberto Di Matteo following just one win in 12 games. Whether that was the right decision or not will remain to be seen.
In Steve Bruce, Aston Villa have appointed a manager who knows the Championship inside out. Having won promotion to the Premier League on four occasions, he is exactly what Villa have been searching for, at least in the short-term.
He may not look like a knight in shining armour, but his track record in the league speaks for itself.
Although many fans were content with his appointment, there wasn’t an excitement as I walked up to Villa Park before the game against Wolverhampton Wanderers. For so long, there has been a doom and gloom surrounding B6 and the sooner we can shake that atmosphere the better. Of course, Villa need to cut out the defensive mistakes, stop conceding agonizingly late equalisers and start winning but the supporters are key to that. Sing loud, sing proud, Villa till we die.
Starting XI Verdict:
It’s always interesting to see the new manager’s first team sheet of his reign, and this was no different.
There were four changes from the side that were defeated by Preston North End, which ultimately got Roberto Di Matteo the sack.
Pierluigi Gollini regained his number one spot, after missing out on the last game through injury, with Bunn returning to the bench. In front of him, Micah Richards made his way back into the starting 11 for his first league start since April. After being seemingly frozen out by Di Matteo following the cup match against Luton, Steve Bruce looks to be giving the former Manchester City man the chance to prove himself.
Playing at right-back, Richards still has something to offer with his pace and ability to drive the ball forward down the line. However, he can be positionally unaware and lack discipline.
Another casualty from the game at Deepdale was Ashley Westwood, who was replaced by 21-year-old Aaron Tshibola. Ross McCormack also came back into the starting line-up, after Jordan Ayew picked up a slight knock whilst away on international duty with Ghana.
Bruce’s Game Management:
If Bruce is to gain his fifth promotion out of the Championship then the hard work needs to start now.
Having set his new side out in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, with Jonathan Kodjia and Ross McCormack leading the line, Steve Bruce looked to bring it back to basics. Despite there being some shape to Villa’s initial play in the first half; it was clear to see that the manager had only had two days to implement his style of play.
Gaps were evident when Villa were both attacking and defending. For example, when Grealish – who had got three assists when playing for England U-21s – picked up the ball on the left, he had no infield options as our midfield struggled to keep up with the attack.
Once again, it was our midfield that let us down as they were continually overran in the centre of the park – a recurring theme so far this season. Jedinak looked off the pace, whilst Tshibola had one of his worst games since signing for us in the summer. Yet, you look to the bench and the only other option is Ashley Westwood, highlighting that a new midfielder needs to be top of Bruce’s January wish list.
But could Steve Bruce have done more during the game? Not necessarily no, when you have two enforced changes to make due to injury, you have to make like for like substitutions. However, the game was begging out for Gestede and had Bruce had the opportunity to make that change, I wouldn’t have been too sure that he would have made it.
David Coote had an evening to forget. Although in the end it benefitted Aston Villa, Wolves’ fans would be right to feel aggrieved.
In a game of two penalties, one more should arguably been awarded whilst Villa were lucky to end the game with 11 men still on the field.
During a derby game you have to expect there to be decisions to make with meaty tackles and off the ball incidents throughout. However, Coote didn’t react to the nature of the match and ended up leaving red-faced.
Of course, as Villa fans we can’t complain. James Chester and Jack Grealish walked off the pitch after the final whistle had been blown, something that might not have happened had a different referee been in control of the game.
As a game of 90 minutes, none of those wearing claret and blue staked a claim to be given the ‘man of the match’ award. However, Albert Adomah had a very good first 45.
The 28-year-old winger hasn’t set the world alight since moving to B6 in August, but he showed what he was capable of up against Doherty. Each time he received the ball, he was always looking to drive forward and take on the opposition’s full-back. But similarly to the situation experienced by Grealish on the opposite side of the pitch, the Ghanaian had no support.
Richards failed to make overlapping runs when he had the chance, and when he did venture forward it was often too slow; whilst our midfield were always 30-yards behind.
Yes, Adomah has things to improve on – especially his corners (but that goes for Villa’s previous corner takers from the past five years), yet the intent and willingness is there, even if the delivery is lacking.
Helder Costa ran the show for the Dingles, especially during the second-half in which they were so dominant.
The winger, on loan from Benfica, got himself a goal to cap a fine display whilst terrorising Villa’s defence. Every time the 22-year-old picked up the ball in Villa’s half, he was always looking to get his head up and go past the defender in front of him. He could have and should have got himself another goal, but thankfully his shooting was off target leaving the Villa faithful wiping the sweat off their brows as the ball hit the side netting.
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