After a dizzying summer, all of a sudden Villa’s first match is upon us. And it seems almost like an afterthought, even thought it’s hugely important for any number of reasons. This is why a traditional season preview just hasn’t been working for me right now.

It seems like NSWE are cautiously looking at a promotion run. We keep being linked to players since we’re “five short” from the end of last season (guess this doesn’t include any of our youth who didn’t already feature). Jack Grealish’s claret-and-blue future is far from certain until Friday morning. Steve Bruce has spent the summer playing 3-5-2 or 3-5-1-1. An uncertainty of intentions pervades as though bets are still being hedged by our new majority shareholders.

Consequently, I don’t know that I’ve looked at a season-opener with so much confusion in recent years. For as short as the remainder of the window is, so many unanswered questions remain. The side could be altered dramatically in just a couple of days. It could stay largely the same. And while that might be true of any window, I didn’t expect us a) to really be in for any players given the paucity of outgoings and FFP, or b) to still not know whether Grealish was staying. So, it’s the degree of potential flux at this late date that has me flummoxed.

So, I guess I can run through the obvious. Bruce has to get Villa off to a flyer. And he’s got to do it with a shadow of Jonathan Kodjia’s former self and no other recognized strikers fit. It’s possible that Andre Green could be slotted in up top. It’s possible he plays left with Adomah right and Kodjia getting the start. Or Green playing off Kodjia which might mean Adomah left, and Elmo playing as a midfielder with Bree or De Laet behind him. Or as a fullback with De Laet ahead of him…

Bruce could also revert to a 4-something-something, at least on the night. If Axel Tuanzebe were to return, it would make three at the back much more credible. Kid’s a good athlete, good footballer, and smart. It won’t take him long to get up to speed if he can stay healthy. With his size, speed, mobility, and quality on the ball, he really would give life to something besides four at the back.

But given that Bruce is likely already on the hot seat, I can say, once again, that I would not be surprised one bit to see an overabundance of caution on display in terms of set up. You might disagree with me using “overabundance.” But, however fine the margins were, I think history will judge that over-caution and/or indecision were the nails in Villa’s promotion coffin last season.

It’s fine to be a bit cautious, especially at the outset of a season with so much potentially on the line again, but if NSWE really do want to see the promotion potential before the January window, it’s a tricky line to walk. I’ve said that I don’t think Elmohamady and Taylor are the way forward. But I know Bruce likely will pick them unless it’s four back and one of them loses out to Hutton.

Me? Like I’ve said, would rather see either Bree in the back three, and Hutton playing left wing back with De Laet on the right if Bruce persists with a 3-5-something. With a four-man backline, I’d rather see De Laet right and Hutton left than either Taylor or Elmo out there.

I’ve said I don’t want to see Glen Whelan starting at the expense of either Birkir Bjarnason or Conor Hourihane.

I’ve no earthly idea who’ll start in goal, but I’d imagine it’s Steer on the night. Once we end up with six keepers by midnight Thursday, it’s anyone’s guess.

Anyway…A bit of a crap preview, to be honest. But I think it’s honest crap, if nothing else. The immediate question marks are known by all. Once they’re answered, we’ll better know what to expect by Saturday’s home debut against Wigan, meaning we’ll pretty much know what we’re working with and what the remit is.

So…Another season, another opener against Hull, and all sorts of expectations, some more muted than others. It’s an “easy” start to the season, as fart as it goes, which means expectations might be running high. Or realistic.

It’s grand being a Villan. But on a positive note, whatever happens over the next couple of weeks, or indeed the season, I think Villa might be in intelligent and deep-pocketed hands at last.

Over to you.

Comments 89

  1. Thanks JC- I believe De-laet is on a two match ban from his loan period so he won’t be involved.

    No idea what formation we will play as we went 3 something all pre-season lost easily to Wet spam and reverted to type in the next match. I hope that this seasons start doesn’t turn out to be a fart as you have predicted 🙂

  2. I watched the leeds game and was very impressed by a very young Leeds team. The manager Marcelo Beilsa plays a very aggressive attacking game and has had the players on three times a day training sessions and doesn’t speak a word of English. compare that to this?

    Steve Bruce
    “There is a plan to go forward and the main bit is the club can rebuild itself again and get itself back on an even keel and try and have a plan in place over the next two or three years to take Aston Villa to where it wants to be”.

    The goalposts seem to get further away and meanwhile other teams are rejuvenated and coached to play better over night. We will see if they last the course obviously but I’m fed-up with the it will take time rubbish. If Steve Bruce is here in a few years he will have had as long as MON had, food for thought.

  3. Sorry but couldn’t miss this bit 🙂

    “We have the nucleus of a decent team, all of a sudden it is ripped apart and they have gone back to their parent club so for me, it is like starting all over again from when I arrived some 20 months ago.”

