After a decent September period, October onwards was always going to be tricky and the first of the last five games didn’t start well. The Wolves game went the way most fans expected against the form horse… but since then (boring Derby game aside) it had looked overall like things were starting to click until Sheffield Wednesday threw Steve Bruce a huge curve ball, taking away the club’s unbeaten home record and their captain.
While Villa currently sit in the play-off spots in six, the pack below them has tightened up with just four points separating 13th from 6th.
Some of the more fancied teams at the start of the season, that had slow starts, like Middlesbrough, Derby and Wednesday, have now suddenly come into play.
So, what have Villa fans learned from recent matches?
Bruce takes a lot of criticism for over-thinking his tactics and playing not to lose rather than going for the win.
Perhaps you couldn’t blame him against a Wolves team who are pulling clear at the top of the league. But it should be noted that Villa were 7th going into the game and perhaps should have had more self-belief.
After being outplayed for the first half, only Johnstone kept the score reasonable after Jota and Bonatini put Wolves ahead. It was Villa’s first loss in nine but it was the manner of the limp defeat that would have left fans disappointed.
Villa never really got going – symbolic of many of the performances that had ended with better results than this – and got what they deserved.
It was a sweet moment to see JT score his first Villa goal against his old neighbours from back when he lived in West London. But it took a stroke of luck, a fine save from Johnstone and a brilliant pass (ahem) from Kodjia to Adomah to take all three points.
The performance was better, and it’s crucial results like this at home that build confidence and keep momentum building.
Fulham had double the possession of Villa but Villa had three times the number of shots on target. Those stats point to ‘Bruce Ball’ for sure, but a win is a win and as Bruce pointed out in his post-game interview, it’s a marathon and Villa are keeping pace with the front-runners.
Perhaps “anxious” is a better word than “dull” for the much-hyped derby against BCFC, but it wasn’t much fun to watch. Both teams can lay claim to deserving all three points, but Villa hitting the bar twice summed up the frustration Villa fans will have felt on their way home.
The experience didn’t daunt young Davis who was inches away from being in one of those video clips the club puts out ahead of every derby game and imposing visits to antagonistic stadiums – and coming away with heads held high – will serve Villa well in the second half of the season.
Oh, and those clappers were a pretty stupid idea…
PRESTON NORTH ENDED UP WITH NOTHING
This was the result worth getting excited about.
A really good all-round performance against a tricky (albeit on a bad run with players out injured) team, an early goal, Snoddy and Onomah among the goals again, another clean sheet, another defensive masterclass…
Dare this column suggest this was a rare sign of playing with the swagger fans have been longing for since the good old days, but the squad proved their worth at Deepdale and sent a message that, yes, Villa can win without looking impressive but when everything clicks and the quality shows, Villa can sweep teams to one side away from home. And that’s the part we fans haven’t seen for some time.
Oh, and who knew Hutton was a left back?!
S**T HITS FAN
Most fans had expected a routine home win against the visiting Owls. Hell, their manager had even called us the best team in the Championship in the build-up.
It only took 18 seconds to uncover that he was bluffing, as Wednesday took the lead with Adam Reach’s rocket.
What was worrying though was how quickly Villa seemed to unravel.
First, John Terry limped off with a broken metatarsal in his right foot that will keep him out until the new year. It’s rotten timing with an intense and defining winter period coming up.
Terry, 36, had proved there was still gas in the tank and had won his doubters around, after forming a mean centre-back partnership with James Chester.
Who’s going to replace him? Samba? Elphick? Richards? *cough, cough*.
At the moment, common sense says Mile Jedinak, but he has a brutal travel itinerary during the international break with Australia’s double-header with Honduras, so don’t expect him to be ready for Villa’s next game against QPR.
Within minutes of Terry leaving the pitch, Villa conceded the type of cheap goal that the Villa captain had banished from Villa matches this season.
At 2-0 down, then Robert Snodgrass left the pitch, looking angry. It turned out that he was playing with two broken ribs.
That’s a very good question, as it seemed a pointless gamble.
Snodgrass was in obvious pain from simply chesting the ball, so it must go down as poor management, however persuasive and keen the player was to play.
Villa were disjointed and lacklustre in trying to get back into the game. The Samba goal in the sixth minute of injury-time was too little too late.
Was this the game that demonstrated in the cold light of day, that this team isn’t set up to play like an automatic promotion team?
At the moment, it looks like play-offs at best.
Follow Adam Keeble on Twitter @keebo00