A last-gasp equalizer from Johnathan Kodjia saw Villa salvage a point midweek against visiting Brentford, making it two draws in a row following two league wins to open the season. Four games, eight points. Right at Steve Bruce’s two-point-per-game target of last season. Sounds like he has a target this year, as well, but he hasn’t exactly said what it is yet.

Then of course there were two new signings: widemen Anwar El Ghazi and Yannick Bolasie. Along with three games in seven days, it’s been a busy week at Villa.

Naturally, the new loan signings raise questions for Albert Adomah and Andre Green, as well as Ahmed Elmohamady. Since almost single-handedly keeping Villa in contention during a long a long stretch of last season, Adomah has gone off the boil a bit and has largely kept his place due to lack of options and Bruce’s apparent desire to bring Green back into things slowly.

And indeed, El Ghazi will step straight in against visiting Reading, apparently on the left with Elmo continuing to hold down a spot wide right. Otherwise, not much changes other than Bjarnason coming in for Whelan.

Lineup: Nyland, Tuanzebe, Chester, Jedinak, Hutton, Elmohamady, Bjarnason, McGinn, El Ghazi, Grealish, Kodjia.

If nothing else, Villa now have four true wingers. I’ll admit, I quite liked what Bolasie brought to Crystal Palace a couple years back, but I’ve not seen his Everton spell and what hasn’t worked out for him there. So, not sure what we’re getting. Likewise, El Ghazi was a hot property until a less successful season at Lille after leaving Ajax. Bruce says we’ll love his technical ability. I would love to love his technical ability.

So for now, at least, it seems as though Green and Hepburn-Murphy will be used off the bench primarily, but I’m expecting Green, at least, to get the odd start in the rotation.

Reading, for their part, have had a rough start to the campaign under Paul Clement, losing three before also drawing 2-2 in their last outing. I’d prefer today not be the one where they start putting it together. Villa aren’t too far off the pace, and could well have either won or lost the game midweek. A win today keeps Villa where they want to be. And what Villa want going forward is simply more goals. With Kodjia notching three in two now, we might expect an uptick in that department.

If Grealish, McGinn, Hourihane, and whoever is playing wide can chip in as the ought to do, we should be able to make up for the shakiness in the back leading to some soft goals. One expects that will clear itself up as Nylund settles, Tuanzebe gets a regular run, and Jedinak gets more time on the back line.

Anyway, today will be interesting yet again, and while we’d all have preferred a storming 15 from 15 given the relatively easy run of fixtures to open the campaign, taking 11 of those possible points without a loss wouldn’t be bad. Certainly far better than last year.

Villa looked better against Brentford, and who knows what would’ve happened if a couple of good early chances had gone in. With the recent signings, the team is getting faster and younger, as promised, though not by featuring our own youth. But it’s hard to argue with the experience Bolasie and El Ghazi bring.

And it’s also encouraging to see Villa playing to the end and scoring late. The team has shown it can and will fall behind, but has enough to still go on and get something. The trick, obviously, is to stop falling behind. It’s easier to win when you’re not trailing. File that under football genius.

Maybe today Villa can build on the good moments against Brentford and start putting together a full 90 minutes that sees them comfortable and assured.

Over to you.

Comments 57

  1. Thanks JC
    Trying to get some flavour from the match reports, but there are long gaps.
    Oh well it’ll be highlights.
    The new dutch guy seems to be the part, & it’s not a slow team today, but am puzzled at Elmo being in the position, is there someone on that side who frightens Bruce?
    Come on lads!

  2. IanG,

    Summary: Villa start brightly, control the game, hit the crossbar, have a couple other decent looks. Fell off a bit, Reading came into it. Lucky not to concede another sloppy goal off a corner, but otherwise, not too much danger.

    Biggest thing I’m seeing is Villa trying too many long balls that aren’t accurate enough, and not taking advantage of Bjarnason, McGinn and Grealish through the middle.

    El Ghazi does look quality. I would think Elmo makes way for Bolasie going forward, but not sure why you wouldn’t play Adomah or Green in his place today. That said, Elmo does manage to get involved a lot at both ends.

  3. And I get trying to spring players forward quickly and into space. But if they’re not good balls, you obviously just turn it over, and fail to establish dominance.

    So, maybe if you keep at it, the long balls get more accurate…I see other teams pull it off better, and it does cause us problems. But this game seems to cry out for maintaining possession. However, timing still looks a bit off. I’m sure several players are a bit tired by now.