    So the only good bit was the loanee’s in your eyes Steve, the team must be raring to go with that news 🙂

  4. linked with bristol city left back,cant say i know him would prefer if owners only let bruce sign loans or frees, leeds manager had players lifting litter for 3 hours to try and make them feel like fans,

  5. Thanks for the writeup, JC.
    To add to Mark and IanG, it sounds like the new owners are more interested in the rebuild this time. Sounds like a path to procrastination or just a friggin good approach. Whatever, if they can’t breach Hull and score a couple of goals tonight I’ll be disappointed. Last year’s poor start killed Villa in the end.

  6. Iana- The way I see it is we have a good squad that needs the best getting out of it while SB see’s it as massively diminished without last seasons loanees’s .

    The scramble to bring in new players begins (with as we have seen previously under him unpredictable results). considering that SB has spent all pre-season readying for departures and playing with what he has I find it baffling why he’d not bigging things up not playing them down in his presser, he is a one man excuse factory at times.

    Tonight we will see the fruits of his pre-season I hope

  7. MK,

    Dammit…you’re right about De Laet. Wrote this late night, been working all day, completely forgot.

    Ah well. Not like he was going to start anyway.

  8. Axel has resigned with us on loan, if he stays fit, it will be a good addition. Would be good to get another experienced CB in though, we are light with only Chester and Elphick.

  9. Villalore…

    Agreed, I think that’s a very good addition. We’ll actually have a much more mobile and effective backline (whether it’s three or four) once he’s in and finds his feet.

  10. And since we don’t have a terribly frightening run of fixtures to open the season, I would urge Bruce to incorporate him within the next match or two.

  11. Yep good news if he stays fit this time didn’t see enough of him at anywhere but RB to tell what he’s like at CB but the lads quick and Skilful we will soon stop that.

  12. JC- 🙂 Bruce didn’t like Harry Maguires runs into midfield either. Actually its going to be very interesting to see his reaction to the new bosses wishes of young aggressive etc as he’s almost forced to go for it. I don’t think they are going to appreciate overly defensive stuff.

  13. aah keepers and right backs does bruce not realise they only take up 2 places
    axel very injury prone first time round hopefully not this,praying new owners dont let bruce spend much

  14. JG, Is Spud setting us up for 3-5-2? Back 3 of Chester, Axel and Bree? And is the new LB chase a wing back rather than just plain LB? It would be the 4th FB he’s signed. Bryan after Bree, Taylor and Elmo.

    The bookies have Hull at 17th place this season. These are the games we need to attack and win. If it’s 4-5-1 again tonight with Whelan in, I’m going to be very angry.

  15. plug
    another new start for bruce,seen somewhere yesterday only 7 non brittish/irish managers have won promotion from championship,3 since bruce took over us
    i like 352 but not starting the season with it especially with bruce smacks more last ditch defending ,whelan and jedi dont have legs for it

  16. Blimey JG,what have Thor and Green done wrong,negative line up,just my opinion.
    I wish Bruce well,but,out by Oct,Nov methinks.9th place finish I reckon,do I wanna be wrong?Sure,hope we go up with Bruce at the helm….but…..lets wait and see.COYVB.

  17. Gosh I’m listening to this interview on Sky. Infuriating how he plays the sympathy card! “A lil more luck!” ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!

    And poor Birkir! I can only laugh! The man is a clown!

  18. Glad to see Elphick doing ok, one good point for Villa, teaming him back up with Chester. Grealish and Kodija being too greedy and not moving the ball on quickly enough.

    Lichaj still doing the business for Hull.

    Let’s hope the second half is better.

  19. Slow hesitant build up,once again,showing the opposition too much respect.Treating going to Hull as if its Man City away.Playing for a draw,hoping for a winKodja v.selfish.Here’s hoping for the 3 points..

  20. Didn’t see those coming…..!!!

    A goal from Elphick was a surprise, but goals from Elmo and Hutton…no way….who needs a centre forward..!!!

    Grealish last appearance..???

  21. That really is different. 3 goals from3 guys who deserve it.
    Jacks third skill is definitely drawing penalties.
    I still don’t think he’s moving from the team.

  22. Impressed to a point in 2nd half,brought some skill on.Cafu scoring?What’s next hat trick for Chester?A good showing 2nd half,never doubted you Brucey,ha,ha.

  23. well it was unspectacular and the Goals were never going to come from Kodjia, doesn’t look the same man. RHM on the other hand looks everything he isn’t, if we can actually get forward quicker and give him the service he will get a few.

  24. Someone obviously gave Brucey a four leaf clover before the kick-off…!!!!

    Not a great performance, but a solid one, against a very average side, and at last players like Elmo and Hutton willing to take players on and go forward. Must say that Jed Steer had a very good game.

    RHM was the business when he came on. Green looking good too.

