Lots of lively debate over our long break…and long may it continue. Funny how the weekend off makes it seem like a lifetime since we beat Barnsley.

But, it’s back to the pitch tomorrow, and Sheffield United again. We’d likely have beaten them last time out, bar a couple howlers at the back. This time? Who knows.

I like the momentum we’re carrying now, and I’m hoping the extra couple days have been good for the squad. More coaching, more recovery. You’d like to think it helps.

Of course everyone will be looking to see whether new-boy Axel Tuanzebe starts, and where. If he does, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bjarnason making way, which seems a bit harsh given his last two outings. But it could be the case that Tuanzebe is a true upgrade. We’re all led to believe he’ll bring speed, energy, and strength, and Mourinho seems to think highly of him. So…We’ll see.

There’s also been lots of talk about going to a three-man backline, and I suppose that’s definitely possible. I wouldn’t disagree with trying to get as many good players on the pitch as you can. Of course, switching up formations from something that’s been working well of late might not be the best idea. Don’t fix it if isn’t broken, right? On the other hand, could be a masterstroke. Would obviously give the Blades something to think about and adjust to.

In that scenario, I’ve no idea where Tuanzebe would fit in. My guess would be the center. Would seem the best place to make use of his pace, pushing up and supporting the DM, and we assume he’s athletic enough to also get back and allow Terry to cheat back as the deepest man. But there’s always the issue of coordination and understandings, and the man in the middle would have lots to think about.

Anyway, it’s something for Steve Bruce to consider, which I’m assuming he has done for a while now. Bruce has said he will play, so we’ll be seeing what he has to offer in some way or another.

There’s also plenty of speculation about another striker coming in. And you wouldn’t mind having some cover for Hogan since Davis isn’t a goal machine. I like Davis, but the way we’re playing now with Hogan and Grealish is hard to argue with. Whether Hogan can keep on being a goal machine is obviously an unknown. Ross McCormack? I really have no idea. Maybe that’s all broken beyond repair. Maybe we’ll get some money back. With our luck, he’ll go to Leeds and fire them into second.

All in all, I’m looking forward to the match. Like everyone, would love to see us make a little statement by keeping the win streak going against a decent side. I very much like the idea that second is within reach, and I’m hoping it provides a lure to the players. I know I’d rather avoid playoff games since anything can happen, and I’d think the team might feel the same way. I’m also hoping the idea of finishing second would accord with a sense of pride. Wolves might well be out of sight, but fighting your way back up to as close to the top as you can would show character, and make a fine a stepping stone to re-entering the PL.

Over to you.

Comments 120

  1. Interesting article, John, thanks. Yes, today is a tester and no mistake. And which Villa will turn up on the pitch today I wonder!

    I feel opti but am not expecting miracles.

    As for Axel, he does seem set to make an appearance, but will he come on as a sub? Otherwise it would seem harsh on Birkir after his recent play.

    With regard to the strikers, I hope things go on as they are and let’s pray they stay fit.

  2. Thanks JC, my thoughts entirely.

    Should Villa win tonight I can see optimism among the fans reaching new levels not seen since MON’s days as we’d reach P3. Think a draw is more likely.

    Also interested to see where SB is going to play Axel. Should give us more wheels around the pitch.

  3. Ross McCormack

    It would seem that we can’t move him … that’s why he’s still at VP.

    Why is revealed at http://villaunderground.com/transfers-david-mcgoldrick-scott-mckenna-ross-mccormack/

    As repeatedly reported on these pages (and anywhere else with a brain) – Ross McCormack’s immediate future lies only at Aston Villa.

    Whilst the former Leeds striker has been linked to a return to his former club, FIFA rules mean that he has exceeded the maximum number of clubs permitted this term.

    Any move would therefore see McCormack unable to compete competitively. Given the likelihood of Villa wanting to recoup some portion of his massive £12 million fee and huge wage demands, it seems distinctly remote any UK side is going to invest at this juncture.

    This therefore opens the debate as to whether Bruce and McCormack can mend their relationship, fractured by a very public falling out over the strikers punctuality (or lack of).

    Whilst Villa have pondered their attacking options throughout the window, no moves have been made.