  4. I said I’d never come here again under Bruce, but I’m Smsat up in Doug Ellis and it’s not pretty. Defence looks like it will concede every time. Jedinak is not a centre half…in fact he’s not a footballer. Hutton is not a left back. Bjarnason…no idea what he offers compared to Whelan. This is utter s**t compared to the Brentford game. All you can hope for is 3 points.
    Bolasie has a 4×4 Bentley and a stunning wife

  5. IanG,

    Kodjia has been involved, but through balls aren’t getting to him (usually has someone stuck close to him and doesn’t quite have the pace he needs to get onto some of these balls). Got his back to goal a lot, and surrounded.

    Grealish out for the second, seemed to pick up a thigh or hip injury.

  6. Paul…Thanks for the live update!

    I think Bjarnason has to play regularly. He does break up a lot more than Whelan, and can recover going back to win the ball back. But…He doesn’t do as well with spot appearances. He needs a longer run.

  7. Just too many basic errors all over the park. It feels like a team where a lot of people are out of position. A lot of teams that are better than Reading lie ahead.
    El Ghazi looks okay

  8. JC
    Trust me to mention Elmo then he scores!

    PW
    Yeah there was a little of that flavour in the reports, & I always have that feeling with Bruce that he tries to find a way to fit players in, rather than getting players to suit the team.

  9. John, unbelievable? You’re a master of understatement.

    Can’t wait for Bruce’s nuggets of wisdom. Starting with “we’re still on track.”

  10. Ian…

    We had a couple lucky moments, but to survive those and have what looked to be a very soft penalty take away the win at the death…really gutting. Just seemed a very poor decision when we were rather comfortably seeing it out and they were just lumping in desperation balls at the death.

  11. I’m staying away from Bruce at the moment because we’d made enough chances and no one seemed to have their shooting boots on. There were good passages of play, we looked to be more possession-oriented in the second, and played more through the middle.

    It wasn’t “dominating,” but if it weren’t for the shakiness at the back, Reading would never have had a look in.

  12. jc
    staying away from bruce but if it werent for the shakiness at the back reading would never had a look in
    while bruce persists with playing players in wrong place i will not have any faith that he bruce has a clue and hope the owners pick it up quick,last sub today taylor for kodja how many players had to swap positions for that

  13. 3 of the back 4 are incompetent. Reading should have scored more. Apart from some good spells against Brentford, the performances have been poor.
    Why do they always start brightly and then fade?
    Kodjia…the formation around him does not work . He’s too greedy and too easy to mark. His link up play is poor.
    McGin is a positive. Adomah can’t shoot.
    Grealish does not want to play.
    It’s been 5 years since I last went down there and I think it will be another 5

  14. Paul,

    For me, Hutton’s generally fine covering ground, getting upfield and charging back, but his final ball is often poor. If we’re going to play four, I’d rather see Tuanzebe (or Bree, even) get brought along in the middle and De Laet on the right with Hutton on the left. Now, maybe Bruce prefers Jedinak as he’s physical, tends to win a lot of headers. But it doesn’t look like Tuanzebe is the right body type to be playing at FB. If Bruce is still trying to make moves, he should find a CB.

    We talked about this with Kodjia a lot two years ago, which is that he’s too isolated as a single striker up top. Like you say, selfish, tries to do too much and is not a hold-up man. He could use a partner and why not give RHM a go. Different type of player.

    I think Grealish does want to play. My only criticism of his game is that sometimes he’s taking too long to make up his mind. There are through balls there that he passes up.

    McGinn’s a big plus and El Gazhi could be a real find. Has flashed a Ronaldo kind of aspect to his game. He’s big and strong, very quick, technically very good, and is very attack-minded. We’ll see how he gets on, but was a decent debut. Assume he got subbed off for fitness reasons, but he was still our most dangerous player at that point. I’d have fancied him to score if he’d had a couple of the chances Adomah scuffed.

  15. JG,

    It’s fair holding Bruce accountable for the personnel choices, and I agree, don’t think he’s got it right at the back. Maybe it’s a case of giving Jedi time, or getting Tuanzebe up to speed so that could move centrally. But right now, it is a shaky unit. And if Bruce can coach any position, you’d think it would be CBs.

