As an Aston Villa fan getting relegated last season was probably the lowest point I thought we would experience but it seems this season is getting close, to close to the same dreadful fate. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying we will go down again but the way the team are playing is worrying and all looking very familiar once again.
Steve Bruce came in and we were full of hope but under no illusion as to the massive job he had on his hands but most of us thought with time things would improve. Indeed they did for the first few games a draw at home to Wolves followed by wins away at Reading and at home to Fulham. A derby day draw at Brum and a home win against lowly Blackburn and a hard fought draw at promotion hopefuls Brighton had us thinking we were on the road to recovery but since the win against Burton Villa haven’t won a game in ten in all competitions losing nine of those and drawing one conceding 17 goals and scoring just 5 in that time.
The first lost game against Cardiff came on the 2nd of January and even after all January signings had been completed games against Spurs, Wolves, and finally Brentford had all been lost. The rut has continued ever since then.
Bruce is clearly struggling to get theses group of players to execute exactly what he, not wants, but needs them to start doing. Lansbury is a good midfielder but he has come from a struggling Forest team which must have implications confidence wise. Issues with Grealish continue to surface, Alan Hutton is struggling but shows commitment.
So what’s the way forward? In the last 5 games 5 different formations have been used with too many goals conceded. 4-3-3, 5-3-2 (to try and shore up the leaks), 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1 and an adventurous 3-4-3 attacking set up which was quickly abandoned are formations which have all been used in the string of defeats.
This is not the way to install confidence in a team struggling to score goals let alone win games. The team look confused at what they are being asked to do week to week. We don’t know Bruce’s training program throughout the week. Team shape, individual duties offensively and defensively, Set piece work is all very important and who am I to judge Bruce’s working style but I worry that even if all the important stuff is being worked on confidence is very low and have the players got it in them to drag themselves out of it?
There is a need to install some belief back into the side, Hogans injury is another low but with the new players adding to the quality that is already there Villa should be 10 places higher than they are.
Below is how I think Bruce should set up the team for the next few games to try to steady the ship.
Going to a 4-5-1 gives the team the stability that they need at this moment in time Jedinak or Lansbury can sit in front of the back four as that extra bit of protection whilst Hourihane and Bjarnsson/Grealish can get forward if the turnover of possession is quick enough. Taylor must play instead of Hutton I feel no disrespect to the latter but times a changing.
When confidence has come back into side a 3-5-2 can be Bruce’s go to formation. Villa must make use of Taylor and Amavi down the flanks especially as Jedinak is fit again he is defensively minded enough to cover if the attack breaks down. A back 3 of Chester, Baker and Elphick are mobile enough. Confident defending seems to have broken down and these three haven’t become bad defenders in 6 months.
Kodija and Hogan are not the sole answer to Villa’s goal scoring. A pacy, goal poaching striker is needed to complement the similarities that both Kodija and Hogan possess. Spending wisely come the summer is paramount and it will be interesting to see who Steve Bruce brings in to give us an indication of how Villa will play next season.