    This has included being very much part of the race to sign Leo Ulloa & rejecting the opportunity to sign former Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie on a short term deal.

    Whilst McCormack has been given a two week break by the club following his return from Australia, his return to Bodymoor Heath presents an opportunity for both parties over the next 6 months.

  4. Good leader JC,

    Axel, will he, wont he, start from the off, or come on after 60mins from the bench. The certainty, is that he will play, could be RB, or DM, but unlikely to be at CB, unless he substitutes for Terry, if we are winning well.

    Villa’s transfer business over, as Bruce has confirmed he is more than happy with the squad, and he has Davis, Hogan, RHM and now Gabby as fully fit strikers.

    Looking forward to tonight, and a group of happy payers with a happy manger augers well for the future. It can only ensure that we have a happy band of fans!

    Plug, interesting in that article on Richards, that he has been involved with helping the youngsters make the transition from the under 23’s to the first team squad, perhaps he is a better influence in a coaching role for the remainder of his contract.

  5. Thanks JC- As Bruce has previously blooded an entire team in jan last year I don’t think he’ll hesitate in playing Axle but I wonder if it will be in a two? As in 4231 . The problem I see is in keeping them all happy and fit if there is 4 players for one position. He can play RB and lets face it we only have 3 left.

    RMC is to have talks with Bruce after his hols with the family but could go to the mls, personally I would of kept him at it while he’s fit but he hasn’t seen his kids for a while so maybe an olive branch I hope he takes it.

    Hard game expected but if we continue to play as we have I’m thinking 1-0 2-0 or 2-1 at worst to us both teams will be considerably different to the last game so tough to call but with axel to combat Sheffield’s pacey front three I’m hopeful.

    Hutton will be maybe to expensive or not good enough depending on the league we are in next season and he’s not the future but thanks Alan for many talking points 😉

  6. Jl- jobs for the boys, you can see why so many don’t make managers, they will grab anyone who once played for the top clubs though for the odd game.

  7. MK,

    Yes. What gets me is that Shearer and others (as ex-players) are quite happy to see all the wrestling and pushing and shirt-pulling going on as they consider it part of the game and should not be penalised. Particularly in the penalty area.

    They now make Jimmy Hill seem to be a brilliant pundit! (Bless him and his cotton socks).

  8. JL- yes just having two sets of eyes on you gives you leeway to gain advantage and they know it, they will have to weigh up whether not conceding or being sent off is for the greater good of the team if The video trials work out. Saw an old game the other day must be 60’s and a player saved the ball on the line with both hands like a goalie and the goalie saved the pen.

    One bit of cheating that stands out was Henri against Ireland another Maradona against England oh for cameras then :-0

  9. JL
    Jimmy Hill, yes he was a product of his time when the public had to be protected against negativity, & he did have a good nose.

  10. I’m sure it’s probably the same for everyone, but all I ask for in officiating is consistency. Call all the shirt pulling, or don’t bother calling it.

    If you can’t see it all, then it’s worth considering whether VAR is the answer, or you have to hope ‘it all evens out’.

    Me, if it’s just too difficult to get the call right, then maybe the rule needs reviewing.

  11. JC- Maybe a full club colours shirt tatoo with the number on their back would solve the issue but might make them harder to sell and they might just cheat in their away strip. I remember last season at Sheff Weds Baker had his shirt stretched 2 feet and got no pen so theres not much hope on the consistency if thats the standard.

  12. Bruces says sheff utd are good team that play in a certain way? well thats the research on the opposition sorted 🙂

    come on you Villa boys bring home the bacon

  13. Well same line up tonight, don’t fix it if ain’t broke. Pleased SB didn’t drop any one for the loanee.
    I have a feeling we might get 5 on the bounce tonight, not sure when the last time was that happened, over to you JL. I might miss the game at the weekend, going for knee replacement surgery on Thursday so I might not escape in time, but am hoping to be out next day. It’s the Super Bowl Sunday, bigger than the cup final over here, the missus has already got the chicken wings ready and the beer in, my lads will be over too, so should be a fun night. Anyway here’s to number 5 tonight!!!

