Once again, Villa found themselves playing against 10, and this time it was Ipswich who were dispatched with ease as Villa cruised to a 4-0 victory. The scoreline actually flattered the home side, in the end.

The Good
Lewis Grabban notching two, of course, and then Conor Hourihane and Henri Lansbury pitching in with two more. Been a little bit since we’ve scored more than one, and when Villa are at their best, goals tend to come from all over. Albert Adomah and Robert Snodgrass getting a rest and Villa still finding plenty of ways to exert pressure and ask questions. Jedinak having another good day at the back.

Special mention goes to Josh Onomah, who probably had his best outing in a Villa shirt. While still managing to look a bit languid at times, he nevertheless was defending well, tracking back, winning the ball, providing strength, athleticism and forward impetus, and made more than one telling pass. You can see the potential in him. Which is why you can also understand that, much like Jack Grealish in previous years, he can be all the more maddening for not playing to that level more consistently. You understand Spurs wanting him to go on loan and find himself. You understand Spurs not having room for him otherwise. He’s divided opinion, and I’d written him off, but if he has more of that in him, then I wonder if Villa wouldn’t be making a bid for his services if we get back up. Kudos to Bruce for persisting with him.

Likewise, it may have been Grabban’s best all-round day. He’s scored before, obviously, but he looked at ease all over the pitch and seemed to click with the side throughout the afternoon. He did a lot of work, wanted to score, kept himself from getting frustrated and could well have come away with a hat trick. I think it’s fair to say he’s cemented himself as the starting striker down the stretch.

The Bad
I suppose I’d point to Villa’s start. Although we were away, I was thinking “this is a bit of a shambles” until we started getting a foothold midway through the first. The breakthrough had started to feel like it was coming, but up until then, we obviously hadn’t asserted ourselves as much as we might’ve liked to, and were lucky not to be down a goal.

The Ugly
Well, the tackle on Neil Taylor gets to be in this spot, but maybe moreso the boos from the Ipswich fans for Taylor following Grant Ward’s ludicrous challenge and dismissal. Dunno what they thought they saw, but I’m sure that after watching some highlights they’ll feel rather sheepish. Could easily have resulted in a broken leg.

Final Verdict
Steve Bruce took a small gamble on the day and it paid off. Resting both wingers, Villa came into the match with the both the short and long term in mind. Even though Albert and Snoddy didn’t start, Bruce persisted with Birkir Bjarnason, Hourihane, and Grealish in midfield, along with Grabban up top. So, there was some rotation, effectively a change in formation due to the personnel and assignments, and also consistency. Villa got the three points they should’ve been planning on, keeping automatic promotion in play.

Whereas Bruce has seemingly struggled with choice throughout the season, he might have finally dialed it in, somewhat. As noted, he’s gone back to trying to get Onomah contributing, and it might be paying off. He edged Grabban past Hogan and that looks to be paying off, too, as Grabban has settled into the side.

Of course, the Blues were struggling coming into the match, and once they lost Ward, they pretty much retreated. So, it’s difficult to judge, but as I’ve said before, breaking down a team that’s packing it in a man down obviously can be difficult. Three goals in that situation isn’t a bad return at all, and Villa should have had more. If I were a home fan, I’d have bemoaned how much space Villa were allowed. At the same time, we were ticking it over nicely, making the Tractor Boys run a lot, and snuffing out potential counters. We stayed on the front foot, kept looking for more goals, and as a result kept Ipswich pinned back.

So, given the circumstances, probably as good an outing as we could’ve asked for. Goals from striker and midfield, Bjarnason and Onomah employed to good effect, and a rather quiet day for Sam Johnstone.

Coming up, both Derby and Millwall stumbled, which is only going to make next week’s match more difficult given Derby fell to seventh (though with a game in hand). They’ll be desperate for a win with four teams no more than two points behind. However, could also be the case that away from home and with a game in hand they’ll be willing to take a draw depending on how the game plays out.

Since the final two games may well be playoff previews, it’s vital that Villa establish a mental edge. Normally we might say “we’re in, these games don’t matter,” but this is a funny situation in that they probably do matter. Maybe it’s Boro and Preston in the end rather than these two, but both Derby and Millwall will be playing as though they are playoff games, and we need to show the bottle and intensity to get in their heads prior to a re-match with everything to play for.

As to how Bruce approaches the games, we’ll see. I don’t envy him the decisions he’ll be making. I’d basically feel like the playoffs have started. He may be willing to hold something back.

For supporters, we’ve largely been content for a while to accept that the playoffs were the inevitable path. But now that we’re about to set off down that path, we’ve got to show some killer instinct—whoever takes the pitch over the next two weeks.

Over to you.

Comments 114

  1. Good summary and leader JC.

    I agree that it is no easy task now for Bruce, knowing that the only way forward is the play offs, which he must win to fulfil the contract with Dr Tony. Not only are his bonuses resting on it, but many others including JT’s, who I am sure will now be used sparingly until it comes to the crunch time pay offs themselves.

