The Hard Questions on the Pitch That Aston Villa Need Answering

Last week, Aston Villa CEO Keith Wyness tweeted about ‘every hard question [was] being asked’ in order to get Villa back on track. With that in mind, here’s a few hard questions about Villa on the pitch that have been puzzling MOMS this season…

Why have Villa not put a ‘team’ together?

James Chester and Birkir Bjarnason during the European Championships played in two national teams that clearly demonstrated that team spirit and organisation can triumph over a bunch of better quality individuals who lack cohesion.

Chester was in the Wales team that beat Belgium, while Bjarnason starred for Iceland when they felled England.

Unfortunately, when Villa turn up to play Championship teams like Brentford, they take the role of Belgium or England from the Euros.

Villa tend to be the favourites purely based on the individuals in the team, and often they are undone by teams that have a plan and whose players play together in unison.

Look at Villa’s four performances against Brentford in the Championship in the last two seasons. They’ve failed to win any of them, with Villa’s players looking like strangers to each other in comparison to the Bees’ efforts.

Certainly a better understanding between players in Villa’s attacking play with more willing runners to support their teammates would be a step in the right direction.

What’s the Villa midfield doing?

It’s a generalisation, but at the moment it seems Steve Bruce primary focus for Villa’s midfield is to defend.

The defensive midfielder is probably the first name on the teamsheet and the central midfielder alongside him – normally Conor Hourihane – is often anchored deep, blunting that player’s skill set.

Conor Hourihane and Henri Lansbury were bought because of their contributions in the final third at their previous teams, yet they are seemingly playing a lot deeper at Villa. Is it any surprise that they haven’t replicated their form from their previous clubs?

Are the midfield still playing with too much fear in terms of the direction of their passing? Should they pass forward more? Should there be more planned running off the ball in midfield to create more positive passing opportunities?

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Why Are Villa Paying Players Top Dollar to Play Like Underdogs?

Villa have tempted several players to join that could still be plying their trade in the Premier League and they’ve also bought some of the supposed best players of various Championship teams. So why aren’t they bossing teams in games like Newcastle and Brighton were last season and Wolves have done this season?

Is a deep DM needed in every game, when our attacking play seems stunted because of it?

Surely with some of the players we have, Villa should be playing with greater conviction and on the front foot more often? You know, playing like promotion contenders.

At the moment, going into games, there’s still a bit of a coin-toss feel to the potential result.

How do you play Jack Grealish?

Grealish has long been hyped as Villa’s great home-grown hope.

Is getting the best out of Grealish a matter of just finding the right position for him? Or is it more about finding a way to get the team playing that maximises his potential?

It’s the later in MOMS’ book and the knock-on effect is it would bring the best out of other players.

Currently, Grealish is often seen running with the ball at two or three (or more) opposition players with little support from his teammates. Yet, in Hourihane, Snodgrass, Adomah and Onomah, Villa have the kind of midfielders, if they are allowed to play, that are good enough to help get the best out of Grealish.

Add to the mix, more progressive full backs to support, then surely it would also help open things up for our forwards. Suddenly Hogan wouldn’t be running around without hope and the likes of Davis and Kodjia would be allowed to get on the end of chances, rather than having to force the issue themselves.

More pace in the team would also help stretch teams to give Grealish’s quick footballing brain a better chance to operate.

The current mindset and setup of the team currently isn’t suited for Grealish and it only allows his contribution to be limited to having to show flashes of brilliance.

That said, there is a lot of positive ideology that goes into discussing the potential of Grealish, and a good player should be able to make an impression in any team, so there remains a lot of responsibility on Grealish to make his mark whatever the circumstances.

Should Villa stick to playing players in their proper position?

Why play a midfielder at centre-back when you have a centre-back previously good enough for promotion to the Premier League to play instead? Why play Onomah as a false striker when you have a couple of strikers on the bench (one that you paid around £10m for)?

Why play Hourihane and Lainsbury as deep-lying midfielders when they have excelled as match-winners playing as more forward-thinking midfielders?

There have been a few managerial decisions that even the Villa boss himself has questioned his own judgment on after games.

Why try and complicate matters and take risks? When able like-for-like options exist?

The Villa manager has brought various proven tools that do specific jobs well, but then struggles to simply use them for their designated purpose.

At times, it’s been self-defeating.

Is there is anything else that baffles you about Villa’s play that you’d like put right in 2018? Have your say below in the comments.


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  1. This piece is not brilliant. Yes it is superbly accurate and we’ll written. But , anyone who has watched us this season could easily have written the same thing. It is only repeating exactly what is being said week in week out. The only person who was not able to write it is Bruce and other heirarchy at the club. Football can be a simple game, If the balls in their half they can’t score. When they have the ball you mark, close down , prevent the pass and win it back. When you have the ball find space give the man with the ball a choice of passes. If you pass the ball forward some will go to our players if they move. If you don’t move and pass the ball back some will go opposition players won’t they whelan,Jedinack? Nothing wrong with the players just the way they are managed.

    • The piece references Wyness’s tweet about hard questions being needed to be asked. Those questions, as the article suggests and you point out, have been known to us for ages.

  2. Great piece spot on. It would be to the managers credit to address these points in his press confetences rsthet than imply some fans sre making mountains from molehills.

  3. I think all the baffling aspects of Villa’s play have been covered in this piece but what does baffle me is why Brian Little, as club advisor, isn’t hammering down Steve Round’s office door advising him to find another manager pronto. How did Bruce ever get 4 promotions from this league playing with such defensive minded tactics and playing it safe with tactics and player selections all the time. Has he always been like this or is it a sign of old age?

  4. If I were able to write an article on the state of our team, and the failure of coaching/management, those words in this article is exactly what I would have written.
    I’ve been banging on for weeks about the negativity of the team selection and tactics from the manager, and how players are being crushed by the methods they have to use on the pitch.
    Steve Bruce’s tactics and managerial ideas belong in the past, the Championship is full of forward thinking attack minded managers, and we have a donkey in charge. UTV

  5. Also like to ad the article is very good but just points to the fact that our manager hasn’t a clue and is tactically inept

  6. Exactly and why don’t we buy players like Johnson if it’s true that he’s going to West Brom for 4 ml
    That’s a disgrace, I don’t see that figure being any problem get shot of Agbonlahor on 60k per week just don’t renew his contract and that would more than pay for the keeper or maybe our board can’t work that out, sorry but we’ve been reading this garbage for months and nothing has been done, also if true it goes to show how much sway our ex United captain Bruce has, exactly zero. Been a villa supporter for very many years but it seems to me that nowadays we’re all talk and no action.

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