Preston North End came round to pay us as visit and left with a well-earned point, even if the goal itself was another that Sam Johnstone will regret. Lewis Grabban coolly slotted home from the spot to earn Villa’s share of the spoils, and the losing streak was stopped at one.

Away from home, so not going to do the usual Good, Bad & Ugly match review format this time—don’t have access to Illustrator to do up the graphic.

So we’ll just jump to the final verdict.

It wasn’t the worst draw…better to scrape a draw coming from behind than lose a second. But hardly vintage stuff, and blaming the pitch isn’t going to cut it. Didn’t seem to bother PNE. And when you need a penalty to bail you out, well…Maybe not the best night. Part of the game, obviously, and their goal wasn’t a classic, but let’s just say we didn’t create a lot of chances.

Grabban looked pretty useful and up for it. He might’ve missed a trick taking a shot from wide right instead of squaring to Hogan in the middle, but that’s strikers for you. Bjarnason again supplied most of the energy, but really does belong back in the middle. Jedinak just isn’t quick enough. Onomah I thought showed a bit more application, but once again, nothing telling. Hutton got off a shot or two, played hard as always. Hogan once again didn’t get a lot to work with. I’ve seen him finish. He can do it. But once again, we’re having trouble giving him good chances. Davis nearly had a late winner. Shame he just hasn’t found the knack for netting that I think is hiding in there somewhere.

However, it seemed to be the introduction of Davis that gave us some purchase. Given that was the formula that largely held us together prior to Jack’s return, it’s not really surprising. He showed less rust and some good footwork. Main thing is that he gets the ball to stick. It’s not the most sophisticated football, but it has its place, and if it’s effective, I’m all for it.

So if I were Bruce and Jack isn’t back at the weekend, I’d give starting Davis a good long think. I’d also think about giving Johnstone some extra sessions in commanding the box. Kid’s a great shot-stopper, came up with at least one very important one-on-one save down the stretch. But he does tend to get in trouble elsewhere. The effort on the punch was ill-advised, given the bodies in front of him, and then in trying to get back to the ball he seemed to have kept Terry from having a chance to head it clear off the line. It might not have mattered.

The other impression I had was that Villa seemed far too spaced out. Players get isolated, passes have to be more ambitious and accurate, and it’s easier for defenders to anticipate the ball going to one lone player as opposed to us having more options closer together. At the same time, we still seem to run into each other an awful lot. Seems paradoxical, given the spacing issue, but there you go.

PNE were scrappy and feisty, and Villa did well enough returning the favors. But without Jack, it seems once again that the opponent’s formula is based on pressure. We just don’t handle it well. Part of it’s the spacing, part of it is not having a lot of players who can make space for themselves—we seem to either lack the close control or poise or some ineffable factor that leaves us always misplaying it, turning into trouble, showing too much of the ball. I dunno. The spacing bit, well, it makes the quick pass harder to find and complete.

I don’t want to read too much into these games because it really isn’t our best team. However, it is a bit worrying that we end up looking like we did before Jack’s return and things started taking shape. Perhaps that’s to be expected. At the same time, though, it doesn’t reflect all that well on the players or Bruce. No real indictment from me just yet…I’m just left scratching my head more than anything else.

It’s easy to think “well, there are still plenty of games, lots of points to play for…” Which is true. But time flies, pressure builds, and soon enough you’re under 10 and it starts to get nervy. With Cardiff winning, we’ve got a little work to do now.

The upside is that if Jack and Albert had to miss games, this was better timing than closer to the end. I’m just left hoping that both are close to returning. Because in all honesty, I see us continuing to struggle without them.

As always, some very good comments and observations before I got this up. I agree, I don’t think the highlights reflected the entirety of what I saw. They weren’t necessarily pandering, but by their nature just can’t show the large periods of time that Villa looked second-best.

Over to you.

Comments 123

  1. Thanks Jc pretty much how I saw it. On grabban not cutting it back for hogan, that is the kind of thing ohare does so well , put a striker in that position they invariably shoot.

    Strange how our youth players have decent ball control . Bruce saw Ollie jacks ex team mate train the kids before they gave him a job. He had them juggling two balls in their hands while dribbling a ball and they were told not look down. Bruce said he’d never seen anything like it and wanted Ollie on the staff.

  2. John,

    I agree also with your assessment – in broad terms. Of course, I see things a bit differently in some areas.

    Your comment at the very end about the highlights is a ‘given’ isn’t it? PP picked up on this before after I’d already remarked as such, so I’m fully aware of its limitations. You obviously can’t draw complete conclusions from just 10 minutes’ worth, but you can get *some* (a little) drift of what is there as it least it covers the whole match. And sometimes, after seeing the whole match, you can’t always remember something that occurred earlier, which the highlights – er – highlight! 😀

    On yto Hogan, and remarking on r0bb0’s comment on the previous thread:
    “john looks as if I have a better opinion of Hogan than you do. We haven’t found the best way to use him yet though.”

