That run-in thing didn’t get off to such a great start Saturday night, with Villa traveling to Hull and coming away with a perhaps fortunate point following a desultory 0-0 draw with the Tigers.

The Good
I couldn’t really see much to be honest. In fact, I’m not quite sure what I saw. To be fair though, through the first half Villa were the better team, but just didn’t come away with anything. At the time, Adomah’s miss seemed at least to indicate that we would inevitably score. In retrospect, it could’ve been the difference in the game.

The Bad
This one reminded me of the opening fixture of the campaign. A great first half, a totally different second. Villa on top, Villa on their heels.

Now this time, I wouldn’t call it a great first half for us, but we were comfortable at least, Hull offered no threat, and it felt a win was a likely result.

However, as we’ve seen many times this season, Villa can have the tables turned on them if they don’t capitalize on early opportunities. Hull came out and bossed the second period. Villa were overrun in midfield. There was less attacking impetus from our fullbacks than from Hull’s.

And of course, team selection. I can’t see playing Jedi after international duty, for example. And expecting things to click with him and Lansbury and Grealish is a bit of a reach, given how little they’ve played together as a unit.

Along with selection of the starting XI, the substitutes were lacking. When Bruce talked about bringing on more forwards and things getting worse…Well, I think we all could’ve told him that as we watched.

The Ugly
The failure to establish any positive momentum. It was a point, granted, but that was a very limp response, and certainly no declaration of intent.

Final Verdict
Not a got way to start the run-in, obviously, and not Villa’s best side or performance. We all certainly see that once again, Villa did not come back from a break looking anything but tired and jaded. We couldn’t match Hull’s intensity, and had to hang on to get a draw.

When it comes to the starting XI, I get that with five games in two weeks, you’re going to want to keep things fresh. I also get that after some poor results, you might think we need to change things round.

But there should be some method to it. Go with your best team to start, which Bruce seems to have forgotten was the one with the long winning streak, if you want to try and get back on track. That’s what’s clicked best, regardless of the strengths of the individual personnel. They complement each other. Maybe Bruce thought we’d have to much for Hull regardless of who he started.

If you’re worried about legs, you bring on the Lansburys, etc., as subs, and keep some of the starters to 60 minutes. The key is to say: let’s get at them, play a very intense first 45, get the goal, and then we’ll see. I know that getting Henri and others some minutes could be helpful down the stretch, but it wasn’t helpful on the day apart from Lansbury’s great goal-saving intervention.

And it’s not like Jack and Snoddy aren’t going to be starting each of these games, and they both expend a lot of energy. Albert, too.

If you do rotate and things aren’t going well, maybe think about changing things up sooner and not just by throwing forwards at the wall to see which one will stick. If the change was Davis, to really alter our style, I’d have been okay with that.

So, I’d mentioned that Bruce needed to keep the plot, and he seems to have lost it. We’ve gone round and round, but I think there’s a tendency for Bruce to outsmart himself. We don’t know what would’ve happened had Jack and Albert not gotten hurt, but it’s hard to believe you need to look much further than the side that was on such a good run.

Reading tomorrow, obviously, and I’ll be looking to see if Bruce picks his best side. If he does, and things don’t come off, I’d probably start them again the next time. Point being, we’ve already found our best side. You have to believe in them, you have to get them back in the groove, and you have to stop equivocating now that it’s crunch time. Which means time’s up, basically.

Over to you.

Comments 17

  1. Good review, thanks John.
    Hard to find much to add. . . . let’s just hope we show signs of getting back in track tomorrow.
    We now need to see confidence and momentum building towards the end of the season and hope for some nerve tingling, anxiety inducing but finally exultant play offs!

  2. Cannot believe the match I just watched. Great game for the neutral, but feel so much for the “Blades” who put in a magnificent effort, and should have put the game to bed with the chances they created, but the “Bluebirds” never gave up and hung in there, and eventually in the 92nd minute got their reward, which is why they and Fulham are the top teams in the division for late goals, with Villa no where near…!!!

    Both managers proud of their teams, and full of passion, which is what you want to see from your manager.

    Will refrain from making further comment on Bruce as MK, JG and others have made the relevant points. I am just waiting to see what weird team he will put out tomorrow.

    Time to find some guts, time for JT to show more leadership, and time for Bruce to have a plan….!!

  3. PP you say it all teams that attack are top and will go up the dinosaur football days are long long gone and that is all Bruce knows he is simply not good enough and never has been the likes of dean smith would have this team clear at the top biggest wage bill by 100 miles and some of the best players in the league but no idea how to attack and win against teams that are 10% the cost if we do go up in play offs by some fluke spud has to go as for the likes of round and wyness dinosaurs who have not got a clue need forward thinking this dross is simply not good enough we can play as shown against wolves where no motivation was needed from the manager s the players knew what what was required but the way the team is set up we have no chance against any of the top 4 in the play offs as we are scared to go out and win games there are certian managers who are just con men and spud lambert pardew huges are them

  4. JD,

    You are spot on. The obsession with clean sheets, just nicking a goal, and timewasting at the end of a game, eventually cost the points.