  25. A win so I’m delighted. But what a schitt team Spud selected. He treated Hull like world beaters. They’re actually relegation fodder. And we needed 3 defenders to get the goals. Codger & Hourihane were anonomous. A tortoise will give Whelan a race. The viking must have insulted Spud along the way. Green & RHM were huge improvements.

    I hope he starts with Green, RHM, the viking and Doyle-Hayes on Sat.

  26. PW – I totally agree. A better side would have put 4 past us tonight. Elf and Chester have so little pace between them.

    Spud was saying before the game that last year the legs were a little old and younger ones were needed. His average age of the starting 11 tonight was just over 29 years. What’s going on in his head?

  27. The good news from tonight is on Spud’s rule of thumb measure we are +1 on the points scale. Yippee. Long may we stay in the positive numbers.

  28. Bruce is in place for continuity ATM
    Punting him would have kicked the ants nest and the first half of the season would have been lost. A new man is being looked for to replace Bruce as soon as the team settles into the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is already in place waiting to take over. This is as good as it gets for ol’Steve. No legs on the team he picked.

  29. Well, a win’s a win, and that’s a better start than last year. So, as a results-oriented person, I will certainly take it.

    That said, we certainly didn’t look very good. Thought both Elmo and Hutton were a bit lucky. Seems as if the keeper was unsighted for both. Credit for being there and taking the shots, always, but if we’d conceded those I’d be feeling a bit sick.

  30. We’re not the best starters every season, so the fact that our strikers are misfiring but we still scored three is something I will take as a positive. SB knows that he cant afford the many mini slumps he had last season, so he’ll need to fight his instincts and play more attacking football.

    Wigan at home next, looks like they are carrying their league one confidence into the new season. Wonder if Axel will start and SB goes to a 3 man defence, first game at home.

  31. Great to have the win. Hoorah!
    I do agree with the realistic views here. That is, Hull was average and Villa were far too often penetrated from Villa players not retaining possession from passes that school boys would be expected to control.
    Congrats to the scorers, especially Hutton’s effort. I’m thinking of getting a new shirt with his name on it.

  32. plug
    or how we can play them
    5 keepers nyland loanee from madrid bunn steer sarkic
    6rbs elmo hutton delaet bree axel richards
    like when you write down players for fantasy football

  33. I have little faith in Steer and Bunn so I’m happy we got two keepers in.

    Hearing Bryan and Mcginn are due for medicals tomorrow.

    All would suggest Grealish is on his way but it sounds like Spurs are way off our valuation and Levy rarely gives in.

    Dissapointing performance yesterday but expected. Delighted with the three points!

  34. Bloody hell I don’t know above Bruce spitting his coffee out I can’t belive the brass of the man , it’s like he thinks he thought of it . It’s like last seasons gramp fest never happened let alone the team he put out yesterday 🙂

    “We want to freshen up with some younger players in the squad. That’s what we are identifying.”

    Leeds, forest and Brentford are looking very decent and very lively.

  35. Looks like I spoke too soon – Levy’s giving in!

    MK – Forest looked very good tonight. The Baggies looked very much like us last season – no pace and little movement.

  36. gareth
    hope our owners be strong watford got 40m for player with one season in england,chelsea paid fortune for drinkwater last year,
    please dont let sale of grealish allow bruce to spend,only player excited by link is negrado and only want him on loan

  37. GS- funny thing is Karanka was defensive with boro now very attacking. He has drawn 2 though one with a late goal from a winning position so he should get sacked 🙂

  38. I trust NSWE will tell Levy to do one. The bid for Jack is upto £25m including future add ons. When PL teams are paying £73m and £67m for keepers Levy is on another planet. Kick him into touch.

  39. I have to say something that’s not been said much. Our kit is a thing of beauty.

    designed by a local villa fan…..something to be proud of!

    Liking the links to the lb and the Scottish mid. sound decent. The new practice of a more younger player coming to the end of there contracts with re sale value looks ok.

    Just need bruce gone and ill be fully excited.

    Still releaved we haven’t sold EVERYONE and gone into admin and got stipud rich owners though.

  40. MK – “…funny thing is Karanka was defensive with boro now very attacking. He has drawn 2 though one with a late goal from a winning position so he should get sacked ”

    Is that a cheeky comparison to RDM?

    Plug – “I trust NSWE will tell Levy to do one.”

    Looks like that is happening now. Sawiri has stated that Jack is not for sale.

    What a roller coaster window we’ve had so far – and there is still another 36 hours to go.

