The first home match of the 2018-19 campaign saw the Villa once again come from behind, this time eking out 3-2 result at the expense of visiting Wigan, who must’ve been gutted to to lose at the death. And once again for Villa, no recognized striker was on the score sheet. Still, two games, six points. Not bad.

The Good
If your only available senior striker is still a bit crocked and you come away with three goals two weeks in a row, that’s good. When Villa were at their best last year, goals were spread around the side. And so far this year, they’ve needed to be. Elphick, Chester, Bjarnason, Elmohamady, and Hutton have all netted.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the day was John McGinn’s debut. On first viewing, he looks the part. It was his beautiful delivery into the box that led to the own goal, dropping it in the perfect spot to cause chaos of one kind or another. It wasn’t the only perfect ball, as Chester’s goal proved.

Besides his delivery, he showed pace, strength, a willingness to get forward, chase back, and tackle hard. I commented yesterday that his performance reminded me of what James Milner used to bring, but with better delivery.

And of course, to keep on playing and not settle for the draw…very good. A team has to believe it can score when it needs to.

The Bad
The side is yet to hit its stride. Which, if you’re winning anyway, might actually be “good” this early on. As I’ve said, can’t really explain it other than there were six changes this week. Steve Bruce has admitted it was a “bit drastic.” But it’s only two games and playing well in August doesn’t guarantee you anything. Only points do. And Villa have picked up maximum points from their first two matches for the first time this century. So…This is a qualified “bad.”

I should probably also throw in the lack of goals from attacking players. Goals are goals, but you can’t rely on them coming in bunches from defenders. It’s great to score from corners. Great to score from free kicks. Great to see Cafu dribbling through a side. But it’s not going to keep happening at this rate I don’t think. Jonathan Kodjia looked a bit more like himself in the second half, which was good to see, and it’s a shame he couldn’t get on the score sheet. He was so close to connecting with Grealish’s cross into him and then will have wished he’d done better with another fine delivery from McGinn that he headed over.

The Ugly
Bruce has called for a little more protection for Jack, and I can’t say I disagree. While Jack will look to pick up fouls, usually by dancing past someone and getting them leave a leg out or some such, he is also victim to a lot of “challenges” that are nothing more than hacking down a talented player to stop him playing.

And really, the issue is that it’s not good for the game. It’s not the ‘70s anymore. And if football is to be entertaining, skill players must be allowed to play. I’d rather see the game’s top players making magic and memories than laying on the ground. Of course there are always going to be fouls: honest, but late challenges; 50-50 balls; professional fouls to stop a threatening break. But simply kicking a more talented player is cheap and thuggish. Do I expect it to change? Probably not.

Also… I know traffic can be bad. But don’t leave until the final whistle. You just might be surprised.

Final Verdict
Early days yet, and Bruce seems to be trying to spread the minutes around by his own admission. Which, as he said, if it works, then great. But if Grealish is going to feature every week, Bjarnason surely can. I wouldn’t expect McGinn to be sitting down now anytime soon. Chester will always be out there, as will Hutton.

So, there’s something to treating early games a bit like preseason, and easing everyone into it. There’s also something to committing to a starting XI and making occasional changes due to fixture congestion, injuries, and specific match-ups. But a consistent XI is the only way Villa are going to become cohesive and play up to their potential.

And there’s plenty of potential in the side. I like who we’ve got, and when deployed properly we should be able to play with anyone and expect a result. We all came away at the end of last season thinking the team needed to be younger and faster, and we’ve got the players to be that. Bruce just has to commit to using them. I know he’s feeling pressure and it’s doubly hard to sit veterans when that’s the case.

But what should be happening is that it’s Elmo and Taylor, for example, who are the fill-ins to give someone a rest. Bjarnason shouldn’t be making way for Whelan or Jedinak. Adomah shouldn’t be on the bench so that Elmo can play right wing. Unless Elmo’s playing wide right so that Uncle Albert can be on the left and let Green get in the middle.

Doesn’t mean Whelan or Elmohamady are bad players or that they don’t contribute. Elmo scored last week, and headed off the line this week. But I think we have younger, better players that can take their places and should in for eight or nine games out of 10.

Right now, I’m still chuffed that Villa have emerged unscathed from a close-season that looked catastrophic, have new owners, have money, have kept Jack and James and even added McGinn, and come away with six points to get things rolling. All we need now are some fit strikers.

Over to you.

Comments 23

  1. Jc once again thanks.

    Not much to add to that other than the defence is where we need to play a consistent set of players if we decide what the formation is of course.

    Robbo- of course Bruce is no mug mate no manager at this level can be really. There are varying degrees of mugs though. Appears to be after some 20+ years of management Bruce has discovered rotation, roll on another season for him to discover that you don’t have to rotate everyone at once, who knows he may even discover how to service the forwards next 🙂

    I saw Bruce is calling for RMC and Richards to be let go? Must be stinking up the place.

  2. Great summary JC and the comments yesterday really provided a great summary to us who missed it. We will be more settled (hopefully) by the end of the month and winning in spite of the chinks can only be good for us. PP mentioned confidence and that’s the difference from the start of the 2016 season, the ability to come back and win (i’m not going to debate the quality of the competition as its too early to tell).
    Onto the loans, I see we are being linked with Snodgrass and Bolaise. Would prefer a LB and a striker as a priority though.

  3. Great leader, as usual JC.

    I am not so concerned about the defensive rotation, as I think Bruce knows the set up he wants, but the players were not available to him on Saturday perhaps. DE Laet now comes into the mix, and perhaps Bree will also be fit. He also knows that he has four fixtures now in the coming days, and he needs everyone to be fit and on top of their game, and if he can stay ahead in the points game, it will build confidence for the long hard slog. I hadn’t realised that Fulham did not win their first game until October last year, but ended up third. Newcastle also had a disastrous start before winning the Championship, so Bruce will see our start as a terrific bonus this season, and will want to ensure that this team stays in the top three from the start.

