First Proper Test for Steve Bruce’s Recent Villa Progress

The Villa Appetiser: Wolves v Aston Villa 2017

Returning from the international break, Villa are in four-wins-on-a-trot form as Bruce celebrates his one year anniversary at the club.

It’s fitting that Saturday’s evening clash comes against Wolves, who he faced at Villa Park during his first game in charge.

Given our league table position, Bruce makes a valid point when he says we’ve progressed since that first game, but so have Wolves – they’re 2nd in the table.

We did well against the teams towards the bottom of the table, but now the tests get harder in terms of measuring our promotion credentials.

Bruce on Wolves Clash

“When you’re in this division they’re all difficult.

“Wolves have gotten off to a good start and invested heavily over the last 12 to 18 months.

“When a team can pay £15m to £16m for a player, it means they can invest and there’s been a big change there.

“Certainly at the top end of the pitch, with the three forward players, they’re a threat.

“They play a certain way – three at the back. I don’t think that will change tomorrow.

“They’ve got an experienced manager and look to have settled down a bit.

“It’ll be a tough game – they’ve got some good players, ones who can hurt any team.

“I expect them to be there or thereabouts.”

“A big game, a big derby – bring it on.

“It’s a sell-out and it’s live on the television, too.

“It’s what we’re all in the game for – these types of matches.

“Let’s go in and enjoy it and embrace the challenge.”

and on his Villa anniversary

“Ironically, it was Wolves for my first game – it feels like yesterday.

“I remember driving home and thinking we were lucky we didn’t lose that game.

“I hope there’s been progress – where we are in the league table suggests there has been.”

Memory Match

14th Jan 2017 Wolves 1 Villa 0

A Joe Mason strike gave Wolves their first home win against Villa since May 1978.

Wolves – Last five matches at home: W 3, D 1, L 1

Villa – Last five matches away: W 2 D 1, L 2

One to Watch

Leo Bonatini – He is the only Championship player this season to have both scored and assisted four or more.

Embed from Getty Images

Wolves have won seven of their opening 11 league games this season

Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet

There have been over a hundred league meetings between Wolves and Villa, but Saturday will be just the third time the two have met in the second tier – the other two occasions occurring last season, of course.

Form has changed for both of the Football League founder members since we last met, with Wolves now eyeing a serious promotion charge after a summer of big spending. Villa’s transfers in the off-season were comparatively more conservative but an improvement has seen us rise to the edge of the play-offs.

Despite our current streak of form, however, it’s going to be tough. We couldn’t beat Wolves last season, with our only point coming at home after Costa and Kodjia penalties led to a 1-1 draw, Bruce’s debut.

Bruce has struggled against Wolves in recent years. His last victory at Molineux was recorded over 10 years ago, and he’s failed to register a win there with his last three clubs.

The Bolton victory was a nice way to sign off ahead of the international break, but the feelings of optimism for the weeks ahead was slightly dampened by Taylor’s suspension (after losing his red card appeal). The left-back has been dependable for Villa during the good run and the decision over his replacement is a tough one for Bruce.

Bruce, who was very close to getting the Wolves job in 2012, will face a different challenge than our recent fixtures.  Wolves have won seven of their opening 11 league games this season, and on the last two occasions they achieved this, (Championship 2008/09 and League One 2013/14) they were promoted…

“I hope there’s been progress – where we are in the league table suggests there has been – BRUCE on a year at villa

Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag

It’s a tough game for Villa, but there are reasons to be cheerful.

Villa have done two things recently which we’ve found difficult in the past; winning away games, and winning when we’re on Sky! In fact, Villa are now three games unbeaten on the road, winning their last two.

The win against Bolton also showed the team can win when not playing particularly well, which is key when mounting a promotion challenge.

A victory against Nuno Espírito Santo would send out a real message to the rest of the league, truly demonstrating that we can be considered as promotion contenders.

Kodjia’s penalty and first goal of the season against Bolton could be a psychological boost for our star striker, and we’re doing alright on the injury front, with Villa also boosted by Grealish’s return to full training.

The history books usually provide some reason for optimism despite all other circumstances, and while Wolves home win last season was their first over Villa since May 1978, they haven’t won consecutive home games since December 1960…

Hopefully Villa can continue to climb the league table. Win and we’re guaranteed to be in the play-off spots by the end of play, and we won’t be many points off the top spot.

Bruce said it himself. Bring it on!


Follow Lewis on Twitter – @rymondfootball

Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid

Make sure you listen to the latest episode before the match