Bit of a break for me, since it was a brutal week in the work world, and I didn’t end up considering the Peterborough game a real match. That’s not to discount the F.A. Cup or Peterborough by any means. It just means we didn’t field a team whose sole intent was to go through to the next round.
A number of supporters were upset because the end result was a 1-3 loss to a League One side. And, yes, you can be upset because you’d like to think that on paper, Villa’s “B” side, liberally sprinkled with first team-calibre players, should’ve been good enough. If you were asked to, and did, pay for a ticket, you’d like to think you’re paying to see Villa give it a real go.
However, it was clear that much like Martin O’Neill’s Russia calculation, this wasn’t about going through. Progressing would’ve been nice, but Steve Bruce was playing the long game, and I can’t say I’d disagree with him. Getting Andre Green and John Terry back out after long layoffs gave them necessary minutes to regain match fitness and shake off the rust. Some youngsters got run-outs, Lansbury also got needed minutes, and, well, you get the picture. Keinan Davis got a goal, and that’s good, too.
Basically, if you put out a bunch of players who don’t play together much (with a few of them coming back from injury), and you go against a bunch of players who do play together often you’re probably going to have a side without cohesion in comparison. Especially with a decidedly makeshift back line.
So, file that one where it belongs and give Peterborough credit.
For Villa, this evening’s match against Forest is more important. Given the Cup selections, I don’t think that result really affects any momentum Villa might be carrying from the 5-0 trouncing of Bristol. Maybe it even serves to focus attention in training, since that seemed to be lacking at the weekend, as well.
For their part, Forest have a fine 4-2 cup win over Arsenal to savor and ought to be feeling sort of good about themselves. Especially our old friend Eric Lichaj. It ought to be interesting this evening because Forest basically don’t draw. They win or they lose. Their only two draws of the season have come in the last five matches along with three losses, so maybe they are getting the hang of it. Their record against the current top six isn’t good, six losses and a draw, and we’re in the top six, so…
I suspect we’ll see an unchanged side from Bristol. John Terry rolling his ankle should mean Tommy Elphick stays on the pitch, and maybe the question is whether Bruce fiddles around up top with Hogan and Davis, given that Hogan apparently did something to his ankle as well. I guess you never know what’s happening at right back, though.
Just please tell me that however well Glenn Whelan is feeling he isn’t going to take Jedinak’s place, or partner with Jedinak, or be doing much of anything besides perhaps being a late tactical substitution if Jedi fails his fitness test. Bruce has said the last two games are perhaps our best performances of the season, and there’s a certain coincidence about who wasn’t in the side that I’m only going to hint at.
I suppose Andre Green could be back in contention already…But with Snodgrass finally scoring and continuing to assist (four goals and five assists in the last 12 matches), seems like he’s staying in, and how do you really sit Albert down? To me that seems to say Green could be brought on to change things up. And that perhaps Adomah might be feeling a little heat. I have to say, wouldn’t mind the prospect of Adomah down the right and Green wide left. But fair play to Snodgrass…I’ve knocked him, and he’s finally made his presence justified beyond bringing effort. If he keeps it up, well, let’s just say we have good options.
Dr. Xia’s Social Media Antics and Final Thoughts
Been an interesting week on Twitter for the good doctor…first, Villa were perhaps the worst-performing asset in the Recon portfolio, which seems a rather negative assessment, then he did some walking back, asking for unified positivity, and indicating that the next 10 games are crucial.
I think he ended up being right having it both ways. I’ve been pretty consistent in my belief that we have underperformed, but also understand the injuries and the long slog. We’ve managed to stay in the playoff spots, which was looking a rather tenuous proposition a few weeks ago, and are just six points off second, which looked to have been way out of reach. If we’ve weathered a bit of a storm and found ourselves coming out stronger on the other side, Villa are in a good spot to make a run at it over the final 20.
However much credit Bruce does or doesn’t deserve…well, it’s pretty much academic at this point. He has kept a steady head, a team has emerged, and we’re well in it. Given the side is sort of picking itself I have to think it’s as much down to the players, and luck, as it is to him. Main thing is for us to keep trying to play faster and stay on the front foot. If we simply match our opponents’ intensity and don’t choke, we’ve got enough quality to get the job done.
Over to you, and COYVB.