What We Learned As Villa Fans as Nervy Villa Lose To Leeds

Optimism was high going into Elland Road, but fans were deflated after a 2-0 defeat. It was Steve Bruce’s first defeat as Villa boss. What did Aston Villa fans learn from a forgettable performance?


Leeds United are a club that’s been to hell and back. And that builds character. The identity of the club has always been strong, powerful, intimidating and after what they have been through since winning the last old Division One title has been a rocky road that’s not for the weak-hearted.

Villa may well have turned the corner under Steve Bruce, but the team was beaten by a combination of some naive refereeing, some overly cautious tactics and individual mistakes all over the field.


Bear in mind this defeat was the exception, not the rule, since Bruce took over. Both Martin O’Neill and Brian Little made mistakes tactically during their largely successful tenures, abandoning what was giving them the best chance of winning and adjusting to make allowances for their opponents. Strong teams don’t do that. You know what you do best: let them deal with it. That should be Villa’s long-term goal.

But for now: focus on the good stuff. And we’ll get them next time.


Pierluigi Gollini has good games and bad games. Sadly for goalkeepers, one mistake can define a game – or a career. He’s just 21 and this column hopes his career can follow that of Mark Bosnich (until the point he leaves on a free to Manchester United and develops personal problems – nobody wants that) and develop into a regular starter and long-time Villa hero between the sticks. But Bosnich had to compete with and learn from Nigel Spink at the time. Gollini doesn’t have that luxury.

A vocal veteran keeper with aggression and command of the area ought to be on the January shopping list. Not as a replacement for Gollini, but as competition and as an example to set to what he could be.


Any coach at any level in any sport knows you can’t account for individual mistakes. Worse that that they decrease confidence and that caution and nervousness spreads throughout the team. Villa might have got away with that against a lesser team and scraped a result. But Leeds are bully boys and they exploited that.

Baker missing at the back didn’t help after developing a fine relationship with James Chester. Jonathan Kodjia was covering every blade of grass in an attempt to pick up the slack but he wasn’t getting the ball where he should be – in front of goal. Gardner and Hutton made forgettable slip-ups and even Jedinak who dominated the field last week couldn’t impose himself in the same way against Leeds.

Man management can only take you so far, and these players are still prone to crack when they see a game slipping away. Maybe they just haven’t earned it at this level yet? Or maybe they need to keep chipping away and working hard, forgetting the bad old days and remind themselves the fans were riding some self-belief for the first time in a long time and we all like how it feels.


The one player who wasn’t lacking confidence was Jack Grealish, when he finally got on the pitch. A victim of Bruce setting up to counter Leeds, maybe he should have played from the start?  He was ready to take everyone on, finding good passes and strolled around the Elland Road field like he just walked into the club (although saying that, Villa did concede the first goal within a minute of him coming on!).

“Swagger” – it’s been a while. And yes, there’s a time and a place for it. But it beats panicking and lumping the ball or falling over and gifting the opposition soft goals. In this column’s opinion, Grealish is at a critical time in his career and the chance to experience the toughness of the Championship week-in, week-out combined with his flair and vision could be the making of him. Critics be damned.


Follow Adam Keeble on Twitter @keebo00

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  1. Commeting only on what i saw at the game with Villa on Saturday. I felt Villa were the better of 2 cautious sides for half an hour, with Leeds matching Villa for between 30 and 45minuts. Leeds were the better side in the second half, the pace of Sacko worried your left back all game. Howsever, Adomahs miss after half time was probably a defining moment.

    The idea that Leeds bullied a Villa side with plenty of Premiership experience is ridiculous. Our central midfield partnership of Phillips and Vierra probably have a combined total appearances of 30, and physically both are slight when stood against the likes of Jedinek, who had a particularly poor game and seemed to lack mobility. Also Jannson who has b asically won every ariel duel against anybody found in Gestede an even match he was unable to dominate.

    That said i was diappointed with Villa, who as you say appeared to change to accomodate Leeds style of play. I thought you came for a point, with the hope a chance would fall to pinch the game. If you’re going to play that way i feel you need to break quickly to take advantage and in this i don’t think Gestede is the best choice.
    The exclusion of Grealish was a pleasant surprise, evidenced by the classy cameo he produced when he came on. On the whole though i thought Leeds second half performance saw them run out deserved winners. THe atmosphere at Elland Road was brilliant and in this Villa fans at least played there part.
    How will sides both sides fair this year? Leeds are improving under Monk a top six place is there if we can keep key players fit and acheive some consistency. For Villa, shoild make the top 6 but as you find out this is a tough League in which you can find youreslf 5th as soon as 15th

  2. I have seen a lot of comments from Villa fans and I have been impressed by the general level headed and balanced approach both to the Villa performance and that of my team, Leeds. It is a refreshing change. Good luck all.

  3. Completely agree that Jack should start every game. Not just because he is by far our best creative player but also because the 4-3-3 does not suit our CM’ers. Jedi, Gards, Westy and probably Tish are all far more suited to a sitting role in a 2 (in a 4-2-3-1) rather than the more box to box roles demanded of a wide CM in a 3. We would be defensively stronger with a sitting 2 and far more creative with 4 attackers and Jack at no. 10.

    Equally, I don’t know how anybody can go into a counter attacking strategy with Gestede as your no. 9?? Much better with Kodjia up there or even Gabby or RHM who both have pace to burn.

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