    I have said as such in earlier times. My assessment of him is not so much a criticism of him but that in my view he’s one of those who doesn’t quite fit at VP. It happens, and it’s unfortunate, but I also don’t think he has the physique for the kind of striker I like to see at VP. Grabban and Davis both fit that bill much more for me, and if Davis can get to netting a bit more I’d reckon he could be twice the striker Hogan is.

    And – as others keep on saying – only by playing him is he going to improve. However, it’s his first season, and giving him a rest after taking a lot of bashing is good wisdom on Bruce’s part I believe.

    But just after seeing very little of Grabban I immediately took to him. How I explain that I’m not entirelu sure, but I get the feel he’s a better all-round player than Hogan, though Hogan has some skill, no doubt.

    But it’s maybe just down to personal likes and dislikes. I can never decide I like a player on his technical ability alone – there has to be some quality that attracts me. As Codger does – though he can be infuriatlingly selfish.

  3. Thinking further about strikers and personal likes/dislikes…

    There was a remarkable state of affairs in the early 30s when Villa acquired 3 (THREE) first-rate strikers … George Brown, Pongo Waring and Dai Astley.

    Brown could be devastating … though Waring was always the crowd’s favourite, he blowed a bit hot and cold and so he got dropped once or twice and Brown brought in instead. On one such occasion, Brown scored a couple of hat-tricks straight off, including the fastest ever Villa hat-trick.

    And then there was Astley, who the fans thought was lazy but still scored 100 goalos in 173 matches!

    Strikers are an emotive iissue methinks.

  4. Excellent summary JC,

    Your comment on Hogan failing to see a colleague in a better position, is not only Vila’s problem, but the difference between average sides in the Premiership and the Championship, born out by the difference in the way Man City and Wolves play, both sets of players are looking for colleagues as the attack mounts, and the short simple balls around the box bring the results with ease in the majority of the games, which is why they almost never change their style of play!

    You are also right, saying that is how our youngsters play through O’Hare and Doyle-Hayes, resulting in 6 goals on Monday against good opposition. Brains will always outwit brawn.

  5. JL,

    You are arguing against yourself, as Hogan has been the main scorer during our run since Jack’s return, and they work perfectly together, along with Hourihane and Adomah………!!!!

    Therefore, how can you say that he does not suit Villa. He may not suit hoof ball in the box in Jack’s absence, and that is a different matter..!!

  6. I don’t think there is the perfect forward for all occasions anywhere in the world. And as we have to assume Bruce wanted hogan then it really is down to Bruce to use him effectively or he’s just another waste of money.

  7. PP: “You are arguing against yourself, as Hogan has been the main scorer during our run since Jack’s return, “

    I think you enjoy mis-reading my posts! 😀

    Apart from which I wasn’t just talking about goals and how many. I am talking about general play as I percieve it.

    Apart from which Hogan has only scored 1 in the last 5 matches – and that was a tap in. OK, Jack has not played in the last 2, but Hogan appears to have dried up again and doesn’t help himself by not getting many shots on target.

  8. MK: “Maybe he’ll grow on you JL”

    I’d really like to think that, but if next season is in the Prem I don’t think he’ll do well at all. Not unless we sign someone whose a superb playmaker to help him.

  9. JL,

    Overall, I think AVTV does a decent job with the highlights. Games where we’ve done nothing going forward, you could see it on the highlights.

    One thing I’m baffled about is that they’ll do replays during the game, but at halftime and full time, they don’t replay the goals, near misses, or saves.

  10. MK,

    You’re right, no one ideal forward. Hogan is a certain kind, and like you say, doesn’t thrive off the sort of long balls and high crosses we revert to. He can put away a very slender chance. It just has to be a good ball to work with.

    Would like us to have more options. Grabban might have a been decent pick-up…seems to want to play and isn’t lazy. Glad he opened his account, even if it was from the spot.

  11. PP,

    We do seem to make it up as we go along up front. Keep seeing that other teams have a very definite pattern to work with. They know who they’re trying to get it to and when. Unless it’s a break, we sort of get up there and then start looking around. This means we usually take too long, runs are missed, everything gets more compressed and static in the box.

  12. Andrew- getting second depends on how soon we turn this blip around if it’s the usual 5-6 games then it will be very hard obviously as Cardiff have had their blip it seems and have strengthened . As I continually keep saying beating those around is very important. We could of lost to brum kept jack healthy beat Fulham and PNE.

  13. Andrew,

    For my part, don’t mean to be glum. Where I’m at is that it seems we’re very dependent on Grealish, and Adomah, tbf. Grealish changes the team. Adomah provides balance and a more distributed goal-scoring threat.

    The win streak saw us playing some good football and creating plenty of chances. It got us back up to the right end of the table. So we are firmly in it.

    The trick is that there was no large gap separating us. We have to keep winning at a fairly high rate. A streak of poor results at this moment could see us struggling to stay in the running.

    All ifs, ands, or buts right now, but it is sobering after feeling like Villa couldn’t lose, and seems like the same weaknesses we’d fretted about earlier may be rearing their ugly heads again.

    Of course, you can’t legislate for injuries. Unfortunate Green isn’t available. Or Kodjia, for that matter. The big question is whether Villa have the ability to adapt and get back to winning.

