Two pretty awful performances back-to-back has left Steve Bruce vocal about his underachieving team. What did Villa fans learn from a return to the bad old toothless days?
Grealish’s worldy was the cherry on top of the cake against Wigan: a cake made of rotton eggs, stale flour and that wedding cake icing that you can’t really eat.
It was a dull performance at best, but a clean sheet and a win is something the fans will be happy with at least. Winning without style or confidence is acceptable for now if it means moving up the table to striking distance of the top six.
But it can’t happen too often…
Just a few days later and Norwich away on Sky didn’t have the best of omens going for Villa fans. A weak first half was followed by a frustrating second half. Neither team looked likely to score with Villa unable to get the ball into the final third with any purpose and City’s forwards looking like they would struggle to hit the broad side of a barn.
Late substitutes for ineffective starters did nothing to change the game or rally the troops for Villa and after Norwich scored they still didn’t look like they believed they were going to win. It was a boring clash between two teams only on the telly because of their recent history.
Could there have been a last-gasp penalty awarded? Perhaps. But this was a RDM-esque performance – hard to justify certain player selections, hard to see what the game plan was from the stands, and hard to pick a man-of-the-match when nobody shone and most were happy to blend in with the other mediocrity.
The landmark to note here is this: The honeymoon for Steve Bruce is over. His admirable start to his career at Villa Park will soon be forgotten, if we aren’t winning at home and at least getting a point away to stay in touch.
Unlike Lambert, who would assume the blame for underwhelming players, trying to convince onlookers that “we were excellent”, or RDM who… well, didn’t seem to mind much either way, Bruce seems to have inherited a “hairdryer” style, when it’s deserved, from his former gaffer, Sir Alex Ferguson.
If that was his strongest team in his mind on Tuesday night, fair enough. Every fan has a opinion on that. And if he wanted to leave it late to change things around, bringing on Gestede – who can provide a presence off the bench if used the right way – that’s on his head. But what he’s not going to do is take the blame when the players, he has coached and prepared to play, don’t or can’t do it and look confused and disjointed.
Whether it works remains to be seen, but Sunday’s game at QPR – also on the telly – will reveal whether the current squad responds to a good yelling at.
HOW MUCH LONGER?
Andre Green, Aaron Tshibola, Jordan Lyden, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, even Leandro Bacuna – should be extra frustrated after the last two games. An injection of youth with pace, energy, a point to prove, and in some cases a career to begin, surely could have livened up a game like the last two, fans have had to endure.
This isn’t a plea to change for the sake of it. Or a simplistic “they can’t do any worse” but a call to consider introducing and making more use of players who WANT to play for the club, who are looking to LEARN and improve and will LEAVE the club if they don’t get what they feel they deserve: and we know what happens then more often than not.