Report: Villa (1) v (1) Wolves – Fatigued & fortunate. Problems laid bare for Bruce.

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Whilst nobody would have expected Villa to suddenly morph into Barcelona, few might have predicted that the players would put on arguably one of their poorest performances of the season.

In front of new boss Steve Bruce, Villa conspired individually to concoct a display featuring a plethora of unforced errors, distinct lack of quality and a concerning absence of stamina beyond the hour mark.

The team had been reverted to a more traditional 4-4-2 by Bruce, which on paper provided much needed balance.

Gollini was sensibly recalled, Westwood relegated to the bench and Adomah & Grealish provided width.  The problematic right back position vacated by the injured De Laet was deputised by Micah Richards.

The first half showed the potential and the flaws in our side at present.

New found width enabled forays into Wolves territory, but those advances resulted in chances sparingly.  

Indecision or poor choice of passes often saw our attacks break down where goalscoring opportunities seemed the only plausible outcome.  It’s becoming genuinely frustrating to watch.

Grealish was inconsistent, McCormack struggled to find purpose in the game and Kodjia enjoyed mixed fortunes.

The opener came from a penalty, dispatched coolly by Kodjia after Grealish was tripped.

As has been the case whenever we have taken the lead this term, there was no momentum after the opener.

In truth, we looked limited in creativity or the ingenuity to break Wolves down, let alone building upon being ahead.

The visitors by contrast appeared an organised unit; like a number of sides we have faced in The Championship.  They could easily have been a Brentford or Preston.  Hardly a compliment to them, but effective to a degree.

Whilst not particularly cultured, Wolves cleared their lines in a no-nonsense fashion and moved the ball to our final third efficiently.  If there was one thing that let them down it was their finishing.

This movement often left us in complete disarray, which is again, a common trend this season.

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Wolves drew level from the spot after Cissokho blocked a fierce strike with a arm.  The decision, though ultimately a penalty, stood in stark contrast to an unbelievable let off minutes later when Chester blatantly handled in the area.

Gollini was powerless to stop the spot-kick fired high into the top corner of the net by Wolves’ Costa – and so they were level.

Wolves had plenty of chances, with a number of set pieces in and around the box that Villa managed to defend or which failed to beat the first man.

Kodjia was our most likely source of a goal, strong and direct.  The big money signing saw a powerful half volley parried away.  For all the threat offered, the Ivory Coast international was also guilty of greed, opting to fire weakly at the Wolves ‘keeper when McCormack stood unmarked.

And that was the first half done.

The second 45 minutes were arguably one of the worst Villa have shown in recent memory.  

Perversely, it was also the most fortunate we have been.  Quite how Wolves failed to comfortably win the fixture, shall remain a mystery.

The visitors showed intent where we showed malaise.  They broke with intensity where we pondered a wall of gold shirts.

In short, we were saved by a combination of good goalkeeping, last ditch defending and woeful finishing.  

So, on reflection, the positive to be taken from the fixture is that we have secured a point that seemed as improbable at the time as it was undeserved at the final whistle.

The negatives?

Once more we were unable to create anything.  Our strikers look so limited owing in large part to such poor service.

As such the midfield remains a serious cause for concern.  Tshibola never looked in the game and Jedinak was either a spectator or causing dismay from the crowd through his actions.

Grealish, for all his trickery, had another game where you were left wondering what his contribution over 90 minutes actually is.  

Such limited output wasn’t deemed acceptable from the likes of Carles Gil, yet is broadly overlooked amongst fans and managers alike.  Singular moments of skill must be matched in terms of chance creation or stopping the ball reaching our leftback without a challenge from midfield.

A glaring feature of the evening was how leggy we were on the hour mark.  A telling insight into both the professionalism of individuals in the group and the preparations inherited from the previous coaching teams.

Our continued lack of stamina is unacceptable and it will cost us dearly if not addressed, particularly given that many teams in the league are geared towards taking advantage of this failing.  

The fact we have been repeatedly punished in the final 5 minutes of matches stands as sufficient evidence alone.

Bruce will have witnessed, like the rest of us poor souls who watched in the rain, quite how large the task at hand at Villa is.  

We aren’t as bad as last season, but the fact that we look as average or even worse than some of the opposition we face in The Championship underlines quite how poor matters were allowed to reach over 5 years.

Whilst there is the usual impatience amongst fans, Bruce must be afforded time to try and arrest a terminal slide that see’s us sitting precariously in the division.  We lurk close to the relegation positions after-all.  A fact that shouldn’t be understated for its significance or given that improvement must be made to stabilise us sooner rather than later.

Villa go into a tricky away fixture at Reading looking individually headless and physically well off the pace.  Bruce has little time to address individual flaws, but our fitness is perhaps only improved through regular competitive matches.

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As supporters, we now have to rely upon our new boss getting his teeth into a side that hasn’t won an away game since August 2015, but needs to start winning games urgently.

Roll on Tuesday.

PLAYER RATINGS:

Gollini – 5 – Indecisive for crosses but a notable save.

Richards – 3 – Effort does not translate into quality.

Chester – 6 – Coped well given ineptitude of colleagues.

Elphick – 4 – Question marks again before injury in 2nd half.

Cissokho – 2 – Unable to prevent multiple crosses and conceded penalty.

Adomah – 4 – Looked jaded and drifted in & out of game.

Tshibola – 3 – Over-run by Wolves’ midfield 3.

Jedinak – 0 – Looked like a man in a different timezone after 2x round the world flights in a week.

Grealish – 4 – Moments in skills, offset by indecision or no end product.

McCormack – 5 – Disappointing but kept working.

Kodjia – 6 – Tireless, but needs to pick a pass when out-numbered. Good penalty.

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