  41. Gareth

    Roller coaster not the word! What a summer. You couldn’t make it up. Loose the final, hours later emerges we aint been paying taxes and in danger of going into admin and selling everyone for peanuts. Then overnight we have the 3rd richest owners in England and keeping all our players! Its bonkers

  42. 5 keepers bunn steer sarkic nyland morenia
    5 rb elmo hutton delaet bree richards
    1 lb taylor
    3 ch chester elphik axel
    7mid jedi whelan birr houriane lansbury tisc gardner
    4attacking mids grealish mcginn albert green
    5strikers hogan kodja mccormak rhm davies
    then the youth clark suilman leyden ohara doyle-hayes
    bruce will need to buy more bingo balls

  43. JG, So many players it’s shocking. How will our own kids get a look in with Spud collecting them like Nectar points. We need to start booting the deadwood.

  44. Things are really good now, and agree, what a turn round from a disaster final at Wembley, almost bankrupt…keeping Steve Bruce….to suddenly having new owners….Thierry Henri…keeping Bruce…winning pre-season games …losing to Wet Spam……keeping Bruce…..winning our first league game…with goals scored by Elmo and Hutton…..Bruce smiling and grinning like a Cheshire cat…he is definitely staying…. signing new players under 30 years old…and with potential…Jack staying….no he is not…..just pushing Levy for more money, or he loses Poch…. Jack getting upset because he wants away…means a great deal will be done tomorrow…and Bruce stays…with his new recruits…

    All that is left now is for Bruce to guide Villa to wining the Championship, and everyone is happy….!!!

  45. Sarkic is going out on loan..
    Albert is for sale
    Jack will be sold
    Richards is a free loan to anyone
    Tishbola is a loan available
    Gardner is for sale
    McCormack is a free loan

  46. The Laandan media is working overtime trying to talk Grealish into Levy’s filthy mits. So much BS being printed. Levy was talking about buying Sessignon from Fulham. The owner comes out and says he’s not for sale. End of media interest. Unlike Sessignon the media have kept up the BS so much over Jack that we’re all slipping on it. Do one Levy.

  47. GS. I agree. Bryan can spend his time on the bench waiting for Sessignon to get injured if that’s what he wants. The same will happen to Jack if he goes. Sitting on the bench waiting for Erikson or Ali to get injured.

  48. JG to sign a super deal to keep him with a release clause if we fail to be promoted.

    Gary Gardner off on loan to Small Heath, Adomah could also be off.

  49. To be fair to Joe Bryan, he may well be better off with than at Villa, but I am sure Steve has another plan up his sleeve…after a young Chelsea back now.

  50. Sky Sports News reports that Jack is not happy we did not let him go to Spurs. Well he should be happy to contribute to the renaissance of the Villa side that nurtured him and made him the more complete player he is today.
    Once the squad is settled and, hopefully, bedded in for a successful campaign maybe he can look again to contributing further by topping up the transfer fund. I just hope he doesn’t get mardy and pull an Alpay – I had to look at a list of former players to remember his name!

    It reminded me of Gordon Lee, or ‘Honky’ as he was know when he played for Hednesford Town – entrance 2 pennies (LSD) and 2 to park my bike and I rode home with Honky after the game – became manager of Everton. Good to look back and remember all these players, some obscure ones we might have forgotten .

    Best wishes to all at AVL and lets hope we manage a decent position at the end of the season – promotion unlikely but consolidation a must.

  51. Well done NSWE. At last we have someone who will stand up and face down the outrageous behavour that has crept into football. Levy’s attempt to lure Jack by leaving it until the death was not only disrespectful to AVFC, it was also insulting to the club by expecting to take a team’s heartbeat without giving that team any time to source an adequate replacement. Unlike say Juventus when they hired Ronaldo giving Madrid time to find suitable replacements. Levy got what he deserved.

  52. Pleased also that Jack is staying, at least to get our promotion push under way. Now that he’s been retained (against my wildest dreams a month ago) we will be serious promotion challengers again this season. Thanks Jack. This Villa fan is so grateful.

    I hope NSWE stop Spud from loaning the old guys again. If there are to be any more loans incoming I hope they are young and hungry. I guess the new buys have cost about the same that we’ll receive from Traore’s move to Wolves making them cost neutral.

    It’s now down to you Spud, you have the tools at your disposal. Use them correctly if you wish to stay employed. Let’s start by unleashing a younger team on Wigan and attack. COYVB.

  53. All done apart from the loans, I hope he can get the new lads up and running quick because we only have Brentford and Swansea at Home until November that will be likley contenders unless Wigan step up as the dark horse.

    November/December we have 7 of the top contenders plus Brum in an 8 game run we need to put points on the board pronto.

  54. after play off disaster ,been a really good summer[bar bruce still manager],new owners showing levy how to deal,first look at sides coming down swansea seem best set up,but nothing to fear,
    a lb and maybe a striker on loan unless bruce has a brain wave and can figure out a system to suit hogan /kodja

  55. Well, I did say jack was going to stay. Grealish and McGinn? That’ll be fun to watch. Plus the under 23’s. What’s not to like? Villa have a potential mid field that will run the opposition ragged.

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