  16. Villa lack the ‘no 10’ playing behind the striker (perhaps they don’t bother as Kodjia won’t pass :-)).
    I agree with JC that Grealish slows play down; he also plays too deep and doesn’t affect the attacks enough.
    In the first half especially today it looked like the Villa player in possession 40 yards out had no clue what to do, while Kodjia stood surrounded by 3 defenders in the box. I hope the arrival of the 2 new wingers will see El Moham put back in defence…there were so many times today when he wasn’t able to capitalise on good attacking positions.
    The disappointing thing for me is that I just don’t see a progression from last season with Bruce. Defence is as poor as ever and midfield and attack is a random jumble of fish out of water players

  17. Paul,

    Seems to me that Grealish often has to drop deep to get involved and give them a way to carry the ball through midfield. That said, I can’t say for certain he’s a true no. 10, as we haven’t really seen him deployed that way consistently. He has popped in some lovely passes, but it seems to be the CB-splitting ball he hesitates to play.

    But yes, you do seem to have Kodjia surrounded, and there’s not really a breaking pattern in the middle of the park other than to push it out wide. Coming in at 40 yards or so, that telling pass forward has to be quick and anticipated, but we don’t seem to have a system for that. The runs don’t seem to start soon enough, and so they’re not started in space where the man can get free. I think that’s why we could use someone playing up off Kodjia, a smaller player with more speed. If Kodjia’s going to occupy defenders and space further up the pitch, we need to take advantage of that bubble created between him and midfield.

  18. What can I say….It has all been said already….Some nice moments early on, with a good goal by Elmo, but the mid field just keep pushing out to the wings when a ball in the box, if we had some forward players, could be devastating. The defence is a shambles, but Bruce is determined that Jedinak will become a centre back and extend his career. Unfortunately, it will be the bringing down of Bruce, depending how you look at it.

    We have no real attacking threat, compared to other teams, who are throwing up to six players in the box in order to score. We are lucky to see Hutton breaking into the box..!!

    Grealish, I agree, is doing us no favours, it was better with Hourihane, McGinn and Bjarnason. I would also have liked to see RHM come on, certainly not Taylor, another poor decision from Bruce. Elphick for Jedinak at least could have been an improvement.

    Nice to see Andi Weimann, one of my favourite Villa youngsters, doing so well at Bristol City….5 appearances and 5 goals..!! Also Bannan is now classed as one of the best mid fielders in the Championship.

    Frank Lampard starting to come good now, Stephen Gerrard has a 100% record at Rangers…who says young managers with a brain can’t make it.

  19. I’ve waited until the cold light of day to avoid a knee jerk reaction. On the equivalent fixtures last season, we are 2 points down and we now stand at -1 on SB’s progress monitoring scale. Already 4 points adrift of the front runners after 5 games (not the most difficult we will face).

    It’s my belief 86 points is the best Spud has achieved in this division. Others will say if that is not true. In recent seasons this has not been enough to gain auto promotion which logically means the best we can hope for is a 4/1 shot on the playoff lottery.

    If there’s anyone out there who can tell me differently, I’m all ears.

  20. So many teams in this division now set up to use youth, pace, 3 at the back and attack until the end. This is not AVFC. We still choose experience and 4-5-1 at home against poorer opposition. Even Spud’s obligatory defensive substitution towards the end to close out a narrow win didn’t work yesterday due to lack of pace at the back.

    There are plenty of coaches who have reached the PL in a shorter time than Spud has been at the helm and with less money than Villa have thrown at it. In yesterday’s match programme the owners stated the future must be sustainable. I’m in full agreement with that. They need to be very astute in the selection of their next coach.

  21. Morning Plug and all Lifers,I concur with your points,I won’t bore you all with my feelings on the continuing bizarre selections of the 11,the subs and their use.What also bothers me is SBs or the clubs obsession with buying forward players,if Chester gets injured or suspenddd we are in the brown stuff,have a good weekend all.
    PP was thinking of attending Sheff Wed fixture before I go back to Brasil,would be great to meet you and have a gargle.Please let me know,can be reached on 07985548570,all the best.

  22. B6toBrasil,

    That would be great, and I should be at the match. I will send you a text shortly, so that you have my number.

    I also agree with your thoughts. I really find Bruce to be one of those obstinate people, who will do the opposite to whatever is suggested.

  23. Didn’t see or listen to the game as at a festival but it seems like a bit of “After the lord majors show” going on. Games that are adrenaline fuelled like the Brentford game often leave players gassed or at least their nervous systems are.

    Sounds like another game we should of won but left it to the whim of the ref again, I suppose you can’t moan after accepting a couple of seasons of Bruce being a lucky sod at times it all equals out.However I find it ironic that two seasons on from RDM’s nearly wins and sacking we are basically back to that position with a Brittle defence and have brought in two flash harry wingers, not unlike Ayew. What will Bruce do if they won’t track back I wonder?