  14. evening guys,

    no i haven’t been hungover since friday! jc thanks for finding and reposting my post. i dont normally write that much, never have, been always been a talker and not so great at writing, but i am giving it a go. It got the mood changed i’ll say that. I have heard of rye whisky b4 but never tried it, any one in particular i should, and iang is woodford anything like Jack daniels, or better as thats not to great to be honest.

    Got a tight game here, Mark your right its looking good so far, its got 0-1 or 1-0, ( hopefully not) written all over it.

  15. Well done Villa..!!!! Well done Steve Bruce..!!!! Well done Snoddy….and well done Sam Johnstone…!!!

    Great night !!! great result…. we are well on the March…!!!

  16. Canada,

    5 straight league wins? Well several runs of 4 straight wins, but…

    A superficial check seems to suggest 1997-98 after Gregory took over.

    But that was in the Prem of course.

    But 6 straight wuin? We would have to be going back a long way.

  17. Wow wow wow your beauty. Now thats a huuuuuuuugggggeeeeee win. We are on the march. What a team we have now….after the previous years its like warching athletico madrid.

    We are so solid now away from home. We actually know how to manage games away from home.

    Massive credit for fixing it.

    Johnson and the defence superb, bjork brilliant. Conor and adomah poor but at vp they are different.

    I belive!!

  18. Mark

    Its my nerves tapping the keys lots! Calmed down now.

    You cant go targeting much in this league, its nuts. Literaly 1 game at a time. Everyones a cup final.

    3rd 1-0 away win against decent teams on the trot. Highly impressive.

    Brucey has moulded us, fair dos. We are solid and professional. Away from home keep that clean sheet and a chance will come.

    Biggest thing is team spirit. Seeing as some are loans and terry has won everything they are bang up for it and care. Massive credit to get that kind of spirit going.

  19. Andrew: “The last 10 games im praying we have sides thst are on the beach with nothing to fight for”
    Not sure you can count on that helping. Last game of last season we ‘were’ that team on the beach but we still took the Championship away from Brighton.

  20. Andrew
    As this season our last game is against Millwall at the Den, & you would never see them on the beach as you put it, as they wouldn’t last long at that club if they were, possibly you are emoting due to a great win.
    I personally agree with posters that Villa had to wake up a touch after their rest, but they certainly at least matched SU for effort & it was a good game, & fortunately for us we had a little more quality at the right time.
    Sheffield United go for it like a cat after cat mint.

  21. Robbo – All joking aside 6 games against the top 10 as it stands, 10 from the top 14 out of 17 to come. We better win those six pointers because the teams around us are not beating the lower teams where you suggested we would get our points from. Teams are improving as I said they would and we have just had the Jan window. As you have just stated we can’t rely on Millwall being on the beach and we certainly won’t get easy games against Bolton A Brum H Sheff wed A so those games against the top teams are massive, look how beating three of them recently has changed that top 6.

    Two winnable games coming up Burton and the shitty before Fulham who now have a massive chance to close the gap with all the top 5 to play in a row soon and Derby have Brentford and Norwich both in the top 4 of the form table.

  22. That was some result last night. I’ve come down from Cloud 9 and am now able to give more balanced thoughts on the game.

    The Blades didn’t deserve to lose. I would have subbed Snoddy and Hourihane after 60 mins because they were ineffective and replaced them with Green and O’Hare, neither of whom were on the bench. So well done SB and that’s one for OV as well.

    Johnstone was man of the match but stays glued to his line. It should have cost us a goal at the start when a corner which was his ball smacked the crossbar. Spud had settled for a draw with the Jedi sub and got lucky with Snoddy’s gem.

    As Andrew says, the team spirit is showing through as displayed when we scored and the team piled into the scorer. The Villa end of the ground went ape schitt.

    Axel’s non appearance tells us where SB intends to play him. The viking had a great game and a riot might have started had he been subbed. SB may need to rethink where to fit in AT because the viking has to start against Burton.

    Onwards and upwards.

