Villa go into this weekends home game against Derby is a really tricky position.
Far from being at the stage where an outside charge for the playoffs could be mounted, we are faced with the unenviable task of keeping ourselves in the division.
Whilst some might call that alarmist, our run of form is dismal. Additionally, we shouldn’t blinker ourselves to the reality that games we have deserved to take something from have been few and far between of late.
We might look at Derby with some envy actually, as they sit 12 points ahead of us. They retain an ambitious (yet feasible) chance of making the final playoff spots if they can go on a decent run between now and the end of the season.
We, on the other hand, are beginning to look over our shoulder nervously.
Bruce is coming in for increasing scrutiny for his use of the existing squad and the costly acquisitions in the January 2017 transfer window. This blog firmly believes he’s the man to get us out of the league, but he needs to keep us in it first.
Whilst there are certainly inherited problems working against Bruce, there are also questions to be answered in respect of team selection, tactics, formations and timing of substitutions.
Injuries are something else that continues to plague the team, but mustn’t be used in the main as an excuse for the unacceptable slide this term. Our resources are considerable, but our intelligence has been severely lacking.
With that said, the injury to big money signing Scott Hogan now see’s him miss at least 4 weeks.
This has been met with “relief” in some quarters, but in reality this leaves us without the man identified to score the goals for a huge chunk of remaining fixtures. This could, after-all, be the difference between having the firepower to resist a relegation battle. *Gulp*
The issues are glaring and if we’re to have any success at the weekend, it will be dependent upon the defence being better and the midfield playing to the strengths which it was purchased for. Up front, Jonathan Kodjia may cut a solitary figure, which some might argue he prefers.
The Ivory Coast will also be subject to a late fitness test, with the possibility that Bruce may have to opt for a rookie to lead the line. That of course opens a valid debate; why did we move Gestede, Ayew & McCormack on without sufficient cover?
Derby come to Villa Park an improved if underachieving outfit under Steve McClaren.
Whilst much maligned in the game by the mass-media, McClaren remains a well-regarded coach, particularly at this level. A win at Villa Park could see them rise as high as 8th.
By contrast, a win for ourselves would allow us to tread water, possibly closing a 4 point gap to the Blues in 16th.
A reminder of unacceptable slide that this season has entailed. It cannot be permitted to worsen.
As such, Bruce needs to dig in and motivate the team to deliver a performance and 3 essential points.
- Derby haven’t won at Villa Park since 1988.
- County are on a 4 game winless run.
- Villa haven’t won since Boxing Day. 9 games.
- Derby have 3rd best defensive record in the Championship.
- Derby have the 2nd best defensive away record in the league.
- Visitors have lost just once to a side in the bottom half this season.
- Reverse fixture was a goal-less draw.
- Villa are 6 points of relegation & off back of 5 straight defeats.
- Villa have won just 1 of last 20 against top half sides.