    JC- I thought El Ghazi was Ronaldo like too just from the highlights looks like he will be a handful.

    On Jack? I don’t think he’s a ten anyway, LW is still his best position, Its where he has cause most problems and scored most goals/assists from. I would rather see a midfield that moves the ball quickly not rely on him to keep it and move it up-field like in the times of Delph. Bruces latest additions kind of rule that out. For me going to a 442 or 433 would work better for attack and defence. Its also a shame Bruce doesn’t like RMC as he’s the only true ten we have at the club.

    Once again I am seeing a potentially very capable squad being undermined by the managers foibles. I only hope that he sorts it pronto before we lose sight of the front runners because we are most certainly going for promotion over progression again. The calibre of loan players and there wages could buy us some more McGinn type signings in Jan, there has to be a decent CB out there somewhere going cheap.

  24. Monday morning now, and time to reflect on the past week. Not a brilliant one on the pitch for Villa, but there are crumbs of comfort. We have some exciting new recruits to the squad, we have not lost a game, and are well in contention, lying 4th in the table.

    This is a huge step forward for this the modern day Aston Villa, and our highest position in the Championship, since relegation, at this stage of the season. Bruce will continue to frustrate us for some time yet, but we also have to appreciate was he has achieved. If he can mould this squad into a championship winning team, then he will have achieved what we are all yearning for. I do criticise him an awful lot, as do many others, but it does not mean that he needs to be sacked, just that we see things differently.

    There is a long way to go, and yes we have lost some opportunity to get off to a great start, but come the time of October/November there will be a much clearer picture of where we are, and if we are still just a point or two adrift of the top, then we are in with a big shout to deliver promotion this season.

    So I will give Steve a pat on the back so far, and understand his frustration after Saturday’s result. Time to pick ourselves up and look for a good win tomorrow night against Burton, when we are sure to see more new faces from the squad.

  25. MK,

    Bruce is determined to make Jedinak the best centre back since…..John Terry, and that is the type that Bruce likes, and why he is determined to fit him in that role. It is however, the biggest contention amongst Villa fans. I would have much preferred to see Elphick or Bree there, if we are not recruiting.

  26. PP- Its similar to the build the team around Jack scenario, time to move on and build a team as that strategy is not getting us goals. Its never a great ploy unless you have a goal scoring monster to feed. I hope Hogan comes back fit because I think he has a part to play yet.

    Bruce isn’t completely hopeless obviously but he’s frustratingly slow in comparison to the obvious progression sparked by the likes of Bielsa seemingly over night.

    We have a comparitevely easy run until Nov/dec. Its like a gift for us to bed a team in even if its done slowly but we can’t afford to keep slipping up at home especially.

    NOVEMBER
    Saturday 3rd – Bolton (h) – 3pm – Championship
    Saturday 10th – Derby (a) – 3pm – Championship
    Sunday 25th – Birmingham City (h) – 12noon – Championship
    Wednesday 28th – Nottingham Forest (h) – 7.45pm – Championship

    DECEMBER
    Saturday 1st – Middlesbrough (a) – 3pm – Championship
    Saturday 8th – West Brom (a) – 3pm – Championship
    Saturday 15th – Stoke (h) – 3pm – Championship
    Saturday 22nd – Leeds (h) – 3pm – Championship
    Wednesday 26th – Swansea (a) – 3pm – Championship
    Saturday 29th – Preston (a) – 3pm – Championship

  27. PP- “I can pick him (in midfield) for a specific game, that’s why I picked him in the derby against Birmingham last year. You pick him against Cardiff, you pick him against Middlesbrough – the teams which are direct.”

    He did pick him for those games, He also picked him for most of the others after the Brum game, the needing more energy in midfield has been talked about on here for the entire of last season, hence thors omission being baffling to all.

    Jedinak is used to wide open spaces, winning the ball and funnelling players out wide if possible. Playing CB you need to take in everything going on around the pen and organise or you have to be so dominant that you miss nothing. He is trying to be the latter and has little positional sense or awareness. If you have the legs its easier to play midfield once you have played CB than the other way around in my experience.

  28. I also have this ‘ghost of Bruce past’ feeling, but as PP touched on, his luck seems to have deserted him, & if it doesn’t return we will be going down the table, unless something like injuries force him to stop being so bloody stubborn trying to make every player a utility player..