    Two nice results over the last two games could make a huge difference to the team’s confidence, as well as making life a little easier for Bruce, whilst continuing to swell the support of the fans!

    Looking forward to a great day out next Saturday at Villa Park with a few more fans from here in Mid-Wales, as well as a few nice bevvies..!!!

  2. Good day to all.
    Thanks for the thorough summary of the match, JC. You are dead right about needing the killer instinct. Their focus must be on winning. They have proven they have the goods. The next games could give them that “mental edge.”
    It is good Snoddy and Uncle got their rest. They’ll be needed come crunch time. It’s also good to see a striker (Grabban) scoring more goals and in a bit of form. And also good Sam Johnston had a quiet day after his heroics of late.
    Hopefully Neil Taylor mends well. Onwards and upwards, hopefully.
    UTV

  3. Derby are at home to Cardiff on Tues. Whether Derby win or lose, they will still be in the play off battle next Sat so I’m expecting a fighting display from them. But their form is nothing to fear having managed just 8 points from their last 9 games. So if Cardiff win, Spud will be able to select any team he likes. Top priority for me is to avoid injury to key players.

    I’ll be at VP next Sat too PP. Hoping to see the Rams put to the sword. Hoping the opposition will be a bit leggy after Tuesday’s efforts. Enjoying the atmosphere of a full house.

  4. Thanks JC, I think that game will have provided Bruce with more questions than answers.

    We changed tactics yet again to rest the wingers that have provided /scored most of our Goals. We are the only club to my mind with no real identity of play or efficient style if you like forced or otherwise, which quite likely accounts for our up and down season while others have been more consistent. Going into the final stretch what style will we use? wing backs or Wingers? big man up top launch ball or yesterdays pass and move? It certainly suited Onamah and Grabban amongst others.

    Question 2 who plays up top? that depends on the style I’d say, Grabban looks the all-rounder but can be as equally ineffective if we go back to Crossing and one man mission tactics, Kodjia only missed yesterday because he reported he felt tired by all reports so could of started in place of Grabban if fit. Can’t see hogan getting the nod over either those two ditto Davis. Would like to have seen Ohare in that team for 30 mins too but I’m being greedy.

    Third big Decision, does JT walk back in to Jedinaks spot who has looked lately the better option for me, he’s more mobile, better in the air and I cannot say we have missed JT’s organisation skills either.

    Failing a rash of injuries Bruces bonce will be buzzing, not the best scenario going into the play off’s. I’d probably bet my house on the return of wingers, Kodjia and JT though but I hope not.

  5. Hi MK from a fan perspective, it all depends on final design and shirt quality, so I expect s**t quality to be international standard given Fanatics existing client base so that leaves design, per OS bumpf, Luke1977 is a Villan so hopefully sympathetic to the Villa tradition.

    Fanatics are quickly getting enmeshed with Villa as store managers and distribution, bought the 2017/8 shirt at a discount and it was delivered by them.

  6. MK,

    Ah, lack of identity…pretty much why I’ve been banging on about starting the same team. It has goals in it, and is our quickest, most energetic, and most likely to keep it on the turf. Most of the time, anyway.

    However, we did see something different, and it worked well on the day. Dunno whether Steve Bruce was looking at a bigger picture beyond resting players (ie, a Plan B or how we could cross people up in the playoffs), but if he expands the squad from 11 to say 13 or 14 that are likely to play (not just as subs), and keeps it consistent, there might well be a second option.

    Course, Ipswich provided no real test, so who knows if that side/set-up handles intense pressure on the ball. Seems the biggest issue for me, we don’t handle it well. And it’s probably why Bruce players lump it forward a lot.

    And yeah, you ought to be able to swap out strikers and play to their respective strengths.

  7. I would think we’d go back to seeing a fresh Albert & Snoddy. I think Grabban’s going to be the man regardless, Kodjia still making cameos through the rest of the season, then Hogan either if Kodjia can’t go, or to provide fresh legs. Or be the third striker when we get desperate.

    I guess it might be horses for courses. Dunno how good I feel about Elmo and Taylor (or whoever will likely come in for him now) having to get up and down so much, but with Onomah and Bjarnason getting stuck in upfield, maybe we blunt wing play and leave them less exposed. Not sure how much we can count on Onomah to provide high defensive effort in each game.

    Anyway, I guess you’re right…Might have given Bruce more questions than answers.

  8. Maybe the lesson from Saturday was if you have Albert and Snoddy in, try playing them more narrow further up the pitch. They do cut in a lot, but might be better if we tucked in a little more getting past halfway when the opportunity presents itself, get more directly in on goal through the channels.

