Position Bingo

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It’s becoming difficult to be positive regarding Aston Villa at the moment.

Arguments between fans over pessimism, players, formation/player position and the route ahead are becoming more and more prevalent as we see dropped points week after week.

I say dropped points, it’s hard to say we’ve actually strung together a solid 90 minute performance in an awful long time.

When Steve Bruce was appointed, it was seen as a clever move on many levels. Experience of getting promotion being the primary reason, along with a steady, cool head to ‘steady the ship’ so to speak.

After taking over from Roberto Di Matteo, the turmoil we were in meant the job was almost a free pass to guide Villa to safety and anything above that was a bonus.

Bruce was then given the summer to build and do what he wanted to build ‘his’ own squad.

Ahmed Elmohamady and Robert Snodgrass came in amongst others. Players Bruce had worked with before.

Sam Johnstone came in for a full season long loan and there was of course John Terry.

At the time Terry was exactly the kind of player needed to lead a dressing room that was consistently seeing new managers and players by the bucket load.

Terry has bags of experience.

There were no illusions in what Bruce had been expected to achieve. Promotion was the target and he even stated that failure to gain it would most likely spell an end to his tenure.

A terrible December saw Villa fall away from the likes of Wolves and Cardiff and a rally during the turn of the year saw Bruce and his men have to settle for a playoff spot.

Bruce’s experience of playoffs and know how were seen as a huge plus but until a red card for Fulham in the second half, Villa were out passed, outclassed and out thought on pretty much all fronts.

Fast forward and after a summer in which we nearly saw administration and horrendous reports of missed tax bills and key players due to leave, we were seemingly rescued in the form of a takeover by Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens.

Thierry Henry was branded about as a man that would replace Bruce and one paper even said it was a done deal, only for the new owners to back Bruce to continue.

The reason for all this reflection is the current state of affairs right now.

As we are going through a poor run of results, Bruce has used several excuses, each with flaws and little substance.

Firstly, the ‘there or thereabouts’ phrase. Coined last season when we were struggling it’s back again and I don’t see why we should agree with it. The Championship is incredibly unpredictable and as he adds, we may only be six points off top but we’re also only six points off 21st.

Secondly, the ‘defence is struggling a bit’ comment. 15 goals conceded already. In 46 games last season we conceded only 42 goals. The defence and goalkeeper in Sam Johnstone looked miles ahead of the current situation. Mind you it helps when you have John Terry as mentioned earlier. Which leads to my next point.

Replacing Terry would always have been a huge ask. He had fast become a fans favourite for commanding the entire team and scrapping for every ball with superb positioning. But instead of strengthening the defence Bruce has persisted with his ‘position bingo’ in playing Mile Jedinak at the back.

Subsequently, out of position, it’s also had a negative effect upon James Chester who looks nowhere near as comfortable and confident as last season. Add to that the release of Tommy Elphick after the release of Terry and Chris Samba leaving basically no coverage should injuries or suspensions occur.

Ørjan Nyland was the replacement for Sam Johnstone and Bruce commented that he had been after him for a few years. He’s made some fantastic saves but on the whole, he looks shaky and far from commanding whilst we also signed André Moreira and loaned out Jed Steer. The mind boggles.

The position bingo doesn’t stop there. Bruce also lamented the fact that we lost a lot of players in the summer. (That’s what happens when you fill your team with loanees and bank on promotion and fail).

Since we lost Robert Snodgrass and he also said Albert Adomah could leave a month ago, we needed wingers.

Bruce dropped El-Ghazi

He brought in Yannick Bolasie and Anwar El Ghazi. Only we appear to keep playing Jonathan Kodjia and Jack Grealish on the wings nullifying the high level of creativity of Grealish in the central number 10 position.

My point is, how long do we need to trust that we’ll be there or thereabouts as to me it feels like if ‘there’ is the Premier League and ‘thereabouts’ is League One, then he is indeed correct.

Also how long will we have to hear excuses when players are playing out of position week in week out and he still doesn’t appear to know his best team. I can’t see Grealish and others hanging around amongst the negativity and change in their personal preferred positions.

We also don’t need to be labelled ‘boo boys’ or ‘ignored’ as we travel week in, week out. Granted there is a way to protest and voice your opinion whilst supporting the team but the wedge between both parties is growing rapidly.

The biggest fear for me is holding on, wasting too much time and losing another season which will more than likely see the departures of loanees, key players and a points deduction to boot and then where will the owners stand as we currently don’t know them too well at this early stage.

We also need to remember our wins have come against Rotherham, Wigan and Hull City, two newly promoted from League One and the other close to relegation last year. We have all of the promotion favourites still to play and the style of football from the likes of Leeds United and West Brom in allowing attacking freedom over defensive football is leaving us behind.

Thanks for coming in and steadying the ship, for a day at Wembley but ultimately it’s time for a change.

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