  14. And I do agree with you, Andrew, that booing the team does no good. The whole point of playing at home is having the support buoy you, help you dig deeper vs. the psychology of the other team being ramped up and cheered on and you feel 20-30,000 people actively rooting against you. Villa should be able to count on that boost at home.

  15. Talking of injuries. Cardiff’s captain Morrison was carried off last night. We’ll know shortly how long he’s going to be out for. The last time they lost him, Cardiff went on their wobbly run so he matters to them big time. Whilst never wishing any player harm (no pins and dolls MK) I do hope he is out for a stretch of time.

    Also last night, Derby had a free kick on the edge of the box. It was slammed into the wall. Eight seconds later it was in the back of their own net. That’s Leeds showing how fast a break out should be. If we broke out with similar speed, I’m sure Hogan would fill his boots JL.

    Andrew, I can never understand either why any fans boo a poor performance. It is counter productive. Shouldn’t happen. But if you think VP was quiet on Tues night, Pride Park was a morgue after Leeds went in front. So atmosphere is stoked up by the players. Pick a defensive set up and fans have nothing to respond to. This is why I prefer all out attack. Like the Titties and Fulham last night. Both teams going all out for the 3 points. Neither got them but it did achieve a point apiece.

  16. And I don’t believe PP’s “friend” Mick who reckons SB is lying in wait until the last 10 games. In this race, we have just gone through the bell. We have some distance to make up. Time to step on the gas now.

  17. This is how I see the importance of beating those around us especially at this stage of the season when things are tight, 10 points between 10 and 3rd.

    Lets say at season start there are 7 teams in contention for the top six places including us, there are more as it happens but for now its 7. Those other 6 beat all the teams below 7th and they also beat us, we would end up 7th. So the real battle begins at some point (and IMO thats quite early on) for the top six and a win can either distance you as it would of if we had beaten Fulham by ten points or it can reduce that gap to a manageable 4 for Fulham putting pressure on us.

    As the season goes on add the likelihood of Injuries and teams who started off badly improving and relegation teams shutting up shop or going for broke and you will likely not get all those points considered easy to get at season start. Those teams are not likely to catch you though if you’ve amassed enough and so the games against the teams around you mean so much more and make a bigger difference to the eventual top 6 and a huge one to the top 2.

  18. Plug: “That’s Leeds showing how fast a break out should be. If we broke out with similar speed, I’m sure Hogan would fill his boots JL.”

    Well, a little while ago that did happen and Hogan fluffed his lines. Unfortunately. On that occasion he was closed down but he had the opportunity to pass to other players who were more free.

    But so did bent (fluff his lines) when in one-on-one situations. Not many strikers get it right all the time.

  19. Andrew- Talking about Leagues Heres how my fantasy league teams doing, took me a while to get the handle on it and still learning but I have 1484 points, I’m 4th in a league of 30 and 3rd in a league of 10, in the money places which my Brothers happy about its his team I’m managing 🙂 I am ranked 203,787 in England league and 589,287 in the Global, don’t know how many Millions play but its a fair few.
    Really enjoyed it and its helping me scout players for us for next season 😉

  20. With the wealth of talent Bruce has it should have been simple to slot a player into Grealish and Adomah’s spot and although not as good as, they would keep the style of play intact. Which to me is more important than doing a quick change in play and pray for a quick return of G & A.
    It’s up to the coaching staff to have replacements similar to the starters in most cases and I don’t think that has happened. As a blog we all see the talent in the under 23 squad but they are rarely used and looking back on the season that rests on Bruce’s shoulders. These players should have been rotated through the bench and first team on a regular basis and they haven’t. IMO they would have been perfect for the situation now if they had several games and minutes under their belt. But then as a group at AVL we have been saying that all season.
    Bruce’s reliance on his favourites will be Villa’s downfall (or not). I look back at McNeil’s team running out of gas and to a point can see it happening here in 2018. Terry, Amohamady, and Hutton are looking to be a bit tired. I’m sure it’s happening with some of the others. Not necessarily physically but mentally too.
    With more rotation of players perhaps Bruce would be more likely to give Taylor a bit of a run and perhaps DeLaet wouldn’t have wanted a loan out. Bruce has plenty of talent but won’t use it effectively and it’s going to bite him in the butt if he gets into a rough patch again once these few games are done with.
    Laying in third spot right now is nothing to sneeze at but for me it really should be neck and neck with Wolves.

  21. Ian- I think there’s a fair amount of promises made to players if they come and a fair bit of Managers justifying the outlay on players in team selections, far easier to leave someone on £1000 a week out than £30,000+

  22. JL,

    You really do work on the politician’s use of statistics….Yes Hogan has only scored one in the last five games, but you omit that he has scored 5 goals in four games during our 7 match winning streak, plus assists, all with Grealish, Adomah and Hourihane, with Bjarnason playing behind them!!!!

    Very good summary, which agrees with the feelings of most fans, reading all the blogs over the last 24hours.

    SB in the past has relied on a very small squad of around 12-14 players to achieve promotion, and has been lucky with injuries, but he is now basically using the same players, or type, and they are now older, do not have the speed, and need to rely too much on willpower and stamina.

