The VTID Column: Bruce’s Dilemmas, Villa’s Goal Drought, Beyond Dr Tony’s Wallet

Monthly musings on the state of Aston Villa...

‘We can’t keep signing players and then ignore the strengths that made them stand out at their previous clubs.’

By Paul Abdale

Fat Camps and Faulty Gates.

That would make a great title for a book if someone cared to pore over the misery and frustration of the last two seasons.

It’s not just that the football has been bad – and it really has – but we’ve become a soap opera.

The “circus in the town”, well that’s us.


Bruce’s Dilemma(s)

Steve Bruce must be praying for a campaign free from drama. No trips to player’s houses, no questions about Jack Grealish on a night out, no more talk about Gabby’s weight.

Just a run-of-the-mill season where we become boring off the pitch.

Which would be ironic because we’ve become dull on it.

A lack of goals, a lack of intensity and a lack of excitement.

No team managed by Bruce will ever get promoted playing free-flowing, we’ll-score-more-than-you football.

But as the Geordie finishes playing golf with everyone’s favourite new defender, then finding a solution to our disjointed attacking play must be his next priority.

Our goal-scoring at home was average, 33 in 23 games. The 11th best in the league. We found the net in 22 of 23 home games, never scoring more than three.
But away from Villa Park we failed to show up.

The fans set their sat-navs for Ninian Park and Oakwell but the players got lost.
If we thought our last season in the Premier League was the end of us propping up tables, well think again.


We were the lowest scorers away from home. A rousing 14 goals. FOURTEEN. In. The. Championship.

Three less than bottom-of-the-table Rotherham and six less than our delightful city rivals.

In our relegation season we scored 13 in 19 on our travels – 0.68 per game. Last season it was 14 in 23 – 0.6 per game.

Yes, that’s right. A relegation season that featured arse-tweeters, shisa pipes, dire attitudes and horrific football.

Poor signings, 17 points, record defeats, protests and walks outs.

Well away from home our attacking play was even worse than that. Yet that’s still not the worst bit.

Because when it came to scoring goals in open play, the part where we’re actually supposed to create and take chances, Villa were bottom (again) with eight.

Eight goals from open play in 2,070 minutes.

Eight goals from a team that brought in Kodjia, McCormack and Hogan.

Eight goals from a team that features a midfield with Grealish, Adomah and Hourihane.


We spent £35million on three strikers and somehow managed fewer goals against weaker opposition. Only Villa.

It’s no surprise that Kodjia was our top scorer away from home with five. Grealish next with two. Players who can create something out of nothing which appeared to be the only way we would find the net.

Way Forward

Despite our travel sickness the bookies make us favourites to go up. Over the last four seasons in the Championship the lowest goals and points for automatic promotion was second-placed Middlesbrough in 2016 – 63 goals and 89 points.

Last season we totalled 47 goals and 62 points. So the minimum we need to avoid the play-offs is close to another 30 points and 20 goals. That’s a little bit more than a slight tweak to the squad.

In this summer’s market we clearly need a keeper, cover at left-back, cover for Jedinak and a left winger.

But, more importantly, we need to find a better way of utilising the players we’ve already got.

It can’t always be about dipping further into Dr Tony’s wallet.

We can’t keep signing players and then ignore the strengths that made them stand out at their previous clubs.

At Brentford, Hogan thrived on early crosses and quick through-balls. We lump the ball up to him with no support leaving him looking like me when the wife says, “fancy watching Love Island?”

Whatever way Bruce finds of improving the team, the perfect test will come in our first away game – Ninian Park and Neil Warnock.

A hostile, in-your-face-let’s-see-what-you’ve-got-this-season kind of match. A fixture which largely summed up our away performances last season: lethargic, concede scrappy goal, lose.

If, with a couple of new players and a more dynamic approach, we can pull out a performance and result in Wales, then we really will be in with a chance.

If we revert to the away displays of last season then we’ll be as stuck as those faulty gates.


Make sure you follow Paul on Twitter here – @paulabdale


  1. We need to unload the dead wood. Far more important than signing more “old heads”. We need creativity. Hurihane was the divisions most creative player with the most assists. I think 90% of those was before he joined. Similar comments could be made for goals from Gestede, McCormack, and Hogan. What we need is a change the way we play. If Bruce is incapable of changing his way of playing with the best players in the division then he should go now. We should not need more players we have more than enough to win this division.

  2. The media are linking us with just about every available player, our club seem to be doing nothing except talking. I don’t care whether Terry signs or not I’m teed off with the whole sad saga, let’s get on with a keeper why didn’t we sign Johnson when we had the chance if it’s true that his current value is 2.5 mil we can surely afford this fair play or not,we just seem to be faffing around. as far as I am concerned the only reason that Terry would be a good signing is for his experience and help with our young players I also think that he might just help our dressing room and install some grit and fight, let’s face it with the players signed last season our final position was a disgrace, I’m not too sure about Bruce so maybe Terry could do what Bruce can’t and if so then 5 mil might just be a price worth paying. And for me forget Wheelan he’s way past his sell by date, finally I’m sorry to say this but I read everywhere that we are favourites for promotion and Bruce is the man to take us up, well I wish I could say that I was confident but at this moment in time as a club we’re just going round in circles and getting nowhere.
    I’ve been a Villa supporter for more years than I care to mention but we are still a shambles on and off the field and it has to be sorted now.

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