Are Aston Villa Currently “Winging It”?

By Liam Scahill

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In the aftermath of the emotionally infused derby victory over our friendly neighbours, many a partisan Villan may have found themselves in the cold light of day critically analysing the “footballing fair” or lack thereof, that was on offer.

Villa forced only one corner and had one shot on target, from B6’s own “Angel Gabriel” after some six-yard box ping pong sent Villa Park into rapture. If though one sprinkles Villa’s season with a pinch of analytical reasoning, rather than just reviewing a derby game incensed with local pride and sentiment, a definitive clear footballing philosophy is nigh on impossible to decipher or envisage for the future.


Against our noisy neighbours, Steve Bruce attempted to shoehorn several different personnel into the left side of the Villa midfield flank, each was functional, but none were proficient it is fair to say. The glaring lack of width Villa have employed at times this season has aided and abetted a scenario to develop where predominately Villa’s footballing attacking threat hinges solely on one Johnathan Kodjia’s individual goal getting ability.

In many ways, modern football has also conspired in Villa burgeoning a symbiotic like relationship with Kodjia; the Villa-Kodjia amorous entanglement is an all too eerily familiar situation to a former over-dependant relationship Villa once shared with former talismanic figure Christian Benteke.

When Kodjia is unavailable, Villa struggle, just like they did when the big Belgian was not on the field.

Identity Crisis

In recent times, the once unquestionable assertion that every team must include orthodox wingers in their ranks, has been viewed by a multitude of football connoisseurs as a throwback to a bygone footballing era.

This in turn naturally, may have influenced Villa’s player recruitment in recent times, but considering the amount of cash the club has forked out this season on players, the fact that the only affective left-wing option truly available to Bruce, is an exciting youth product fledging at the commencement of his career in the form of André Green, is a worrying condemnation against the club’s foresight in developing a footballing ethos abated through planned player recruitment.


To employ a structured approach to player recruitment, essentially a club first needs a footballing identity or a desire to develop one. Given the upheaval of the last few months in Villa’s world, it’s difficult to see exactly what our current approach is, bar out spending our rivals.

Of course, many would argue, the obvious lack of a current philosophy can be attributed to the imperative necessity for the club to gain immediate promotion back to the holy money grail of the Premiership as soon as possible, by whatever means necessary.

Longer term strategies in all walks of life, quite often give way to human nature’s mannerisms, supporters and club stakeholders like everyone else seek and are hardwired to desire instant gratification. The danger is, if the club’s hierarchy falls foul of a similar line of reasoning and thinking, then the probability of seeing Villa wield a successful team with a clear footballing ethos or philosophy is slim to none. The recent learnings generated by the Lerner years should not be ignored or treated as taboo.

Next Season

The balancing act the club faces preparing for next season is one laden with pitfalls, vitally this season’s new recruits will have had time to settle but some form of a footballing strategy will need to be establishment and instilled by Bruce and his cohorts.

Defensively the organisation is there of late, in the attacking third and in the midfield engine room much work is ahead. Perhaps Bruce’s coaching staff requires reinforcement?

Wingers are effective in the Championship and in the wider game of football generally, one could argue. Anthony Knockaert has been instrumental in Brighton’s successes this season and he picked up the EFL Player of the Season for his efforts along the way.

Closer to home, Albert Adomah has been Villa’s standout performer when it comes to providing assists with an impressive tally of 10 to date, although this doesn’t seem to translate into the player having too much impact game-in and game-out. How Bruce addresses the evident starvation of service with regard Scott Hogan, will go a long way in weaning the playing squad off the worrying over dependence on Kodjia.


The signing of Hogan and the subsequent failure of the team to adequately feed him playing to his strengths (see also Ross McCormack) is testament to the dangers of not establishing a clear definitive footballing strategy both on and off the pitch. Financially, we cannot always hope to be in a position where we can bully many of our direct rivals, thus recruitment needs to be astute and shrewd.

Long-term Pay-off

On a larger scale, Borussia Dortmund is symbolic of what can be achieved through long-term practical thinking, in 2005 the German footballing juggernaut was almost broke, today the club is awash with some of the best young footballing talent in the world, some purchased and some developed.

Obviously, Villa is a far cry from Dortmund and Bruce isn’t exactly of the Thomas Tuchel mould, but there are some fundamental philosophies that can be duplicated.

They’re envious club structure displays an admirable resilience with regard an uncanny ability to absorb player and manager departures alike. Their ethos remains, and subsequently so does success on the field. The motivation of creating the Technical Director role at Villa and bringing in Steve Round was to start to build the foundation for Villa to also forge its own identity and way of doing things.

Villa’s current situation can derive some inspiration from Oscar Wilde when he said, “Success is a science, if you have the conditions you get the result”.

Resource wise Dr Tony Xia, parachute payments and the club’s stature has so far provided nourishment to establish fertile conditions for success to grow, whether the other facets of the club can take advantage of this will determine our future.


Follow Liam on Twitter here – @Sir_Scatman

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  1. if doc tony is serious about villa being up their with barca and real madrid the biggest signing he can make is the manager. ALL of us expected a top 10 finish at the very least when steve bruce took over. imo I would get rid of him now for all sorts of reasons. I know its not easy to attract a top manager to the championship, but dr tony has clout (money) he should go all out for brendon rogers I think he could bring back the feel good factor back to ASTON VILLA. anyone who says bruce needs more time or its a work in progress will be the first moaning next season when it will be to late to act.

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