As Villa had the best of the first half against Newcastle a few weeks ago, the season finally looked like it was coming together. Instead two self-inflicted goals left us with the same old feeling of hopelessness and resignation. Another false dawn. four games and nine points later a corner finally seems to have been turned. There’s a lot more improvement needed but that should come as the team continues to gel and look more balanced.
Finding a Balance
Villa finally begun to find a balance. For months Villa have shifted between systems, strikers playing wide, non specialist wingers, and more recently a striking duo that just don’t look compatible.
The use of actual wide players in the wide position has helped. The injury to Andre Green was a blow as the youngster was growing in confidence with every game but the recent use of both Amavi and Taylor means the former’s talents are being focused on without worrying about his defensive lapses.
It’s no coincidence that the return to fitness and form of Mile Jedinak has come alongside Villa’s best run of form. Jedinak finding his feet after a slow start to his claret and blue career has helped to sure up the defence while allowing some of the more forward thinking and creative players to thrive….
Jonathan ‘Jimmy Danger’ Kodjia has been a riddle at times this season. On the one hand he is Villa’s top scorer and has been the brightest light this term. That said, he has also been accused of being greedy on the ball. This was most obvious when partnered with Villa’s newest addition, Scott Hogan.
Half by choice and half by circumstance Steve Bruce has stumbled across his most effective front/wide three recently. Greedy but effective. Adaptable, but best as a central main man. His selflessness is somewhat less important outside of a front two but when Hogan returns the boss will have a big choice to make.
Will he change a system that’s getting results? will he revert back to playing one of the forwards out wide? For now things seem to be working as they are. I’m happy that we can get the most from him and we can afford for the Ivorian to be a bit selfish, if he’s racking up goals. Goals and wins are the most important thing right now and Kodjia is delivering.
We’ve seen that Albert Adomah has been an important creator of goals so far this term, but there is another man whose recent form has been pivotal in Villa’s improving fortunes…
On a Run
Before the loss to Huddersfield Aston Villa were on the best winning run they’ve been on since 2010. They also managed to bounce back from the aforementioned loss. These improved results has been in no small part thanks to the performances of Conor Hourihane.
Finally we have a player who is really contributing in the final third from central midfield. Hourihane is willing to make forward runs, often popping up in the right place at opportune moments. This sounds like a simple thing to do but it’s something that Villa have been sorely missing since the O’Neill era. Kodjia may still be snatching headlines but some of the support players deserve a lot of credit for that, few more than Hourihane.
The former Barnsley man’s impact hasn’t gone unnoticed outside of Villa Park and he has been called into the Republic of Ireland’s provisional squad for their upcoming European World Cup Qualifier against Wales.
Defence and Form
Most highlight reels are dominated by goals but it’s the plugging of defensive gaps that has largely led to Villa’s mini revival. For that Bruce deserves credit. He has organised and selected the right personal at the right times. He has been rewarded with four clean sheets in five games, unthinkable just a few weeks ago.
Onward and Upward
Oddly enough, Villa’s best results this season haven’t always come alongside our better performances. Winning ugly, whatever it takes, is a good characteristic to have and Villa have long needed this grit.
That said, further improvement is needed if Villa wish to continue to rise up the table and build a team for next year. The likes of Hourihane and Lansbury have benefited from Villa’s new balance and resilience, but the onus must also be on them to start controlling games more.
There is no reason that good results and good performances have to be mutually exclusive and it’s up to our better players to take charge, and build on the platform of good results.
14 points to the playoff places seems insurmountable but progress is beginning to show. We can be under no illusions, there is still plenty of work to be done to get this team back where it belongs but at least we’re starting to face the right direction.
This season has been a mess but fans are now getting the ups and downs of a normal football campaign, instead of never ending downs. The ‘Bruce out’ brigade have quietened and things are looking brighter, although the skies a far from clear yet.
Games coming thick and fast has helped Villa build momentum. A week between games this week is well-timed, as injuries have begun to mount. Saturday’s trip to Wigan is the perfect opportunity to continue the restoration of this club.
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