  9. Don’t we normally get sponsorship from the shirt manufacturers?
    Can’t see much of that there, & we do need the money.
    Fanatics & Luke 1977 sounds a bit biblical.
    Can’t see what to get exited about here.

    Yes our style, whether flexible or plan B, or whatever you call it.
    It will no doubt turn out as a Bruce tune, or monotone, with the working title of ‘back to the future’.

  10. JC- yeah you can’t forget the opposition and their lack of ability but we have had this situation and looked nowhere near as comfortable because of the lack of passing ability shown, tough to tell for sure. Makes me wonder whether a similar approach against the likes of Bolton etc where we played into there hands by hitting their CB’s heads for 90 mins would of proved more effective.

  11. Mark
    I gathered that, but fanatics don’t sound as if they’re in the same financial league as Nike are for considerable sponsorship for instance, so is this only PR bait for what is to come I wonder.
    In terms of football, it was good to see Onomah being reasonably OK being played in his natural position, but we do have a plethora of central midfielders, so would expect Bruce to have a number of permutations at hand to suit the occasion.
    Sadly I have seen little evidence of this in most cases, with the players either being on song or not affecting the result more than any dubious attempts at having a cunning plan.

  12. MK,

    I thought at the time of the Bolton game that conditions definitely played into the hands of the less skillful team. Not a good day for passing on the carpet.

    That said, when you keep banging your head against a wall to no effect, you might try something else.

  13. IanG,

    That’s the thing with Bruce. You’re never sure whether there’s an actual plan. Gave him the benefit of the doubt Saturday. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what he does this weekend to get a better idea.

  14. pointless 2 matches coming up,bruce wont take heed of who is in form or not just what ever crazy plan he comes up,he reminds me of the mad professor in kids cartoon phineas and ferb [small children makes you watch cartoons],we now have a new kit maker seems rather strange either way it wont help us beat ffp , and lastly some fierce arguments on fb on gabbys award last night,some villa fans have such short memories he sh#t all over villa for 4/5 years and now his contract is up trying to come across as a good guy ,hand back your wages is only thing will do that

  15. I’m sorry to say that I think the last few comments have made my mind up about this blog – MK, IanG, JC, JG – all either having a go at Bruce again, team selection, possible this, possible that and even now moaning about the new kit sponsors which made me laugh and cry at the same time.

    When will everyone just get behind the team which is supposedly YOUR team?! FFS in days gone by if we hit a poor spell, the supporters got behind the team even more than when winning. Nowadays its just sit behind your computer, put the anal into analysis and rip into anyone and everything to do with the club.

    We are in the play-offs which is better than most in the Championship. We may still get promotion and the best some can do is to criticise the new kit sponsors.

    I was happy to do a leader but now I really don’t think there is any point.
    Sorry but thats me and my perspective on things – as I said before, I will say what I feel and this just makes me quite sad to be honest.

    Long live Prince William and the new Villa fan,
    oldvilla

  16. OV
    We are behind the team, & you do more moaning than most of us.
    You also say very little of substance as far as I can tell, other than an occasional spurt.
    If you actually did something else like writing a Villa football article, we would be able to respond about something else, each as we see it.
    Otherwise what’s your point got to do with the Villa?

  17. OV
    Also if saying what you feel makes you sad, remember your navel is on the front.
    As for positive, see my link on the kit sponsors, which I made the effort to post on here for everyone’s benefit, as well as the link for the U23 game in 1 minute.

  18. IanG –
    “IanG April 23, 2018 at 3:44 pm
    Don’t we normally get sponsorship from the shirt manufacturers?
    Can’t see much of that there, & we do need the money.
    Fanatics & Luke 1977 sounds a bit biblical.
    Can’t see what to get exited about here.”

    And you are nowhere near behind the team whilst there is constant sniping at the manager and most other things to do with the club.

    Anyway, you carry on finding new things to criticise and other supporters will thankfully support and get behind the the club.

    oldvilla

  19. And it was general knowledge amongst Villa Fans that long time Villa supporter and founder/owner of Luke would be the new kit sponsor. A large and successful company sitting alongside a international company who would probably deal with marketing and online distribution .

    Good clean companies who can grow with AVFC …….

    oldvilla

  20. OV
    You’ve obviously read the piece I posted & the link.
    Well it’s proved you can read, can you write & post something on the Villa without pissing the rest of the site off with constant personal attacks?
    Also we are all empowered to say what we think about everything here, including the manager, so maybe telling everyone to be as you want them to be is a yam yam game.
    Are you sure you’re not a teenager?

  21. Ian G – don’t talk to me like that you condescending halfwit.
    Yep you are all empowered to talk exactly how you want and that is what you do. Criticise those who have a different viewpoint and constantly belittle the club right down to the new kit sponsors – until you put your brain into gear and checked out who the sponsors were. Shame your mouth talks before you engage your brain.

