After a decent mid-week win away at Preston, Villa found their unbeaten home record shattered by Sheffield Wednesday, who before the game were in danger of recording their fourth consecutive away loss.
The Owls 2-1 win placed a big question mark over Steve Bruce’s team being the real promotion deal and caused fresh problems for Villa as the game went along.
The John Terry injury, that keeps him out until the new year, was a hammer blow considering his form this season and the amount of clean sheets Villa have racked up in recent months.
Also worrying was the Robert Snodgrass situation. The right-winger came off in anguish and anger, clutching his ribs. It was surprising that Bruce considered it a good idea to risk the midfielder with two broken ribs, despite the player’s willingness to play.
The main concern though was the lack of urgency or ideas in trying to get back into the game. The game looked done and dusted even before the half-time whistle was blown and that’s not a good sign for the rest of the season.
In the meantime, here’s five reasons to be cheerful as Villa fans…
After events seriously turned against Villa during the Sheffield Wednesday game, from the loss of the unbeaten home record to the loss of the team’s captain until the new year, the fact that Villa hung on in the play-off spots at least is some solace.
While question marks may still exist in terms of our automatic promotion pedigree at the moment, play-offs hopefully remain the minimum finishing spot this season.
What was billed as a big season for Jack Grealish didn’t exactly start well, when he was injured in pre-season. Initially it was feared he wouldn’t be back until the new year, but coming on against Wednesday his vision led to Villa’s late consolation goal.
Back in preseason, Bruce had spoken about playing Grealish in the hole in a 4-4-1-1 formation to get the best out of the player, so it’ll be interesting to see if Bruce still sees Grealish as pivotal to his plans, or as a player to add occasional spice to proceedings.
The signing of Joshua Onomah, who was missed against Wednesday, means it’s not going to be plain sailing for Grealish.
Before the bad news against Wednesday last weekend, the Wednesday before saw Villa put in one of their more convincing away trips this season when they won 2-0 at Preston.
It was a controlled performance that provided evidence that our perpetual away struggles are over. Villa are already one away win from equalling the four away wins they managed in the entirety of last season.
Currently, Villa have the 9th best away record in the division, so there is room for improvement in terms of cementing their promotion credentials. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.
Then there was two
After John Terry’s injury, only Sam Johnstone and James Chester have now played the full 1440 minutes of Villa’s league season so far. So, well done to them for being a stabilising force.
Chester was Villa’s most present player by far last season with 45 appearances and there’s now extra responsibility on his shoulders to shepherd Villa through the winter months.
International Break Timing
It could be argued that the last international break broke Villa’s momentum a bit, but this time around, it came at the perfect time.
Two weeks worth of games that John Terry won’t miss from his injury (as he began his rehabilitation on a Dubai beach) and it provided a chance for Joshua Onomah and Robert Snodgrass to recover from their recent injuries.
Also, it’s an extra couple of weeks for Jack Grealish to get back to full strength, after playing his first minutes of the season.
The break will also give Steve Bruce a chance to figure out the best solution in terms of covering Terry and looking at whether it should be 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 that steers Villa through the winter months.
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