  23. hi Plug yes I agree we were shutting up shop but somehow I just thought we will get one good chance, one bit of skill and get that win. Those kind of games happen and a snodgrass and Hourihane were below par replaced by the fairly ineffective Onamah when Ohare or green on the bench rather than the array of 3 DM’s we had could of brought some joy, at least it wasn’t a bumbling display, we were at least effective but didn’t get Jack on the ball often enough. Really couldn’t understand Hourihanes role but Sheff utd were at it all night in midfield and their defence looks solid again.

    As for Axel Bruce said he can play anywhere in the midfield so he may be played with Thor at some point.

  24. Plug,

    Yes, if you can be detached then the Blades did indeed deserve a point last night. And a draw would still have been OK for us with Burton coming up this week-end.

    But if you can get the points then fine! However, Snoddy’s shot was Villa’s only shot of worth on goal all night! We were a touch fortunate, but luck is what you need on your side.

    Hutton is playing out his last games for Villa apparently, and for me Hourihane clearly won’t make it in the Prem and neither, sadly, will Albert. But it’s a noteworthy point that Albert has been told to stay on the wing but he looks less effective there. His 11 goals proves that he can do a lot more damage but now he’s not given the chance.

  25. JL,

    I agree with your comments. If this team does get promoted it would come straight back down again so further strengthening will be required. The team lacks pace and it would become even more apparent in the top flight. But I guess the Villa hierarchy know that and must plan accordingly as and when the time comes.

  26. I read the secret footballer and he reckons he sees it all the time….players whos teams are safe and nothing to play for cant help but not take there foot off the pedal. that extra fight is gone….but who knows. think we have fairy tough run anyhow!

  27. Blimey Andrew that is optimistic, a few additions? half the side is on loan and the other half to old,
    I would be surprised if we have half a team, go up and its going to be very hard constructing a team capable of staying there from scratch and thats the situation. Took us nearly two to build this and how many players? If we had built with the prem and not promotion in mind then we might have a solid base but dads army will not cut it.

  28. hmmmm maybe more than a few 🙂

    If we go up Johnson & snoddy will stay though.

    The one thing id like to see is if we act upon what we have constantly been told.

    build 3 teams
    1 to go up
    1 to stay in the prem
    1 to challenge top

  29. funny in the prem and footy in general, thought maybe these new young foreign coaches the way forweard. but silva sacked…..wagner lost 7 on trot and 1 point above the zone. and the re emergence of hodgson, big sam moyes pardew who seem to be doing ok at there clubs?

    begs the question if we go up….stick with bruce?

    If we did id see us doing a burnley…..clean sheets first and be hard to beat.

  30. Hard to beat with what though Andrew? The youth have barely played so we have Chester of the required standard. Add Hogan Grealish Thor green Johnson that’s the reality

    As for the old managers they haven’t built those sides, could Bruce do it? Huddersfield have spent less than £40m in two seasons most of that this season. Well looking at prices if you buy prem players we will have to spend £250m to add real quality. I have seen no sign so far that Bruce can find gems nor round. Thor was very nearly off that’s the standard of the talent spotting, bree? Not trusted snoddy 30 already.

  31. I will add Wagner said on promotion that it was about 2 years earlier than planned for them. We of course are in a different position needing the money to survive whereas they have had to work smarter.

  32. I think there will be some money available if we get up, I also think you’ll see some young ‘uns on the bench for home games, expect to see a couple get on the field Saturday if we are comfortable after the hour mark. Next year we will be looking to consolidate our position no more. And 30 by the way isn’t that old with today’s diet and fitness coaches. Heck at 30 i was still running half way round Great Barr with milk bottles, jumping fences etc as it was job and finish, hence the knees now.

  33. Andrew just looked at the prem table and Huddersfield are 14th with Newcastle then Brighton under them 🙂 Its very tight at the bottom and thats where we will be no doubt, are we better than the teams that went up last season?

    Elphick looking forward to playing possession based football from his interview on the reading site


  34. Canadian Villan- its not old if you look after yourself unfortunately not all footballers do, JT an exception with his diet and Yoga.

    Hangeland of Fulham has retired and spilled the beans on the laziest footballers he knew quite an eye opener. I saw one snippet that said that after Hughes took over Fulham the players didn’t like his style of football so they got together and carried on playing as Roy Hodgson told them 🙂


  35. I was sitting in my truck watching the scores when Snodgrass scored. All the times that happened to Villa the last few seasons, I was happy to see that 90 min goal.
    Oh to have a 30 year old’s strength and stamina.