    Yesterday Sheffield United were on the front foot and fought like tigers, until the last five minutes when they brought on Clayton Donaldson, and tried to run the time out by keeping the ball by the corner flag and losing the ball in the end, rather than taking a free kick and a corner which may have resulted in the second goal they had fought for , for most of the match.

  5. PP
    There seems to be an obsession with gaining advantage rather than just being better, not just in football, but in the unreal so called ‘real world’.
    The doc seems to have more intelligence, & it makes me wonder how long the transformation at the club is going to take with this apparent clash of approaches.

  6. JC: “We don’t know what would’ve happened had Jack and Albert not gotten hurt…”

    Well, yes, I take your meaning there. But we also had Codger out for most of the season, plus injuries Terry and the Jedi which interrupted the flow. Plus Green.

    Bearing in mind all that I think we’ve done pretty well, and at least seem set for the play-offs, which was (I think) our minimum expectation.

    As for -ve strain creeping in from Lifers (which always takes place from supporters when there’s a dip in form and results) we have a great chance to get it moving again tonight, and, if I’m Reading (!!!) correctly between the lines, the players will be smarting to get the show back on the road.

    But will Bacuna stop us?

  7. JL,

    Thing about Grealish and Adomah was that their absence ended the run. We’d adapted to the injuries, found a winning side, then had that side diminished.

    And, as others have mentioned, the addition of Grabban and the apparent desire to play him, seems to have also affected chemistry and/or style of play. There’ve been a couple of great results, but the run had essentially gotten us back up into the thick of it, and the loss of momentum since…well, if we don’t get back to winning ways we could drop out of the mix. Not saying it’s likely, but it’s possible.

    We talk about other teams hitting a rough patch. But we have to get out of ours for that to mean anything.

    So I drew that particular line at Grealish, Adomah, et al, as that was our most successful formulation of the season. You’d like to think you’d simply reassemble your best team once the players were available again.

  8. “JC: ” their absence ended the run”

    Agreed – not knocking you but I was just looking at the bigger picture of impact over the whole season. My thinking always goes that way rather than looking at snapshots.

  9. SB says ahead of tonight’s game:

    “I’m expecting a tough game, like they all are in the Championship.”
    “But it’s more about what we do. At the moment, we’re not playing well enough so we have to get that form back.”

    Does that sound like a plan to you? It doesn’t to me. The best I can read into it is that a few sticks of gelignite mentioned earlier has been used on the players rear ends. If the team are knackered it will have little effect. I’ll be watching team selection and setup this evening like a hawk.

  10. JC,

    BTW, I don’t see Grabban as having the implied -ve or upsetting impact that others (MK/PP?) seem to indicate. I always see Hogan going down blind alleys whereas Grabban has more impact i.m.o. Scoring 1 every 2 games is also not bad. Perhaps he’ll score again tonight.

    I’m sure Hogan will fit well into some side, but just not at VP in my view.

  11. Plug: “Does that sound like a plan to you? It doesn’t to me.”

    It’s just stuff for the benefit of the media, innit? I don’t try to read anything into what’s being said – if I did I’m not sure I’d still be sane! Er, I must check on whether I am…! 😀

  12. JL – It’s just stuff for the benefit of the media, innit?

    Yes it is. But his substitutions are equally non commital and without clear thinking. He pulled Jedi and put on Codger when we were being overrun in midfield. How could this help? I was all for pulling a defensive midfielder off but surely the replacement needed to be an attacking midfielder. And if he hadn’t got a fresh one raring to go on the bench, then I ask why? If he was saving Hourihane for tonight, then he shouldn’t have taken a place on the bench.

    And he can’t use O’Hare and Doyle-Hayes tonight because they played last night for the U23’s.

  13. JL,

    On Grabban, it’s hard to say, in the end. He’s done some good things. Like others, I think Hogan brings more energy. Overall, like I was saying, I just see it as a question of how certain players come together. Sometimes it’s obviously the case that the sum is more than the whole of its parts.

  14. Plug,

    I don’t see how you can start Jedi in the first place. Then the substitution was a bit baffling. I’d have taken Jedi off sooner, put in the midfielder as you suggest, and then brought on a forward. Or a double substitution.

  15. JC,

    As I say, I always see Hogan going down blind alleys so if he has any extra fuel in his tank it’s wasted as far as I’m concerned! Just my p.o.v. We all have our likes and dislikes.

  16. Plug,

    Well Grabban was pulled back into forward midfield wasn’t he? I think he’s regarded as being a multi-tasking player so probably Bruce thought he could fulfil something in an advance m-f role.

    I’m not totally convinced by those subs either, but I think he was just trying to inject life into the proceedings.

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