    A bad result against Wednesday, and the Doc along with the fans, will not be happy.

  23. Just because someone is on a high wage shouldn’t mean they have automatic first team status. Look at McCormack. For me Bruce screwed him up royally. It became a pissing match that Ross couldn’t win.

  24. Why can’t richards be a reclamation project? They have Monday to Friday every week to give him the tools to resurrect his career.

  25. Managers have no problem to tell players they didn’t buy to pack sand and sit on the bench or in the stands. That’s idiotic. You use all the tools you are given, should be able to change your thinking to suit what you have on hand, and not alienate players to suit yourself.

  26. So, back to the old 6 pointer chestnut eh Mark?

    Thought we’d finished with that when I tried to find common ground and then backed off last time.

    Let’s put it this way
    If we lost all our remaining games to teams in the top 6 . . . . no let’s say, the top 10! . . but win all the others, we’ll probably be automatically promoted. Do it the other way round and we won’t even make the play offs.

    At the start of the season, a supercomputer predicted that Hull would be second . . . we’d better win those six pointers then eh?

    In November, it had more information to go on but had Preston, fulham and Bristol city ending up mid table . . . . those games don’t matter so much then?

    Do you think that even at this late stage in the season, the current top 6 will be the final top 6?

    Of course, if in our penultimate game against Derby, we’re within 3 points of each other, the result of that game will be vital.

    What bugs me, is people talking about 6 pointers, or ‘must win’ games way before they are anything of the sort. That sort of talk breeds unnecessary tension and negativity when we lose one of those games. They are just sticks with which to beat the manager and or players.

    Over the past 11 seasons there have been three years when the second team has scored more than 90 points so it’s ‘possible’ that we’d need to also beat one of the current top 6 to ensure 2nd place, and as things stand ‘today’ you’d want that one to be Cardiff.

    We just need as many points as we can get, and hopefully , when we’ve played our last game it’ll be enough.

  27. I remember at the start of the season, the criticism was that we were rotating players too much, not creating a settled side.
    When you look through the squad, for sure we all seem to believe that O’Hare is worth a try, but in fact, most of the other players have had a decent run at some point or other (when not injured)
    Everyone remembers the Leicester title winning season and it is surely no coincidence that they used fewer players that season than any other team in the premiership.
    I believe that our problem now is. It tiredness of overused players, but NOT being able to consistently put out he sane team because of the number of injured players we have just now.
    When you look at a creative player injury list including Kodjia, Adomah, Grealish, Snodgras, Green and Davis, I don’t think that here are many teams that could just shrug that off and keep performing at the same level.

  28. Earlier in the season, when things were really not looking good, one of the oft repeated criticisms was that we had a poor squad and that Bruce and his predecessors had bought badly.
    Improved results change perceptions and everyone now feels that we have one of, if not the, best squad in the league.
    When they’re all fit I’d tend to agree, and during the spell when we did indeed have a nearly complete squad we all saw what they were capable of.
    Right now we are having to cope with serious disruption to that squad and they’re going to have to dig deep on Saturday to win.
    It’ll be a real challenge for them, plus an opportunity for some of them to secure places for the final run in.

  29. Good commonsense points you make r0bb0. 🙂

    Well, to get back even further to commonsense I’ve just been watching a Humanity’s Team webinar on the planet’s sustainability issues. Some good sense being talked there and including wisdom imparted from the Hopi indians.

  30. JL, I’d love to believe the MOMS predictions but don’t have a lot of faith in them . . . too many variables.
    For us, I reckon the key variable will be injury recovery times
    It would be good if home fans got behind the team the way away fans tend to.
    When the crowd gets going you can see it raises the players (works the other way round too of course!)

  31. RObbO
    I wasn’t one of the rabble to complain about an unsettled side at the beginning of the season. I think Villa should have pushed through the learning curve for the younger players and then kept a larger group of players to draw from. I do think the team is tiring and am ticked at the number of injuries that have piled up. But I guess that’s football in the championship. The injury that bugs me the most is Kojia. After Kozak did his ankle twice I wonder what they were thinking letting go to play internationally with a freshly set ankle.

  32. Good comments Ian.

    JL/r0bb0, if MOMS is predicting 89 points I’ll take it immediately. Can’t see us reaching that total though if only because we will continue to get injuries and my faith in Plans B to F is zero. It’s also tough to get right behind your team when a fair amount of dross is on offer. However, put an opposition team under sustained siege and the fans always respond. It’s down to the players.

    r0bb0, I promise not to make another comment about must win matches and leave you to tell us when that point has arrived, if indeed it does.

  33. Ah…that’s the spirit, lads.

    There are a lot of variables. I think r0bb0’s point about settled/rotating squads bears some consideration.

    For me, at the start, my feeling was that SB didn’t know his best XI. And that he wasn’t rotating so much as experimenting in trying to find it. Then injuries began to force his hand. Whether what emerged was the “best” XI or just the one that clicked and played together enough is debatable, like most things.