  29. IanG- love watching O’Hare, he has such great touch,vision,timing and knows how to weight a pass. I’d go as far as to say he has more potential than Jack. Feel for Lyden who played at CB he’s a great box to box player hope he gets a good loan deal, waisted in the U23’s at his age.

  30. Interesting Comments from the owners this week, No mention of Bruce specifically when it comes to transfers although you would assume he’s had some say.

    “We feel our experience and expertise across business and sport can complement these efforts to help deliver success on and off the pitch.

    Alongside the results on the pitch we hope that the club’s transfer strategy in recent weeks has given the supporters cause for optimism.

    We believe they represent another signal of intent and demonstrate our ambitions for the club. We therefore ask for your patience, and your trust, as we all work together to deliver the success that your continued passionate support deserve”

  31. Hello there!

    Just popping in to tell you about Rob Bishop’s new book, ‘Euros and Villans’.

    I’ve set it up my website so that the ad is cycled with another ad about my bookshop, so if at first you don’t see the ad, re-load the page until it appears.

    You then click on the ad to bring up the detailed page about the book.

    The main page to link to to see this is http://www.lerwill-life.org.uk/astonvilla/a_villan0.htm The ad appears in the top right.

    Thanks!

  32. Saw a post yesterday that a poll had been done on Twitter and it had some 1750 people vote and it went 76% not happy with Bruce, aren’t polls great a reverse of the very recent Mail poll 🙂

    Watched the spurs v Manure game and before hand the pundits were chatting.Gary Neville said that it appears that owners are getting fed up with non-progressive managers, particularly in how it effects their brand. They want to see attacking football and the young managers coming through bring that with up to date methods/ tactics. Looks like football may return to its routes where goals are more important than stopping them.

  33. He also said that Modern players want to play attacking football not rigid stuff, also mentioned that older players/pundits are puzzled by whats happening on the pitch with players.

  34. Conversely on Sky they have a poll and about 70% of fans want results over performance? I suppose that depends what performance means I suppose, getting owned week in week out and still winning is unlikely.

    Jl- Read your latest Blog post on your site and you appear to be aligned with the majority on here, hope your keeping well.

  35. Just seen a tweet from Richie De Laet…..

    “No not injured, just waiting to get a chance!”…..

    Who will get the chances tonight…and where will the axe fall???

    Team for tonight:
    Moreira, De Laet, Elphick, Bree, Taylor, Whelan, Hourihane, El Gahzi, Green, RHM, Bolasi .

    Subs: Nyland, Hutton, Chester, Bjarnason, Elmohamady, Kodija, Adomah.

  36. Villalore: ” How do you like SB’s new (old) line-up?”

    It’s not ‘old’ as it is rapidly changing with the new signings, innit? I think it’s getting better.

    MK: “Read your latest Blog post on your site and you appear to be aligned with the majority on here”

    Hey up, I haven’t written a blog entry for a couple of weeks and things have moved on, signings-wise. So, no, I am still quite removed from the general opinion on this blog and still see Bruce as good as most (in his own way) for the Villa job.

    We’re still undefeated though we could and perhaps should have won all 5 but we’ve been very profligate. That’s a player problem. But there’s a long way to go and we’ve signed some good ‘uns.

    Opti as always.

  37. Good to see you JL, and that you are still optimistic.

    I think we all are on the optimistic side with our best start to the season, but we will always disagree over Bruce. Are you in agreement with his persistence in making Jedinak into a latter day John Terry, in this day of modern fast football??

    Bruce will continue to grind out results with the playing staff that he has, but should we be doing better with the players available??

    The next few games should give us a clearer idea of Bruce’s intentions under our new management!

  38. Jl- well I prefer your view pont from a couple of weeks back 🙂 results have actually got worse with the new players so far and I definitely don’t lay the blame at the players feet when they are played out of position. Indesision breeds mistakes, practice makes perfect.

    PP- feel sorry for delaet, hailed as our best player by Bruce in pre-season then ignored for his favs who have had no pre-season with us.

  39. Hi JL
    Nice to hear from you.
    I’ll have a look at your link.

    I’m an optimistic realist… ‘can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’, but it’s a reasonable purse at this level, but has limitations

  40. Mark
    Yes, I like watching Lydon play, but he can never get a look in with SB, as he keeps buying midfielders.
    Yes a loan may be the only route for him soon

  41. IanG- I’m optimistic about most things but they don’t include Bruce becoming Pepe or even half way there at Pe.

    The limitations for me are we have an overload of attacking players used poorly and a paucity of good defenders hence the tendency to circle the wagons to defend the defence most games.

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