    I am NOT telling everyone how I want them to be, just hoping that the non-stop sniping of all things AVFC will stop at some point and everyone will get behind the team.
    Anyway, I’ve got real life to sort out not pretend keyboard warrior type stuff …..

  22. OV
    Well I sincerely hope you do better at the ‘real life’ than you do here, seeing the anger & the sadness [2 sides of a coin].
    If you come to Brum want to talk to me, message me & I’ll give you my address.
    Apart from that you’re behind a keyboard, so it takes one to know one, & it really doesn’t impress, & I’ll talk as I wish thank you.

  23. IanG – Thanks for that link. I’ve watched the entire U23 game and have to say they were pretty poor. Thought Norwich were full value for their victory as they ran more, attacked more and had much better control. RHM was poor and Kevin Mac probably thought the same as he was subbed. But most of the team were below par. Not a patch on what I was watching from them earlier in the season. And Borg struggled.

    For those who didn’t watch it, O’Hare was rested and I guess his skills were missed.

  24. Plug
    There was also an echo of the first team at times, with the lack of closing down, & the fact that Norwich was first to every ball & didn’t allow Villa to play.
    As you say, pretty poor.
    Am I dreaming, or is the pattern of play starting to tune in with the first team?

  25. A bit of real life in UK.
    At least 78 homeless people died on the streets and in temporary accommodation this winter, bringing the number of recorded homeless deaths to more than 300 since 2013.

    A former soldier, a quantum physicist and a 31-year-old man mourning the loss of his mother and brother were among those found dead in doorways, crowded shelters and tents pitched in freezing conditions since October last year.

  26. OV
    dont let the door hit you on your way out,you make rolling stones look like amateurs with all this retirement and comeback tours,yet in all your post not once have you mentioned anything apart from having a go a people or sucking up to 2 others, why should we we happy ,2 years out of big league ,money all spent, eggs all in one play off basket, with a basket case as a manger yes a lot to be positive and jolly about like beating a poor ipswich side that in last few years wage bill wouldnt cover bruce loan signings plus terry
    any ways OV you wont be missed

  27. Don’t think you were dreaming IanG. I didn’t see much closing down from the U23’s tonight. Nor did I see as much effort as what the opposition put in. Early in the season, this team was all out attack and played forward at pace all the time. Tonight they were down 0-1 with time running out and were still happy to play the ball across the back line or backwards. Blackett-Taylor looked about the best of them. Sarkic performed well as a sweeper. He read the dangerous through balls very well.

    As you say, shades of the first team. Nooooo, I hope not. The Villa engine needs to be like the U23’s were during the early part of the season.

  28. Welcome to Prince Jack born around 11.00am this morning and our latest new fan….!!!!

    Should have placed that bet on it being a boy, and that his name will be Jack….!!!!

    Still squabbling here…..if only Gary could send the odd text from up there in the sky…!!!!!

  29. PP
    Yeah, I thought of placing a bet also, but as usual got distracted.
    We he’s Prince Jack to us, & William did give a major hint.

  30. Some interesting discussions about the change of style in the last game. Bruce certainly has options to play with in the play offs.
    It’s encouraging that he has steered us to wins against each of the teams above us although that does make it all the more disappinting that we’re missing out on automatic promotion because of slip ups in some of the ‘easier’ games in which we just didn’t quite show the necessary level of intensity.
    Bearing in mind where we’ve come from though there’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that whatever happens in the play offs we owe Bruce and Xia a debt of gratitude for what they s done for us up to this point.
    It’s easy to forget that the club was still accelerating down that slippery slope when they joined us and Sunderland is an example of where we ‘could’ have been. It’s fair to also point out that many on here predicted that we ‘would’ go that way.
    Whatever happens in the play offs, Bruce deserves to have another season with us . . . if he wants to.

  31. r0bb0
    I agree with the main thrust of your post as it is common sense.
    But… as I have said before, it’s good to have an owner who puts his money where his mouth is, especially in contrast to the last half of Lerner’s tenure, & we owe the Doc & Bruce thanks for sorting out the mess Lerner left behind, which has taken a large amount of money.
    The Doc seems to be carrying on in that vein, which is great.
    You saying that we owe Bruce another year is no tenable to me as his skillset has been in doubt in terms of the football, which is the main point.
    He has also spent a fortune & also wasted a considerable amount on players, to the point where promotion is also a cr*p shoot, & his abilities in this direction have been rightly questioned by those who think we deserve better.
    This doesn’t make his achievements null & void, & is also a valid point of view.
    I think IF we are promoted, unless the Doc has a different manager agenda, Bruce would be given a go until it became clear whether he was up to it.
    Personally I think we deserve better, which in no way is an attack, but is an opinion based on what I have seen this season, & what I see in the premiership, & the seeming inability of Bruce to get consistency by design or for a period of time to make it stable.
    I don’t think many forget where we have come from, & some of us remember languishing in the 3rd division & supporting the team, & there were some good times.
    Some of us also remember what happened after Rotterdam due to the Herbert, & I personally think that the doc will not allow too much instability as football is now very much a business.
    But if we go up, the player overhaul will be crucial, & the premiership does not allow the luxury of time to get it right like the EFL, & some would say that Bruce still doesn’t understand how to do this adequately.
    If we don’t go up, again I think the doc will closely watch what happens, & he has a record of not being afraid to change things, & is pragmatic not emotional in his basic approach, & I don’t think he would be happy with a repeat of this season, & I certainly wouldn’t given the player spend.