    Enter Jack, and the team seems transformed. How much Agnew has to do with it, I couldn’t honestly say. But, there we have a side, unchanged, and things look good.

    Rotating is tough. You’re going to be conservative as a manager, for the most part, and when things go well, you don’t necessarily want to rock the boat. Then you get injuries and you don’t necessarily have what you’d like to have and you don’t have time to let things settle.

  34. If you had a choice on which games you wanted to win I would pick the ones sooner than later. No point having cup finals every weekend in the spring and putting depends on back order at tescos

  35. On team rotation, most teams that are up the top came out of pre-season looking the part and we didn’t, it would be interesting to see how many players other teams have used in comparison to us? I said the other day Bruce had an first 11 that played a lot of games the year hull last got promoted so I am assuming they didn’t have any big injury worries, maybe thats his thing.

    If you have a way of playing and a squad that suits it then you can rest players and Bruce has voiced that maybe he should of rested a few this season on more than a couple of occasions.
    Our biggest problem is the style of play was not cemented in the summer and until Jan didn’t really suit a lot of the squad, we are now back to finding another way.

  36. And to Ian’s point, yes, you’d have liked to see youth integrated over the summer and into the start of the season. But that was never going to be SB’s MO.

  37. I’ve got a sneaky feeling that managers don’t want to upset any feelings amongst the #1 XI. If, at the start of the season it was known that the best XI was the best XX then pouting players would be a minimum.

    John, we decided to let the US women win the hockey tournament just because we’re canadian and nice.

  38. It was rather Canadian of you… 😉

    Think you’re right about feelings, dressing room, etc. You want confidence, you want to reward players. But I think veterans understand rotation for the sake of freshness. Just have to pick your spots.

  39. Ian, Peter Shilton said that when Clough got upset with his championship team’s performances he used to send his players running around the training ground perimeter stripped to the waist. Then he opened the gates to the next field and when they came round he sent them round the perimeter of the adjacent field which was full of stinging nettles. Not one player dared complain.

  40. r0bb0,

    I rather scoffed at the MOMS forecast as well … and then tried my own!

    24-02-2018 Away Sheffield Wednesday 3
    03-03-2018 Home Queens Park Rangers 3
    06-03-2018 Away Sunderland 3
    10-03-2018 Home Wolverhampton 1
    17-03-2018 Away Bolton Wanderers 3
    30-03-2018 Away Hull City 3
    03-04-2018 Home Reading 3
    07-04-2018 Away Norwich City 0
    10-04-2018 Home Cardiff City 1
    14-04-2018 Home Leeds United 3
    21-04-2018 Away Ipswich Town 3
    28-04-2018 Home Derby County 1
    06-05-2018 Away Millwall 3

    Giving 30 to add to existing 60 = 90.

  41. Mark, if I remember rightly, the 6 pointer discussion was largely between me and you and ended with us amicably agreeing to disagree. . . . even though you were clearly wrong

  42. Ian. Re your ‘sister in the nettles’ story: I was on a family summer holiday in France wearing just shorts. Playing cricket, I was running to take a catch and didn’t see the land suddenly fall away down a slope covered in nettles. I rolled over and over, down the nettle covered slope.
    It was almost unbearable for 3 days. Impossible to get any relief from it at all so I can really empathise with your sister!
    Fancy a game of cricket Mark? ☺️

  43. A very tongue in cheek press conference from Steve Bruce, now having an injury list as long as his arm.

    Jack and Albert will still be out until QPR game, Axel T has a hamstring, and Bruce now regrets playing him in two games close together, before he is fully up to the mark. Grabban has a sore groin, and may not play, Davis is also probably out, having twisted his ankle in the last minute of the game. He is hoping that Snoddy will be fit, as he is in for training today.

    Steve says that Callum has been in his mind ever since the Colchester game, and he will be in the squad tomorrow, probably with RHM and a couple more of the youngsters…
    He says he has no problem playing Callum, and the only reason he has not picked him, is because the team has been doing so well.

    Sounds to me like someone has whispered in Bruce’s ear “WTF are we doing dropping points, when we have young players with the ability to win games”.

  44. Tomorrow could be very much a battle between two no.10’s for midfield domination, and a very interesting one, if both play.

    Barry Bannan (our ex) and Callum O’Hare our hottest young property. I really wish I was going up to Sheffield this weekend, instead of next.

  45. JL
    ‘I think Bruce is only doing what has been pushed on him by the horrendous injury situation’, nothing else.’

    Yes maybe, but very slowly, & often too late losing us points b& momentum

  46. IanG,

    That’s one way of looking at it – for those who are campaigning to bring youth in, which in itself could cause loss of momentum! But we’re still there regardless of all that, are we not, with 13 games to go!

    My guess is that pressure will get to the other clubs around us.

  47. r0bb0
    Games where the momentum is getting shaky, or we’re playing a so called ‘6 pointer’, are often termed as ‘must win’.
    For those of us with a literal tendency this would be an anathema.
    For those of us concerned supporters who hope to see forward motion return, or to continue to gain necessary positions in the table for promotion, where anything else makes it much harder or impossible to achieve:
    Negative? – No.
    Foolish? – No.
    Irritating? – If necessary.