    This site used to be a great site in the days of Steamer and many others…..Can we stop the personal stuff….everyone has a right to their opinions….whether you agree or not. Keep the blog to that, and maybe more may come and join us…

    My opinions have often been controversial, and I have not been a Bruce lover, but the man does what he thinks is right as a manager, and when I am at the game, all my energy, feelings and loyalty is to him and our beloved team. After the match, I may well pull him and the team to pieces, but that is a personal opinion, on how I saw the game.

    It would also be great to see a little bit of humour back on here, and discover who actually has Steamer’s £20 note now, or where we are going to meet for curried goat rice n’peas.

    I can always be found in the Aston Tavern, which is a great Villa pub, with free food as part of your entrance fee, sensible prices, with great service, and beer in proper glasses…!!!

  4. PP – .”Can we stop the personal stuff….everyone has a right to their opinions….whether you agree or not. Keep the blog to that, and maybe more may come and join us…”

    Hear, Hear. I’ve been following this blog for a while now and I love the side tracks into music, spirituality, politics and others that we veer into. There have always been opposing views (McLeish, Lambert’s 3 years, etc) but it seems that people are now taking that opposition personally. Maybe its the state of the world we now live in or maybe its the stress of following the Villa, but its a shame if people stop coming and posting here.

    Apologies if its patronizing, not the intent…

  5. If I ever get back to Russia, I’ll get a set of matryoshka dolls made up consisting of Villa’s managers 2010-2018.
    Thanks again JC.
    Who is up next? Bring em on. Is RMC not worth playing at all these days? Is he still in Australia?

  6. I agree Mark, could be just the press stirring things up, though the Bolaise one was in a few outlets.

    This whole NSWE deal has not cleared the air on our financial position. Not selling Jack means more pressure to get promoted and now we want to add more wages onto our books. What happens if we don’t get promoted, will the new owners bail us out? Or asset strip us. Not convinced on the strategy to be honest.

  7. Villalore, Dr Xia has his heart in the right place but unknown to us at the time of purchase, he did not have the funds we believed he had. The new owners most certainly do. We have to just wait and see if they are prepared to spend any money and if so how much. I don’t think they would be permitting Spud to add to the wage bill without knowing the consequences.

    JC, spot on with your assessment of the Wigan game. My assessment is somewhat abbreviated:

    The Excellent: A winner in the 94th minute. There’s no coming back from that. Maximum points from 2 games. Six goals without a CF.

    The Good: Jack running out on to the pitch with his Villa shirt on. McGinn’s performance. I’m going to like him.

    The Mediocre: The speed with which we moved the ball from defence to attack.

    The Bad: The lack of pace at the back. Codger’s form.

    The Ugly: Wigan’s 1st goal. We had possession on the edge of their box. And managed to gently play the ball backwards towards the half way line, then towards our half and then a perfect pass for Wigan to bury it. There would be blood and snot on the floor at half time if that happened on a Sunday morning.

    Steamer’s £20 note was an apparition. He claimed everyone owed him one.

  8. The money is a bit of a mystery. My guess is that they’re waiting until January to see how things shake out. But it makes sense they want to get back up, and they must feel if we were so close last year that it’s a realistic proposition this year.

    They may well be negotiating with the league behind the scenes, and could be willing to just pay a fine if it’s under £10m, say. Pure speculation, but when you have money to burn, it’s possible.

  9. Jc – quite possible in fact it seems anything’s possible at the moment. If we get high wage loans in I think it confirms it.

    Has IanG been on lately?

  10. Thanks . JC
    Especially as I couldn’t get internet where I am to see the game, but managed eventually to get write ups & 20 second clips.

    We’re all behind the Villa & any current manager on the day I think, but .
    you said it coherently, so thanks.

    Which building site?

    Speaking as an adult with a sense of humour, I’m always going to upset somebody, but I concur with the call to enjoy the mayhem with a sense of humour, sharp or not.

    Did you see the match?
    I won’t be able to get anything for weeks yet, so rely on you lot.

    Like the idea of russian dolls, as long as it’s not just different size Bruce dolls.
    Hope you’re doing ok

    All in all it’s encouraging, just worried about the defence, but agree that it appears to be like a mini pre-season so far.
    Also like the look of McGinn

  11. IsnG – I’ll say you the trip and slap myself

    I missed the match yesterday too and asked a bloke on another site if he’d seen it, his reply was “did I say I’d seen it” good this social media feel the love. 🙂

  12. Plug,

    You are right about Steamer’s £20, as he owed me the last one, and I am never going to see it now…!! Unless ST75 turns up with it in the Tavern…!!

    See McCleish singing McGinn’s praises, and that he is pleased with his move to Villa!

  13. U23’s 1-0 up at HT against Norwich. The teamsheet does NOT contain Suliman, Blackett-Taylor, Doyle-Hayes or RHM. Is that an indicator into tomorrow night’s squad?

  14. The U23’s beat Norwich 2-0.

    MK – I think Spud has no alternative than to dump his preferred defensive set up. More of that and he will acquire another 83 points this season and put us in the play offs again. We need to attack. Which requires much younger legs and a shift to 3-5-2 imo. So the back 3 need a pace injection and we’ll be on our way. Then 4-5-1 if he must, for the half dozen tough away fixtures.

  15. not many players have disappointed as much as micah richards,world at his feet and blows it all,thought he was decent signing by sherwood but up there with one of worst ever

  16. Plug – yes mate but worried it requires thinking though

    JG- yeah shame about Richards I’m sure he’d prefer to have played, always a gamble when a players loaned out and doesn’t play much

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