  36. Mark

    elmo is a start.

    terry and a lb needed.

    Huddy still 1 point off relegation. thought wagner was a genius 🙂 TBF I haven’t seen a club in such a mess than villa…maybe qpr/pompey and leeds when they double dropped?

  37. Canadian Villan
    I was doing that at 16, & I was boggered b4 I was 26, & the old building sites didn’t help when we always put the stairs in last to High Rises, & had to climb up & down the scaffolding, mostly without ladders.
    Chris Bryant was cheap & bent as a 9 bob note, must have been a BC supporter, & I don’t mean British Columbia.
    They say we’re getting Grabben.

  38. good bit about most of the u23 daily training with the 1st team now which has not been the case.

    Really think they want to push the youth, and we will see it but now its promotion at all costs. just not going to gamble on them now.

  39. Felt for Enda stevens as he was damned if he did & damned if he didn’t with the snodgrass goal.
    Good to see him making the grade though.

  40. Here’s some views on Grabban from Sunderland supporters, not very complementary.
    The Sunderland fans said:
    Brad Dobbing: “Grabban is a weird one. 12 goals but not actually very good at football. Very Darren Bent-ish. His goals may be missed but we may benefit as a team with a better player leading the line.”

    Peter Whalen was also not downhearted: “Decent player but no fight. Completely trust Coleman to identify a suitable replacement.”

  41. andrew- wagner genius not magician 🙂 as for spending well I think they all think that

    IanG I would of kept snoddy on his right foot its dog shite

    hers an old interview of Hangeland I came across, shows you what gets concentrated on by different managers in training

    “Hangeland, who was signed by Roy Hodgson from Copenhagen in 2008, has seen a good deal of change in his six years. “The style of play has seen a big difference,” he says. “When I played with Aaron Hughes under Hodgson, we used to work on defending every day, basically spend a whole session on it.

    It was almost mechanical, like a telepathic understanding.

    “Hodgson did a lot of work on the defensive side, shape and teamwork, over and over again, the same stuff. Mark Hughes and his guys were very keen on energy and the tempo of play, whereas Martin Jol was definitely more attack-minded. A lot of ball work, a lot of technical drills, keeping the ball, creating overloads. Of course we worked on defending, but less so. So there was less of a system in place.”

    Well we all know how its been until Agnew turned up then 🙂

  42. Mark, “10 from the top 14. . . . we better win those 6 pointers”

    I thought we’d managed to come to an amicable agreement that we need to win as many games as we can against both top and bottom teams but as you’ve re-opened the discussion. . . . . .

    1) your numbers aren’t quite right as we only have 9 of the top 14 teams to play not 10. (Probably also worth noting that 5 of those are at home)

    2) selecting the ‘top 14’ is a bit arbitrary (and the teams in those places will change over the course of the next 17 games anyway) but in any case, the 9 games we have to play against those top 14 is a lower proportion of games than the 8 we still have to play against the bottom 10 teams

    3) another way of looking at it would be to divide the division into thirds, top middle and bottom (rather than your choice where the top ‘half’ has 40% more teams than the bottom’half’)
    Using this split into thirds, our games to come are 4 from the top, 6 from the middle and 7 from the bottom.

    If we beat the teams in the top 8 we’ll win 12 points and deprive each of those teams of 3 points.

    If we beat the teams in the bottom 8 we’ll gain 21 points.

    Based on that I would argue that it’s significantly ‘more’ important to us to beat the teams at the bottom than the teams at the top.

    I’m happy to stick with our previous common ground of needing to beat everyone though!

  43. Mark:”Its very tight at the bottom and thats where we will be no doubt”
    Well . . . . There IS obviously very considerable doubt.
    I do know where you’re coming from though when you ask if we’re really any better than those teams. I think we’d be fooling ourselves if we thought that we are.
    The big question is whether we would be able to improve more during the summer than they did and I suppose that comes down in big measure to how much faith you have in our owner.
    I tend to give the benefit of the doubt until I see evidence to the contrary and right now I’m prepared to trust that Dr Xia would make funds available for us to improve (unlike Mike Ashley for example). We all seem to believe that we have some decent youth players to come through too.
    None of us can be confident of how we’d do if we make it to the premiership next season but I do have more confidence than you seem to have that we’d at least stay there for another year.