  48. JL
    Bruce has already lost us momentum several times unnecessarily pushing us down the table.
    By trying to change it earlier, what have we got to lose?
    We already tried losing, & we can’t lose twice at the same time by a smarter use of the squad, including the kids.

  49. Well, whatever SB’s thoughts on youth are, it’s obvious he doesn’t have any choice now.

    I can’t believe that Tuanzebe, Grabban, Davis and maybe even Snodgrass could all be lost in one game.

  50. IanG,

    Well, we just don’t agree, unfortunately. I would much rather see the experienced fellers finish the job they started. However, bringing in one or two youth probably won’t upset the applecart.

  51. JL
    I wasn’t disagreeing, merely pointing out some indisputable facts, such as that we can’t lose points twice with the same match, & so far 90% of the instances SB has been slow changing things & losing, therefore losing us possible points in the process.
    If we come to different potential conclusions that are not dependent on the manager’s performance so much as on the statistical evidence, citing a difference off starting viewpoint as a disagreement, is disingenuous.
    The facts show that there was nothing to lose playing the kids earlier, as we usually lost the points anyway & the performances dipped sharply.
    Whether it would have gained us more points is an unknown, but it is factually a possibility.
    To call facts being raised to broaden the view for discussion a disagreement when it is not a disagreement, yet, unless we’re all in Trump’s world, is a little odd.
    It would be nice for SB’s habit to change so we can maybe see for ourselves.

  52. IanG,

    Sorry I don’t follow that! I’m a simple guy and see that the club has come out of an awful 6 years and has had to be turned round – and that it has is credit to the management from top down … including Bruce!

    So that being the case I’m just happy we are in the position we’re in league-wise.

  53. Does anyone know whether SW are a tall team, because if not so much:
    Elmo [if fit?]/Bree RB,
    Hutton LB
    Maybe the viking back as DM to quicken play,
    a.n. other [Onomah?] on the left wing,
    leaving the Snods [if fit?]/O’Hare on the right
    & Hourihane playing with Grabban [if fit?]/ RHM, as No 10.
    With Hogan/Davis [if fit?]

    Jedi, Lansbury, Taylor & if everyone above being fit, Davis, RHM & Snoddy or O’Hare

    It’s a bit of a cr*p shoot really.
    Let’s hope the pitch/weather/refs are against Cardiff & Derby

  54. IanG,

    I did say earlier that Grabban and Davis are unlikely to play. Snodgrass is almost a certainty.

    The team will be:

    Johnstone, El Mohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton, Snodgrass, Jedinak, O’Hare, Hourihane, Bjarnason, Hogan,

    Subs: Bunn, Taylor, Whelan, Lansbury, Onomah, RHM, Bree.

  55. My team is based on the fact that the under 23’s won 3-0 last night without O’Hare, Bree and RHM.

    All of them being stood down for Saturday’s game.

    The under 23’s have one final game against Sheffield Utd on Monday, which they should win, making them champions..!!


    We just have to stop young Adam Reach scoring another goal in the first 30 seconds, as he did at Villa Park, where Barry Bannan bossed the mid field and won the only game we have lost in the league at home so far, so we really have a mountain to climb and make sure that we conquer them…!!

    They have some very good players, and may well have a height advantage, depending on who plays, apart from Bannan, who may be an inch taller than Callum!!!

  56. Been listening to Luhukay’s presser.

    PP, Bannon is injured and has been for some games. Coincides with their drop off in performance levels.

    Luhukay says they’ve got a lot of key players missing and he may only have 16 fit guys. But that was also tha case when they beat Derby a couple weeks back. Expect Jao and Reach to be fit though so we need to be up for it.

    If SB plays O’Hare I hope it is in his natural position and not wherever we’re short handed. Likewise it is time the viking got his starting position as DM back from Jedi.

  57. JC
    Thanks for the summary of the PNE match.
    I’m looking forward to the next match. I see positives in having to exercise the wider squad. Villa still seems to get more than its fair share of injuries.
    That’s a very optimistic list of predictions, wouldn’t mind if it were to eventuate like that.

  58. will be tough tomoz. my mates a very frustrated owl fan.

    They don’t tend to loose many but show no ambition. could be a 0-0 tomoz.


    that’s decent mate. fantasy league is great fun. maybe do a mini league next season on here?

    What one do you do?

    we have always done the telegraph one which is very good. ive been in the top 1000 most of the season out of half a million!

    Got to 501 at one stage!

  59. Thanks PP,
    You seem to be saying the same thing except for Jedinak
    I got my info from the official villa site.
    It said that Elmo may not be fit, nor Davis, nor Grabban, which is why I put [ if fit/] next to them with another player in the slot [RHM in his case], although my preference would be O’Hare in the No 10 slot.
    It said Snodgrass was more than likely to be fit, but how well he has recovered his strength since being ill is anyone’s guess.
    I would prefer the viking at DM & Jedi as cover for both DM & defence, as I put, though SB may very well surprise us all & put Snodgrass on the left [uhgg] & Bree on the right of midfield just to upset the team’s shape.