    But hopefully both the first team & the U23s will be promoted, which would certainly be a progression [but not all down to Bruce]

  32. IanG, a thoughtful post and I understand your points but think that Bruce’s achievement has been underestimated by many.
    Yes Bruce spent heavily in his first year, but the team did need an overhaul and there wasn’t as much existing value there to balance the books as you might have hoped for a team that had been in the premiership.
    This year of course he’s had bugger all to spend, compared with just about every team in the division.
    You have a point with the consistency, particularly in recent games against lower opposition. My frustration has been that in those games, the ‘ mindset’ was wrong and we didn’t play with the required intensity. It seemed that he and the players had convinced themselves that it’s a tough season and they have to keep something in reserve. . . . well let’s see if that ‘reserving of energy’ shows in the playoffs!

    As for his suitability for the premiership, people tend to forget the stature of the club’s he’s managed. Wigan, Birmingham, Hull . . . . these are ‘small’ teams that were never going to be winning the league.
    Instead of judging his success by how well they did against Arsenal, United, Chelsea etc, take a look at the history of these clubs and you’ll see that they all had some of the very best years of their whole long histories in the Premiership under Steve Bruce.
    I’d like to see what he could do with Villa and Xia.

  33. Robbo- It wasn’t just the odd game against lower opposition we didn’t show intensity in mate, there were a few capitulations to the top teams on the way, periods of the season where we went 5-7 games with barely a win too.

    Can’t agree with Bruce getting a chance with a big club either, those that get that chance usually have done exceptionally well with a small club not average because its a small club, with hull he had the odd draw against the top clubs and beat Liverpool but their seasons are littered with 1’s and 0’s and scored 35 and 33 goals a season and considering he has never really scored many in the champs its points to a mindset imo. No doubt he can dog it out with the lower teams but thats a lottery he eventually lost with relegation twice.

    On money spent? it has to be pointed out that we spent the most ever in a Champs season in which he had his part. This season he spent just shy of £3m on two players while Huddersfield spent £3.5 on their promotion squad last season. I have no doubt he’s had it tough as we have sailed close to the FFP wind but how many other teams in this league will be paying the wages to the likes of wheelan, Terry, snodgrass etc? He’s had a lot of sorting to do but things can change very quickly at a club if its done right.

    So Yes he deserves some credit but we also have nobody to compare how well he really has done, thats the manner of the Job, Managers buy sell and put the team out in any one season, could another have done better? we will never know.

    watching this season progress I feel it’s left a lot to be desired but has also had some very good moments, reliant on individual skill rather than the team on the whole and the strangest thing is the experienced players have not brought consistency most thought they would.

  34. The U23’s lost to Newcastle which ended their chance of automatic promotion and their 8 match winning streak but they are nailed on for the play offs, that might explain them being more cautious to avoid injury, they certainly didn’t look themselves.

  35. Interesting discussions guys. There is no doubt that Lerner sponged Villa dry by the end of his time with us. I believe (but can’t tell from the company results) he charged Villa megabucks in interest on his money lent to the club. So Dr Xia purchased a set of great assets but with a dubious value on the personnel front.

    Sunderland have been equally sponged by their American owner with the result for all to see. It’s therefore inevitable that fans will make comparisons between what we now have and might have had if Lerner hadn’t sold.

    What happens at the season’s end? If we get promoted Spud will likely have until Xmas to show that the team is competitive in the Premier League. He will need to do a fair amount of rebuilding over the close season to achieve it. Initially I would prefer the Burnley approach of young and hungry to the West Brom or Stoke approach of expensive journeymen/waning past stars whilst getting established again.

    If we fail to get promoted Dr X has a real decision to make. Salaries will need to be heavily reduced, loan players returned to be replaced by other cheaper loan players. It will be a rebuilding job again only this time on a shoestring. Alternatively some of our better players may be sold to fund the rebuild. Is Spud the man for this task?

  36. Plug- The lack of faith in our own youth players and the likes of Bree this season tell me Bruce is unlikely to put his faith in them when his necks on the line in the prem or the champs next season, its been the biggest disappointment for me and a missed chance imo. The Docs grab for the prem by spending may do for us if we don’t get up this season and certainly if we don’t learn to assemble a cheaper but talented version of Villa if we don’t. Will we hold onto chester, Grealish, Hourihane, and others next season if in the champs? A glorious tilt at the title for one season is one thing but year after year in a short career?