  44. Jl “And a draw would still have been OK for us with Burton coming up this week-end.”

    Yes of course we ‘should’ beat Burton, but I was surprised when I just noticed that Burton are lying 5th in the away form table having won 3 of their last 4 away games.
    Can you also imagine just how keen Darren Bent will be to score against us on Saturday?

    Last night, Arsenal lost 3.1 to Swansea.
    Nigel Clough is no mug and has probably done the most, with the least, in the championship.

    We take this game for granted at our peril.

  45. I still say we probably have the easiest run in the the others in the top6, especially as we have more of the 6 pointers at home than the others as we’ve already played a few away.
    Some have to play each other twice.
    So providing we can do well playing the lower teams then we’re in a reasonably good position. How the other teams such as Derby & Cardiff deal with it is interesting, & Bristol City already have had a down turn at a crucial time, which as we know, can make all the difference,
    Cardiff also seem to be slowly accumulating more potential banana skins than us, but Derby are the ones we have to beat & I predict will be our main rival if we don’t self destruct.

  46. I am looking forward to the Wolves home game, as well as the Cardiff one.
    But as you say peeps, Brentford are next & should give us a yardstick for where we are, as well as almost an all time record for consecutive stuff.
    One more win in a row after one against Brentford [hopefully] would make it 8, which surely may be a record.

  47. Robbo – very much depends on perspective, you seem to think ex amount of points will clinch a place in the play offs your original target regardless of where they come from. Us beating those around us has damaged there position maybe even hastened a slump, Already lower teams are taking points from the top teams and will likely do similar to us so beating those around us becomes crucial. The final totals may not have as high points wise as you think so beating those around us takes on greater importance. When we had this discussion originally we had beaten nobody of note and were struggling with the lower teams.

    The obvious thing is that if we become capable of beating those around us gives us a better chances of beating all the teams wouldn’t you say?and god forbid we fail to get second it gives us a bit more confidence going into the playoffs than our former record of beating none of them. We have also already this season lost to a few and drawn with the lower teams anyway.

    You have now noticed Burtons away record I see 🙂 well Bolton and Millwall have good home records and are in the top 12 on form along with Norwich top 4 on form even Brum are top 8, thats why I took it to 14 Millwall because they are all on the up in the last six matches.

    I have never said we don’t need to try and beat the lower teams I have said we need to beat those around us or beating those below us may not be enough if the top 6 beat them as well, that still stand as we are now homing in on second.

    there we are back to winning them all 😉

  48. Mark. Saying that Sunderland ‘let Grabban go back to Bournemouth” makes it sound as if they didn’t want him which isn’t the case.
    Grab an wanted to leave and Coleman decided that it was therefore best to let him go.

  49. So mourinho brings on Fellaini and then 10 minutes later takes him off again
    Fellaini last seen, stomping down the tunnel.
    Blimey . . . mourinho losing the dressing room already? It’s a year early isn’t it?

  50. Never thought I’d say this, but someone gave me a really nice italian red wine.
    I know it’s a heresy, but smooth isn’t the word.

  51. Such a relief to get that goal in what was a scrappy match and an even greater relief to hear the whistle; I was shouting at Snoddy ‘cut inside and shoot’ and he must have heard me from Thailand.
    As most of you I thought Johnstone was our match winner and Thor showed his true mettle; I was a bit worried at the subs and thought Oh No Mah! but in fact he offered a different problem for their defence to counter as he linked up with Grealish who again shone.
    Uncle Albert looked a little lost both fitness-wise and positionally in this game and perhaps needs a rest.

  52. r0bb0,

    I have been a ‘journalist’ in the past (full time). These days I’m mainly a healthcare analyst/consultant/writer. But all that means is just a different topic/audience. So, more writer/analyst than journo.

    Started off covering competitive cycling. Hate to think how many years ago that was. Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon. That’ll tell you.

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