What We Learned as Villa Fans After Christmas Week Double Act

Two wins out of two is a cause for festive celebration. What did Villa fans learn from the rare away win (on Sky!) against QPR and the close-to-capacity home win over Burton Albion?


QPR are not in great form but they were lucky to get off with just a 0-1 defeat to a Villa team who looked good for good periods of time during the early kick-off game.

Kodjia had his shirt ripped and missed a penalty before netting the (slightly fortunate) winner. But the fans had been waiting to exorcise some ghosts and even without much time in the pubs before the game, the atmosphere was fun – like Christmas had come early. After the crappy loss at Norwich just five days earlier, this was just the tonic to give Villa fans a lift.


Burton played their part in the Boxing Day match. It was a full house and a local derby – just 32 miles stadium-to-stadium. Their fans out sang the Villa for most of the game (Ed – controversial!) and the players showed composure and pressure, while struggling in the final third. Villa offered very little aside from Bacuna’s fine header and the equaliser was twice as spectacular and extremely timely.

Bruce’s tactical change got Villa off the hook with Ayew making an immediate impression but Ross McCormack had shown precious little until his winner. Bruce said the team was lucky and he was proved doubly right with the last gasp save from Bunn to keep the three points. Maybe Bunn could have run the clock down a little more like he did at Loftus Road (and earned a booking for his troubles).

On the one hand, playing poorly and winning is a quality that will serve Villa very well if they are to maintain any momentum. But on the other hand, teams like Burton can’t be allowed to come to Villa Park and put in the performance they did.


Nathan Baker has been a rock since his return to the team. He and Chester are showing flashes of being a defensive pairing for the ages (sorry, Tommy Elphick, but it’s true).

When Villa were hanging on to the win against Burton, there was Baker getting his hands dirty. His no-nonsense tackles and intimidating play set an example of how to play tough and win over fans while making the opposition think twice.

While Kodjia was struggling to get any contact with his head as the balls aimed to him were mistimed, or just missed, Baker met his headers with authority and has benefited from his time on loan in this division. In short, he looks like he gets it.


Jack Grealish is not a luxury player and this column repeats its plea to see him start every week. Benched for the whole game against QPR, he second half performance against Burton added a new dimension to the team’s play. His effort on goal stabbed in by an offside Kodjia showed the fans what he can do.

The fear is he’s going to be labeled a Chris Waddle type – all flair but no graft – but the truth is he could be a rare English talent if he gets the breaks he needs. Gary Gardner has struggled, and Bacuna continues to show his poor decision making (goal against Burton aside, he missed passes over and over again) while Grealish watches from the bench.

The game against Leeds is set up for him to give the opposition something to think about. Fans know the bullying nature of the LUFC and at worst he will win free kicks all game. At best he will drift by them and trouble their lack of finesse for 90 minutes – if he gets the chance.


Follow Adam Keeble on Twitter @keebo00

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  1. Good point made on Grealish, however I doubt Bruce will take chances. His midfield is the weakest department, and Grealish’s inclusion won’t strengthen it. I see him being brought on at the best for the second half if we’re losing. It’s an unbalanced side. Getting in a box to box midfield player (Tshibola?),will help the likes of Grealish get into the starting 11. However, you can’t control a game with a weak midfield, and that’s the problem.

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