It’s rather strange having full weeks between matches. Feels like some sort of suspension of time—which, given the missus is traveling—has been filled with geriatric dog duty and, well…my apologies for being tardy. I seem to say that a lot. But I’ve been knackered. Not quite jaded yet, but certainly fatigued.

But, enough about me, because more important is that, as usual, a lovely conversation develops—in the absence of my nit-picking—that has nothing to do with football. Which I like, because AVL is primarily about community. Yes, we’ll dissect football to the nth degree, but in the end, it warms my heart to see Villa supporters across the world discussing their health and diet. Seriously.

Turning back to football, I didn’t really have much to say about Leeds in the immediate aftermath. There was Christmas shopping and decorating, and now we have enough lights strung round the inside of the house to induce a seizure. And of course clearing the decks for a week of easy-to-prepare meals in the absence of the maestro in the kitchen. I worked in many kitchens in my youth, but none of it seemed to really stick, apart from in the pans.

As I have thought about our trip to Elland Road, which seems a lifetime ago, we had some interesting things to ponder after. A rough first half, a better second, subs that changed the game, a point salvaged, and a final stretch where Villa looked more likely to grab a late winner.

Alas, we didn’t. And, given the seemingly relentless string of results being churned out above us, it’s a shame, because keeping pace is tough when teams above you don’t lose.

But, we are proving difficult to beat, we are showing resilience, and we have two new signings in Grealish and Lansbury, who both appeared keen to state their cases. They changed the game, and it was encouraging to see some depth returned to the squad, never mind Lansbury jumping in and scoring upon his return. Updates from the club offer more encouraging news in that Jedinak wasn’t hurt as bad as initially feared, and is back in full training along with Hogan and, ahem, Gabby. Also, John Terry looks to be recovering well and may be coming back soon.

In short, Villa may have weathered a pretty significant set of injuries rather well. Can Hogan make an impact up front? We’ll see. Can’t hurt having an option, and maybe he’d thrive with Grealish, for example.

So, one basically hopes that Cardiff eventually stumble a bit, and our newfound steadiness keeps us close enough to take advantage. But one also becomes perhaps slightly less scared of being in the playoffs since the side seem to be getting tougher mentally.

I’m also keeping my eye on Whelan, whom I’ve often criticized, but has been earning praise from a lot of fans. I’m never above raising my hand when I’m wrong, and if he keeps it up, I will. Eventually.

Hourihane came in for a bit of stick for his performance against Leeds, but no one has a brilliant outing every time. We’ll see how the midfield shapes up now there are more options to change things during games, and rotate as well. I’ll just yank a couple chains and throw this out there to start some bickering: Will Bruce be able to manage all the choices?

Regardless, all signs point to Millwall as yet another must-win game. As someone noted, they’re basically all must-wins. Sounds a bit OTT, but when you look at the standings and recent form, you see what’s required.

Will likely have some more pre-match thoughts between now and the game—if nothing else a fresh page to ease all the scrolling.

In the meantime, as always, over to you.

Comments 20

  1. Good leader JC,

    Sums things up nicely, life, AVL,AVFC and the ponderous Mr Steve Bruce. Availability has mainly dictated his team selection for the last few weeks, and he has also preferred to stick to his more recent recruits. Will he now having more available, start tinkering again, as he did last season. I think not, and hope he just uses a more gradual approach to changing team selection, with good impact subs coming off the bench.

    Now he has almost a full squad, he actually could do this and succeed with pushing Villa up the table. let’s hope so, and a good start to the FA Cup would be nice..!!

  2. Cheers, Paul.

    Indeed, very interested to see if he goes back to tinkering, largely sticks with things, builds a side around Grealish…we’ll see how much he’s learned, and what his real way of thinking is.

  3. Regarding Bruce and his favoured 11.
    He has his way of playing and it doesn’t change much one way or another. If he tinkers and it doesn’t work out he goes back to where he is comfortable.
    The players all bring their own set of skills and the ones who can adapt to Bruce’s way of thinking play the most even if their full skill set isn’t used. Wouldn’t it be better for the manager to be the one who has to adapt his thinking to the players and their skills that are on hand? After all, he did recruit them. You don’t buy a nice car and then modify it out of the box.

  4. Ian,

    That’s the nut of the matter with managers/coaches. You have two choices: Recruit players to fit a system, or design a system to fit the players you have.

    Basically, the difference is about time. Do you have time to recruit and build, or do you have to get the most out of what you’ve got in the short term?

  5. Thanks for the leader JC, gives me a break from the clinic 😉

    One of Bruces favourite sayings is I should of freshened it up but he never does unless we are losing, then its all change until we do then its back to no change, all results and no vision but you can’t blame him in our position even if its the way he works anyway.

    For me He can’t start Onamah after that performance it would be two fingers up to either Grealish or Lansbury, I think I would start Grealish in Onamahs place to start.and see if he can work some magic.

  6. Just been watching Sheff U v The Titties. Two teams who understand what is needed to get promotion. Total attacking commitment from both sides. Pacey, skillful and all out attack. Just the game to warm up frozen supporters.

    It will be freezing down VP tomorrow. Will we get a scintillating performance from SB’s team? Going all out attack? With a bench full of defenders? We need a win to just tread water with the others around us.

  7. Great leader, JC. A very witty piece. Hope Villa can help you beat the fatigue with an exciting win over Millwall. I wish I could be there just to watch Millwall’s whinging fans after losing to Villa.
    As you’ve said, Villa is hard to beat now, which is a tonic after all the shock treatment of recent years. Even OV is off the anti-depressants for now. It’s good that AVL has a resident nutritionist in Mark King, who’d be a great chemist too.
    As for team selection, I’m always happy to see some young ones get a go. I’d go with Grealish just to see how he goes and then bring Onomah or Lansbury on later. I won’t start Gabby simply because he hasn’t had the playing time, though he might be useful as an impact player if he has been training hard.

  8. “We need a win to just tread water with the others around us.”
    Exactly, have to keep up during this period. This is when the sheep are separated out from the goats when the cream rises to the top.

  9. Team news – as expected 1 change

    Villa (4-4-1-1): Johnstone; Hutton, Samba, Chester, Taylor; Snodgrass, Whelan, Lansbury, Adomah; Onomah; Davis

    Bench: Steer, Hogan, Grealish, Hourihane, Elmohamady, Bjarnason, Elphick

  10. Yeah, I’d rather see Jack Grealish given a go. I thought SB was being disingenuous about Jack at the time, but at least he has an attacking bench with Hogan, Jack, Conor et al.
    3-1 sounds about right.

Leave a Reply