Yesterday’s trip to Carrow Road saw Aston Villa lose comfortably to a Norwich City side that effectively ended the remaining belief and opportunity of automatic promotion.
After Cardiff’s dramatic defeat to top of the table Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday night, anything less than a win in East Anglia would signal playoffs at best for Steve Bruce’s men.
Despite a poor run compared to the successes of January and February, it is that positive run of results that still gives me belief.
However, in all honesty … it’s wavering fast.
What I find most worrying is the fact that we’ve picked up only 1 point from QPR, Bolton, Hull and Norwich City.
Pretty alarming too when you analyse the performances further.
There seems to be a constant want to cross the ball in. Undoubtedly the assists from Albert Adomah and Robert Snodgrass have been influential in many of our results but sometimes it’s a bit one dimensional and predictable.
QPR at home for instance. Within twenty minutes of kicking off we had played several crosses in and all were won by taller, physical defenders.
I can’t really remember any direct football, passing, flowing movement. Shots from outside the box too.
I chalked off QPR as an off day.
Bolton away came next and although we created more chances, again the constant need to cross was dealt with comfortably.
I’ve previously said we need to remember the performances against Bristol City and Wolves and realise what we are actually capable of.
Both games we played attacking, attractive football. The hand brake was off and the players terrorised both teams with fast paced, direct football.
However much it took out of the players, we haven’t seen anything near to the likes of those performances. Reading were a poor side. Obviously it was a welcome result but they were dreadful and the early sending off finished them off in terms of any real attacking threat.
Hogan made several good runs yesterday and was found once or twice but again too many balls were well off targeting him.
The older players are genuinely looking shattered. Adomah and Snodgrass were blowing in the first half yesterday and both Taylor and Elmohamady looked burnt out and were easily brushed aside by the likes of James Maddison and Josh Murphy.
Steve Bruce needs to instill belief and confidence within the squad rapidly. The playoffs should be secured, but a couple more losses and even they could become questionable with the form of teams like Millwall.
The squad needs to be utilised to keep the star performers fresh and ready for the challenge of the playoffs.
Tiredness is inevitable but I’d also argue that case when you see that Brentford (25) and Millwall (24) have used the least amount of players this season. Also factor in what they have spent and their squads and they are grossly overachieving. Particularly Neil Harris at Millwall who will feel aggrieved to have not been named the Manager of the Year following promotion last season.
But ultimately for me, the style of football needs to be more direct and controlled. The cautious approach saw us completely waste the first half again yesterday.
I think I’d speak for most in saying I’d rather us go for the jugular and lose 4-3 than see what we’ve seen in our recent defeats. Too much respect and not enough urgency.
Hopefully the gradual return to match fitness of Jonathan Kodjia and possibly Andre Green will support the team in being able to turn things around.
We have the belief as fans, but now it’s over to the manager, the coaching staff and more importantly, the players.