What We Learned As Villa Fans From A Return To Bruce Ball

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The dull international break might have erased the memories of the limp display against Bristol City, but with more of the same following at home to Brentford, many fans have had enough. What can fans take from a return to classic Steve Bruce tactics after a fleeting glimmer of a more entertaining style?


Bruce hailed the fighting spirit of the players while condemning the critical fans after an uninspired 1-1 draw with Bristol City before the break.

“Tonight we have sent our fans home happy,” he said after a point was salvaged by a massive deflection on a speculative shot by Onomah.

A draw was probably fair with Villa managing four shots on target to City’s five but the defensive nature and game plan of the team was such a disappointment after the attacking, experimental line-up that saw Villa beat Wigan 4-1 in the cup.

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To play three central defenders, then try and make changes on the fly, then see Samba – who looked gassed very early on – leave with an injury at half-time, didn’t inspire confidence that Bruce’s goal was not to lose rather than to go for the win.


Man-of-the-match Sam Johnstone. Against Brentford, an empty shell of the team having sold their better players. And more of the same from Bruce: “This was arguably the worst we have been since I’ve been here at Villa in the last nine months.”

He also blamed the fact so many players were away for international duty that they had returned “jaded”.

Jaded or not (in September of a new season), the line-up and tactics Bruce applied to the game generated ONE shot on target. At home to Brentford. And that came from Hogan who came on an hour into the game.

Is Bruce saying: “That was the worst I’ve seen since I got here” going to become the equivalent of Paul Lambert’s “I thought we were excellent” – a blinkered managerial response which just angers the fans?

We all watch the game. We can see the standard of play for ourselves.


The epitome of such a lame performance was Bruce once again turning to his go-to guy – Gabby Agbonlahor – with 20 minutes to go.

Again, management can say what they want about Gabby, but we all see for ourselves.

And worse news with Davis and Green likely out with injury ahead of Tuesday’s game against Boro, he’s that much closer to the starting XI against a form horse.


The one and only bright spot after Johnstone’s one-man show to avoid defeat on Saturday was the news that Jonathan Kodjia is almost ready for his return.

With a goal difference of -2 and a league position of 18th. The sooner he can get back among the goals, the better. But how likely is that with Bruce in charge?

Are we fans likely to see a 4-4-2 any time soon? With players actually playing the positions they used to play at former clubs? And wingers – like forgotten man Albert Adomah – providing the strikers with decent service?

Perhaps not until the axe falls on an increasing crestfallen Bruce.


Follow Adam Keeble on Twitter @keebo00

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