  37. Mark
    Looking at the villa site, I may be wrong but it appears to say that the U23 semi & the final are one leg only, with Villa getting home advantage in both due to achieving 2nd place.

  38. Mark
    On Friday they’re in the cup semi against Leicester at their place.
    I don’t know if there are 2 legs.
    In the playoffs, in the semi at VP they say it’s on May 1st.

  39. IanG- yes mate your right, just saw semi on friday on another blog and thought it was the play off but its as you say. It does appear to be a one legged semi play off in which case Snodgrass aught to play 🙂

  40. I’m happy to see a local kit sponsor. Would be nice if they dared to go back to the circle badge, which they won’t for a while. Can’t wait to see what they come up with. I’m due a new shirt, hope we’re not disappointed. Then again, can’t please everyone.

  41. Mark, I too would have liked to see our youth given more of a chance but it’s worth remembering that fan ‘expectation’ of how they’ll do nearly always exceeds how they ‘actually’ do.
    Let’s not forget that this season is the first time when Grealish has shown consistently good form and he’s 22 now.
    Your comment about goals scored may be valid in other Bruce teams but it doesn’t hold up this season does it . . . we’re the third highest scorers in the division on a highly respectable 71 already.

  42. Yes Derby back in the mix after beating Cardiff 3-1….Jerome getting two of them..

    Millwall drop out and who knows what will happen now in the last two games of the season for everyone within reach….!!!!

  43. If Cardiff fail to win on Saturday and we beat Derby then on the last day there will be three teams all in with a chance of automatic promotion.
    It would still be most unlikely to be us, but it certainly would add a bit of excitement to that last weekend!

  44. It is surprising that we are still in with that faint chance given where we were just after Christmas . . . . 8th in the table and seemingly falling like a stone.
    I remember being a virtually lone voice, saying that we shouldn’t give up hope. I remember being described as “quixotic” for even continuing to argue that we still had a chance of promotion.

    I’m not suggesting that JL or I had any particularly greater knowledge or insight than others in here, there are so many ebbs and flows in championship form that it ‘could’ have gone the other way. I’m just trying to point out that those who post with ‘certainty’ and huge confidence in their convictions are delusional or charlatans.

    One of the things I’ve liked about this blog is that there is generally more debate and less dogmatism.

    In the absence of certainty, particularly at this vital tail end of the season it probably is best that we all (as OV might say) just get behind the manager and the team.

  45. r0bb0
    I haven’t noticed that we’re not behind the team, which includes the manager [whoever that is at any time].
    OV just wants everyone to manifest his version for him to feel easier, which one can understand, but is irritating as he keeps aiming at certain people in a personal negative way.
    Preference or critique is not the problem, I think it’s a mountain out of a molehill, a manifestation of people’s state of mind, instead of freedom of expression.
    Derby has put the cat amongst the pigeons to an extent, as we have to beat Millwall for them to stand a chance of coming into the playoffs instead of Millwall unless all form goes out the window.
    On form it looks like Fulham have the easiest run in now, but you never know as you say.
    But if we can’t do it, it would suit us more for Fulham to get the spot, as Cardiff seem much more vulnerable now.
    An interesting week or so to come.

  46. Hi Robbo- I go by the old Adage that if they are good enough they are old enough, look at the leagues top players, Ryan Sessegnon 19 Rúben Neves 21 Diogo Jota 21 James Maddison 21 I think O’hare at least is in that level but You don’t know unless they play and on the whole they haven’t beyond Davis.

    As for predicting the future? thats just a stab in the dark when the team is performing badly isn’t it? you can point out as I did that we hadn’t beaten any top sides and unless we started to our season would not take off, well we started beating them and it did, Nostradamus or what 🙂
    I remember many saying Wolves, Cardiff, Fulham etc will slip up, well they haven’t really but we have, we should be in 2nd minimum we have had the chance and fluffed it, considering how bad our bad patches have been we really could/should of challenged Wolves for 1st imo.

    Rather than say a fan pointing out our flaws isn’t backing the team try thinking that they care that much about the team they want them to be the best, it kind of reminds me of this modern thing of giving every kid a medal for running in a race, I used to run because it felt good, I didn’t need false praise though I am sure my parents never booed me at the school sports day either but the worlds competitive and if our players/manager aren’t demanding the best from themselves I’ll do it for them out of frustration, its only opinion after all.

    On goals yes we haven’t done badly with 67, nigh on 40 have come since xmas as we have doubled our scoring rate, do you remember Wyness setting a goal of 80 for the season? that gets you in the top two usually shame we never made it but hey.

  47. Last night’s result at Derby has more relevance for Fulham than us methinks. Fulham are at home to Sunderland on Friday night. A banker home in my book. But they could slip up against small heath although by that time small heath should be safe and they’ll defo throw the game if it stops Villa.