  60. Andrew- its the official fantasy premier league mate, I think there are 3.5 mil play it, gets very addictive and more than a little annoying, great fun, 501 out of a million good going mate 🙂

    Hello IanG where you been? Had to get the dictionary out earlier but I agree, there is no evidence we would fare any worse with a few youth players and every chance they might have notched us an extra few points even if it was debut driven performances, look at Davis, dragged us out of a hole and knackered himself out in the process. Not often a forward runs more miles than the midfield.

    One big clue makes me think its a no brainer is so many other teams have young players in them in the champs. Oddly Bruce would rather play the Manure lad over Bree at RB when Bree is match fit and has had more experience in this league and is the same age. Similar with Onamah who has been average while Ohare at least gets stuck in.

    PP- when our Steve eventually goes I will not miss his pressers, he couldn’t play Callum because we were playing so well? what about December and the many other times? even when he was playing well in the cups and the 1st was all over the place he wouldn’t start him. Don’t mind if he doesn’t want to play him but don’t bulls**t about it, does that to often.

  61. Paul: “so we really have a mountain to climb [vs W3ednesday]”

    Wow … we’re are getting -ve – we’re talking of a team below the table mid-po8int here, not Liverpool! 😉

    Agreed, with the injuries we have the job may well be a bit more difficult but no means insurmountable.

    In the light of our injuries I’ll change my prediction to a draw rather than a win.


    Sorry, my prediction has just got reduced to only 88 points for the season.

  62. MK: “Hello IanG where you been?”

    Wherever he’s been he’s come back in a bloody awful mood. Perhaps he’s really a Small Heath supporter and has been smarting these past 2 weeks?! 😀

  63. Just a reminder of what a sad time Bruce is going through…

    “There are times when we all have to suffer grief, but obviously my job is public, so everybody knows. That horrible pain in the stomach that grief gives you is there. It`s always there. But my mam and dad would want me to get on with it. There`s no alternative, is there?”

    He talks of the moment he celebrated the win and I don`t think anyone could bregrudge him showing some emotion surely?

    “I don`t know what I was doing or what happened. Maybe I shouldn`t have celebrated, but I was lost in the moment. All the emotion was bubbling out.”

    He goes on to explain he just had to be at the match, and that would have been what his dad Joe would have wanted as well. “He would have said, ‘Just do your job, son. No fuss.` That was him, exactly what he was like, the type who quietly got on with things.”

    Not only has Steve gone through that, but his mom is seriously ill as well. “It`s heartbreaking, and it`s been the cruellest three weeks. My mam was so independent and fit. She`d get the Metro into town, go shopping, or out to Whitley Bay.”

    Read more:

  64. The mis-management at Villa for several years is the real thing we should be concerned about i.m.o…. OK, it’s past, but it leaves a very sour taste for me.

    Form the Mail:

    In accounting, businesses reveal “book costs” for exceptional items, and Swiss Ramble has uncovered Villa have announced the following costs since 2011 – totting up to £109 million:

    £23 million paid out to sacked managers.
    £41 million on reducing the value of poor player purchases.
    £45m on writing down value of Villa Park.

    Villa have now reported total losses of £334 million in the last nine years.

  65. JL,

    Wednesday are so poor that they have already played Derby, and taken 6 points off them, had two draws with Cardiff, and have players like Reach and Rhodes who are in form. They were unlucky to lose to Millwall, and have only lost one other game in the last 11. Strangely enough the Alliance are their bogey team, having taken all 6 points. They have also played Leeds and beaten them.
    I am sure Bruce also feels that they will be very stiff opposition.

    Villa need to increase their Viagra doses and stiffen up too..!!

    I do feel that if we played Bjarnason rather than the Jedi in the DM role, with O’Hare in Jack’s place, we could stand a very good chance, but Bruce seems determined to keep the Jedi there and play Bjarnason out of position.

    Many of us can sympathize with Steve, having already lost mothers and fathers, and know what it is like to be strong and get on with life. Not everyone works in local or national government, getting time off from the job to deal with these things.

  66. Paul,

    Maybe … but they are still where they are in the division … and are without Bannan, so that certainly evens things up a tad.

    No deny8ing it’s not an easy match, but Villa should at least get a draw i.m.o.

  67. JL – I can’t get my head round those figures. The 23 million to sacked managers I understand and can see it may be correct. It’s why 1 year rolling contracts for all coaching staff should be the norm.

    The 41 million on amortisation costs I understand too. They spread the capital cost over the length of employment so it’s always there as a cost.

    But 45 million writing down costs of Villa Park takes some believing. If this is written down, what was it held at beforehand? Lerner only paid 70 million for the whole lot including training grounds, players etc.

    If 334 million was the true losses over 11 years, Lerner and Dr Xia would be sitting outside New St station with a begging bowl. The whole lot stinks.

