Can things get any worse? I naively thought they couldn’t after last season’s shambolic relegation from the Premier League, but I’ve seemingly been proved wrong. After each and every loss I feel that we’ve hit rock bottom but, subsequently, the Villans seem to prove me wrong, again. Losing our unbeaten home record against Ipswich Town was a new low for us, although only Aston Villa Football Club could top that with back-to-back home defeats.
In these times of trouble, we need stability. For many years when things have started to go off-track, we have changed manager or had a mass-exodus of players, which has clearly not worked. What is needed now is not sacking Steve Bruce; instead, we need to ride out this storm. A prime example of this is Norwich City. In a disastrous run from mid-October to December, the team lost nine out of eleven games in all competitions. Inevitably, one of the games they didn’t lose was a 1-0 triumph against Aston Villa. However, Norwich’s board stood by Alex Neil despite the catastrophic slump in form and now they have climbed up to seventh in the league and are real contenders for the play-offs. You can start to see some bookies like Sportsbook software already dropping the odds on a double relegation for Villa.
Likewise, we need to stick with the players. Altering the formation every match and changing four or five players will not be good for confidence or for the chemistry between the players. Bruce needs to find a formation and a set of players and he needs to stick with them.
The problems at Aston Villa cannot rest solely at Steve Bruce’s feet. While I feel he has made some decisions that have bewildered me at the best of times, if a man who has been promoted out of this division on four occasions isn’t the right man at this time for Aston Villa then I don’t know who is. The problems at B6 are deep-rooted and we need to identify them and fix them as soon as possible.
Whenever we sell players deemed not good enough for Aston Villa, they seem to find their feet instantly at their new clubs. Ashley Westwood received constant abuse at times this season yet slotted straight into a two-man midfield alongside Joey Barton as Burnley picked up a point against runaway Premier League leaders Chelsea. Likewise, Ross McCormack was the villain at Villa yet scored on his debut for Nottingham Forest away to Norwich City.
In addition, we have bought a formidable Championship team yet we are losing to teams that have assembled teams of free agents and youngsters who came through their academy. This season, Adomah, Hourihane and Lansbury have twenty-two assists between them, whilst Kodjia and Hogan have scored twenty-five combined league goals. In the last two games, we have had forty-four shots, with only one finding the back of net.
It seems that although we have performed badly in recent weeks, we have not had the rub of the green that most Championship teams enjoy. Whenever we make one mistake it is emphatically punished whilst whoever the opposing goalkeeper seems to have the best game of his career.
What we need now is to stick it out and give the players time to settle and gel. A changing of the guard is not the answer; Steve Bruce has to make it work. He has the players to do so and it is now up to him to find the formation and players to get the results.