    Pressure is now on Cardiff who have to win at Hull on Sat. For me, it’s the key fixture this weekend. Regardless, I’ll be down VP rooting for us.

    MK – Sessegnon is still only 17. Not only was Wyness looking for 80 goals this season but Spud stated we needed to average 2 points per game. We are currently minus 6 on that scale and can do no better than minus 4. Whilst we have managed periods during the season where we have collected more than 2 points per game, not once since the season kicked off have we reached that goal. We’ve always been behind the target. So 4th spot it is I’d say.

  48. Great link MK, and my first smile of the day…!!!

    r0bb0,

    Derby are back in 6th spot and Millwall now in 7th. If Derby beat us on Saturday, Millwall will remain out of the play offs, at least until they play us on the final day, unless they lose to ‘Boro on Saturday.

  49. IanG,

    Millwall also have to beat Hull, whilst I also think that Rowett will have his team well prepared for this, with Carson, Davies, and Weimann wanting to show Villa what they have got.

    I am also sure that Bruce will be building the team up for this one in front of a near full house!

    I am certainly looking forward to this one…..Bruce v Rowett….Let battle commence…!!!

  50. Millwall have Middlesbrough and us lads, Cardiff have Hull and reading, Fulham Sunderland and shitty, whatever happens the next 4-5 games for us are all pedal to metal games so lets hope our little snow flakes are up to it. Think shitty will be safe by the last game as Barnsley have tough games so I don’t expect any help there.

    Iana- whoever the model is he’s no shrinking violet 🙂

    On goals, 40 of them came in 10 games where we scored 3-5 in each, so 34 games to share 27 amongst. Means sod all but I’m bored 😉

  51. IanG- I quite like the transfer window, although sometimes the first and last hope of the season for us rationalists, I tried positivity but I annoyed myself 🙂

  52. Mark
    With the last transfer window I think we all annoyed ourselves, positive or not.
    I also have the default of erring on the side of positivity

  53. Plug and Mark, I thought those ‘targets’ were a nonsense when I first heard about them.
    Businesses are moving away from setting targets which are increasingly seen as being ineffective or even counter productive.
    They are usually a lazy form of management which require little real thought or analysis.
    Setting a target for goals scored is a nonsense because it will have no impact whatsoever during any game.

  54. Happy to let Fulham and Cardiff take it to the wire and exhaust themselves out….one of them will be gutted and will need to pick themselves up.

    Villa in the best shape for play offs….we know we are play offs. we can rotate and get mentally ready.

    the others are all still battling for it.

    I fear middlesborough the most.

  55. Loving the sound of the kit deal.

    Villa lad local to brum designing it alongside of big company.

    great work and further evidence how much off the pitch we are changing and doing things.

  56. r0bb0 – Think I may disagree with you on the subject of targets. Yes, they must be realistic and achievable rather than pie in the sky.

    On Wyness setting a target for goals scored. True it will not impact any one game. But if I’m Spud and Wyness sets the goals target at 80, I would need to think a more attacking line up than defensive. So it would affect how we set up for the majority of games.

    On Spuds target of averaging 2 points per game. It provides us with an ongoing yardstick to measure the season’s progress which was aimed at reaching 92 points for auto promotion. Except for the few days we held P2 we have always been behind the curve and on target for the exact position we are in.

    Andrew – I would like to see our 1957 cup final kit as our away kit. Same style, everything. That was a classy outfit.

  57. think I read somewhere bruce is on target of beating his best points tally with any of his other promotion sides.

    typical villa.

    have to say hats off to wolves, Fulham and Cardiff.

    Put together stupidly good runs.

  58. Robbo- As a target goals is pointless you could get 46 1-0’s but it is the standard not target as such
    you need generally to get top 2 , and I agree with Plug although I think it was also a hint to let the handbrake off by Wyness. Wolves are the only team to achieve it and Fulham are 4 off.

  59. Targets are a funny one. You generally know the team with the best goal differential is usually at the top. You know the league leader usually scores the most goals. You can see year-in year-out what the mark usually is. However, doesn’t give you a blueprint on how to achieve it.

  60. JG- Yes I agree but I also think its been a steep learning curve for him at Villa, maybe to change his own mindset from underdog to top dog? How many times have we heard how hard the champs is from him? Haven’t heard that from Santo’s or Warnock, we have also seen all manner of styles attempted ,usually a manager uses one, and usually for Bruce thats counter attack.

  61. dont really think the targets that wynes set should have been too difficult to achieve, its probably being the easiest season for quite a while to get out of championship,,only time this season bruce has got results is when his ass was in bacon slicer,never have seen this non style of football achieving anything look at nearly ever other side around us you know exactly what way they are going to play us not a clue, or who will play anywhere,

  62. I believed when the new Wembley was built that a lot of people had their noses in the trough. How else do you explain a stadium costing 757 million quid. It cost so much, the Gov’t put 100 million in of taxpayers dosh.

