A lot of the promise and momentum Villa built up came undone as 2017 came to an end. The results against Derby, Brentford and the surrender to Sheffield United saw a very shaky Villa lose ground in the promotion chase.
NATIVES ARE RESTLESS
Love him or hate him, Steve Bruce’s plans to get Villa up took a blow in December. His footballing style doesn’t create much, his insistence on picking his team on his terms and not on form (see Grealish start on the bench against Boro after shining in the last two games he had started) is frustrating. It stinks of his overthinking: “They’ll never expect this… I’ll put Grealish on the bench!”
Social media is alight with cases for and against keeping Bruce on, especially in the wake of Boro and now Forest deciding a new man is needed in the past few days. None of which is helped by Bruce firing back sarcastic comments about “crisis” in response to criticism.
The performance and result against Boro showed how the team can capitalise from Bruce Ball – a resolute performance with players in their correct positions doing their job, keeping a clean sheet and unlocking a stubborn defensive line with a well-worked peach of a goal to win it.
The problems come when it doesn’t go like that and the team looks like McLeish is still in charge.
DOCTOR IN CHARGE
Dr. Tony Xia described December as “disaster month” though will be happy with the win at Boro. CEO Keith Wyness tweeted that “everyone knows the reality”. The big question is – how much longer does Bruce have to convince his bosses (and fans) he’s still the right man for the job?
Some of his better tactical decisions have come by accident (he dropped Albert, only giving him his place back after injuries to others). Like recent Villa managers – and understandably – he prefers the players he signed ahead of those he didn’t.
And the kids who would provide some desperately needed pace and enthusiasm on the field and the terraces are still largely sat on the bench at best, watching.
Until Villa can put in a few performances like Wolves are managing, it’s going to be a knife-edge between creeping into the play-offs and missing out in so many ways.
January could certainly define Villa’s rest-of-season. The good news is that JT will play a part, barring a collapse from his rehab.
A home game against Bristol City is followed by Peterborough in the cup – that will bring back memories of the 6-0 League Cup tie back in 1995. Two wins here would be a flying start.
Forest away, with a new man in charge at the City Ground, could prove more difficult. Barnsley aren’t in great form and a visit to Sheffield United to wrap up the month will give Villa a chance to avenge the 2-2 at Villa Park while it’s still fresh in the memory.
If Villa can grab three league wins, a draw at The Blades and advance in the FA Cup that would be a solid footing.
… UNTIL THE FAT LADY SINGS
This column isn’t convinced Villa are going up this season. But they’re almost there. They have to start beating teams around them in the league. They have to be intimidating and be more relentless in their attacking play. In games where they are being outplayed, they have to roll the dice and change things rather than keep hoping maybe things will change and go their way.
Being a Villa fan hasn’t been easy in the last few years and it hasn’t been a whole lot of fun. But the pay-off is close, with or without this crop of players and management team.
Let’s keep the faith, pay attention and not give up just yet.
Follow Adam Keeble on Twitter @keebo00
What have we learned? The idea that a manager needs Championship experience and time to bring success is falacious (see Nuno at Wolves. No experience of english football let alone the Championship, and only one transfer window before running away with the division). That our thoughts in September were correct, that after drawing with Hull, Brentford and ‘Boro at home, losing away at Cardiff and Wolves meant Bruce had not and could not improve us. That a manager who spends £10mill on a striker who scored over 20 goals in just over 30 games with Brentford, then won’t play him or can’t play him because he has no idea how to integrate him into the team is not much of a coach. That a manager is an idiot who admits after every game he loses that he may have picked the wrong team, then after winning a game admits he would not have picked the side he did, if injuries and illness had not stopped him picking his previous losing team. We learned that playing two deep lying defensive midfielders at Villa Park, against a team just promoted from League One and 17th in the Championship (Milwall), resulted in one shot on target. At home. At Villa Park. We learned all this. And it hurts. I think our manager is an idiot. One of your contributors described him as an incompetent arse. I’m beginning to agree.
bruce has never said we are the finished article,,, and losing kodjia and terry at a key point of the season was a real blow,,, kodjia when on form has always been able to nick a goal from nothing and that is the difference when playing defensive mediocre football,,,,
also grealish and kodjia and jedi were missing for most of the first half of the season and now jedi and grealish are back they need a run of games to get them up to standard,, same for elfick
excuses apart ,,my own personal opinion is he is on borrowed time,,, if the transfer window goes bad and the players we bring in dont have an impact then it will be a struggle till the end of the season and it will be a lottery who goes up,,,,
and no one from the top half is really out of the playoffs,,,, yet,,,,
i will say i have little to no confidence in bruce although i want to believe he can get us up
the mccormack and hogan situations are just ridiculous as is richards,,, and with the money practically gone
next season we are going to be in a very tough situation,,, and i really believe we should look at dean smith
as we will probably have to sell kodjia and davies,,, maby even grealish to bring in the players to play the way we all want to play
i think we have the bones of a decent side with youth that built around adoma hogan hurihane lansbury green hep murph bree jedi lyden ohare and some of the other kids
with some astute buys and with a lot of the dross gone we should be ok,,,,
bruce is firmly in the last chance saloon… yes at times he looks panic stricken and almost out of his depth
but he has to use all his experience now to bring in that something that will make us so much better
confident,,,,,, no,,,,,, hopeful,,,,, yes,,,,
The question you need to answer, is “Do you have confidence that Steve Bruce will get us promoted, this season?” Second question. If he does not, do you want to keep him for another season? Third. Is your answer different if we fail to get promoted because we didn’t get automatic promotion, because we failed in the play-offs, or we finished outside the play-offs? My own view is that he is an idiot. And we need to get rid of him, now. But I would like to here your view
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