  68. It’s a truism that it’s harder to beat the better teams, so inevitably we’ll gain fewer points against them.
    If you win all the easier games then it really doesn’t matter how you do against the teams that end the season as the top teams
    Derby have dropped 15 points against top 6 opposition so they could be leading the league if they’d won those games. They’ve done well against lower teams though so they’re still snapping at our heels. Fulham have also dropped 15 points against top 6 opposition and Bristol city (like us) 14.
    All of the top 6 teams would be in the automatic promotion places if only they’d beaten all the top sides.
    If Bristol city had won their games against Birmingham, QPR, Burton, Millwall, Brentford Norwich, and Bolton they’d be sitting pretty, well clear in second place now.

    If we’re going for automatic promotion, there are two games out of 46 that you might be able to call 6 pointers. They are the ones against the team that ends the season in second (if we end third) or third (if we end second) they are the ONLY games where it matters that we deprive them of points, but even now with just 12 games left nobody (not even the bookies with all their statistics and data) can tell us which team that will be.

  69. The only team that stands out in their results against top 6 sides is Wolves, but then they stand out against the lower sides too.
    Where we (and Derby) do seem to be missing out is away games against top 6 teams. I wonder if the problem is that slightly cautious managers like Bruce and Rowett treat these as 6 pointers, or ‘must not lose’ games. Another demonstration that treating these games differently is probably wrong as you disrupt your normal style of play and reduce your chances of winning.
    As some have said on here, we should treat all games equally and go out to win them, irrespective of who the opposition is.

  70. JL
    I’m in a great mood, I’ve had an enforced rest from the internet, different perspective, & you seem to have taken my advice about the prozac – ‘smiley round thing wink wink’

  71. Mark
    I was away from home & couldn’t get the match or this site, so had an enforced rest from it all apart from results mate.
    As far as looking at a dictionary is concerned, at least you can spell Jym.
    Also went to see my son on the south coast who’s a Manure supporter sadly, & would rather watch Chelsea than let me get my Villa fix.
    Bad taste all round.

  72. JL
    Coming from a long line of army accounting [all in a tobacco tin in a rubber band, & the rest in my head], it does seem to be a la carte cooking.
    Well done I say

  73. r0bb0
    They do say that you should always play your normal game & sometimes with an added zing, then you get the points in a 6 pointer.
    Fortunately we seem to have already played most of our away games with the top 6, which is more than be said for them

  74. Plug
    It is good cooking, but the cabbage is no good
    3 million for Fox still rings in my ears, along with the ‘Fox is a wanker ‘ chant.
    Also The Doc will have had to account for some of Lerner’s insanity years, surprised the stink didn’t get out earlier.

  75. Other interesting fixtures over the next few days:


    Reading vs Derby County
    Fulham vs Wolverhampton Wanderers

    Cardiff City vs Bristol City

    Reading vs Sheffield United

  76. Robbo – You should be playing for the 3 points no doubt in my mind, draws not the worst at a top sides place as long as you win at home you will be up on them overall assuming you all beat the teams below, which is a fallacy and never happens unless you are the runaway winner of the league.

    Take the Fulham game, if we won there or drew, they would be 10 points or 7 behind us, they won and are now 4. Even a draw would take two points off the teams we lost to like Cardiff and give us 1 more. It matters because they are close to us in the league on a weekly basis and at this stage of the season. Why is there more excitement around playing the top teams? because they are a bit like cup finals and your both going for something other than survival maybe. Yes they have all taken points off each other because they are good enough to.

    The most obvious reason is if you can beat the top teams or not lose to them consistently then you will get a lot of points from the lower teams almost by default because your actually good. If you can’t beat the top teams not so good and you will struggle along as we have for most the season. It really has only changed since we started turning over a few of them IMO of course.

  77. Robbo – on cautious managers, Bruce still saying what a hard game it will be with sheff wed with 11 1st teamers out, some times I wonder if he even knows. Sometimes I wish he would just say the lads are really up for it.

  78. Spot on MK,

    Bruce should be being positive, making the team positive, and giving the fans expectation..!!

    Great result for us

    Hull City 1 Sheff Utd 0.. There are no easy games, and teams like Hull will be fighting for their lives.

  79. Mark: “Take the Fulham game, if we won there or drew, they would be 10 points or 7 behind us, they won and are now 4.”
    you can pick any team we didn’t beat and do that. If we’d beaten Reading we’d have been 33 points ahead of them instead of 27!
    It only proves that a win against any team increases the gap to them by 6 points compared with a loss. True but not relevant ‘except’ on the last day of the season ‘if’ that team happens to be the one in 2nd to our third.

    Luckily for us, Bristol City have failed to win both games against half of the bottom 6 clubs so they’re behind instead of ahead of us.

    That doesn’t ‘prove’ that you must win the games against the bottom 6, it just shows that ‘ any, and every game can count at the end of the season.

    Where it seems we can agree is that we both think that we should play to win every game.
    Unfortunately, Bruce seems to follow your philosophy of treating some games as 6 pointers and worrying about losing them rather than treating all games the same and trying to win.

  80. r0bb0
    You can treat every game as one to win [with the subtleties], & still use it being a 6 pointer as another additional means of motivation, as every day is not the same, so this would be natural.
    SB seems to forget these subtleties in his approach to picking teams sometimes.
    Again fear led caution.

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