    Now the Fulham owner reckons he’s purchased it for a reported 900 million. Closer examination reveals thats made up of a 600 million purchase price and leaving the FA to continue with the corporate operations worth 300 million.

    Where’s the 300 million come from? How is that calculated? Why would the FA sell a stadium for 600 million that cost 757 to construct some years ago? This stinks of more noses in the trough again. The Gov’t should demand its 100 million contribution be returned from the sale proceeds with interest. The amount of money swilling around in football is scandalous. The greed will kill it for sure.

  63. thing is with target thing is it doesn’t take into account kodjer and grealish being missing for most of it!

    Imagine if those 2 were fully fit! huuuuggeeee for us

  64. Andrew,

    It would definitely have been quite different if we’d had those two from the start. How, I don’t know. For one thing, I’m curious if Jack would’ve hit this new level without the injury and rehab, etc. Or would Kodjia have changed the set-up in such a way that Albert and Snoddy wouldn’t have scored as much…

  65. Andrew- Grealish returned a better player, both stronger and mentally up for it after his scare, a blessing in disguise really. The only thing I will say is if we had had a fully fit team from day one it may of altered some of Bruces signings,maybe not and would he have attempted to continue with the Kodjia/Jedinak team of last season? without them we seem to have at least evolved a little.

    Cardiff have had horrendous injury problems too, Fulham had a lot including Cairney and wolves have been without Costa and Jota for periods but they have had the least injuries or the best medical care/preparation? so its all swings and roundabouts.

    Thor is out for tomorrow, thats our only injury.

  66. JG,

    I know Bruce wasn’t a fan, which didn’t make a lot of sense since Albert and Kodjia linked up fairly well last season. Then Green’s injury and Albert carries us through a stretch of the season.

    My assumption was that if Kodjia had been around, and all other things being the same (Green injury, etc.), would Adomah have ended up being more of a support player with everything focused on Kodjia, goal-wise, which is pretty much what we saw last year.

  67. IanG. I saw that Fulham scoreline and was pleased that we may just hang onto that slim hope of automatic promotion.
    Then saw the final score with them winning 2-1 and was pleased that there’s a chance that Fulham will get auto promotion ahead of Cardiff
    I guess that proves that I’m an optimist 🙂

  68. If we win say 2-0 tomorrow and Cardiff only draw, the last game would need us winning, Cardiff drawing again and Fulham losing
    Unlikely, but not impossible!

    It’s been one of the most competitive championship seasons ever up at the top so it’s a bit tough that we’re not seeing auto promotion but all credit to the three teams above us
    . . . . and roll on the play offs!

  69. r0bb0
    I was trying to keep it quiet to keep up my reputation, but I also hope Fulham will do it if not us, so I guess that makes me an optimist also, shhh.
    For me, if both teams went down with the aussi flu tomorrow, I would be chuffed in my competetive mind, but maybe anything can happen as you say.
    Having no memory, do 4th place play 6th?
    If so, as that’s likely to be Derby, especially if we beat them tomorrow, & us & the ‘Boro beat Millwall, that would be interesting with hope for a Cardiff/Middlesboro final.
    I’ve enjoyed this league this year, but for the sake of the club we need to get back to the top table.
    It will be intriguing to see what the Doc has up his sleeve.

  70. r0bb0, IanG…

    I defo think I’d rather face any team but Fulham in the playoffs. Which of course means we’ll lose to whoever we play. But, but based on form…

    I believe three plays six, and four plays five. So, depending who’s in the mix, you never know. What you obviously want is the most favorable match-ups. So, if we finish third, which sixth-place team are we most likely to beat, and then out of a 4 v 5 match-up, which team are we most likely to beat coming out of that in a one-off.

    Could be the case that it’s more favorable to finish fourth than third based on how the mix shakes out.

  71. Well done Villa U23’s on reaching the Prem Cup Final. Now go on and win it boys.

    Sunderland robbed last night. Clear penalty denied (why have a referee?) and Fulham’s winner was clearly offside. Bet Warnock is raging.

    Think Frem called it right a few weeks back. Prepare for play off games against Boro. I’m heading off to VP shortly.

  72. Me too Plug!

    I am sure that after the penalty shout for Sunderland for the trip, in the next couple of seconds there was a handball, which was a bigger penalty claim, but everyone was so involved in the trip, that it was missed. Would love to check that footage immediately after, and before the goal!

  73. Plug – agree about the penalty and the offside 2nd goal. I think the lino was slightly out of position for the offside but either he or the ref should have spotted that cast iron penalty.
    An interesting point made during that game was that Fulham have played 6 games in the play-offs and never won any of them; however they might not even have to try yet! They play the Blues last match so I reckon they will be ‘gifted’ 3 points if it does’t jeopardise Blues chance of staying up.

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