Well, where to begin?
Another away defeat, this time to struggling Cardiff City, see’s Steve Bruce stand in front of the cameras (again) to question many individuals amongst Villa’s ranks.
Bruce described the performance as “awful”. The first half was particularly dreadful, with the second half only improved by some of the team actually trying.
Here’s how each Villa player ranked:
vs. Cardiff Ratings
Whilst Bunn apparently ticks the “experience” box for Bruce, the standard of his goalkeeping leaves little between him and the dropped Gollini. Yet more suspect ‘keeping today, firstly to concede the corner, then saving into danger, before looking as sharp as a spoon as the ball rolled in. Whilst the defending didn’t help, this stands to reinforce Villa’s urgent need to find a competent goalkeeper.
Struggled going forward but was denied a strong shout for a penalty after having his shirt tugged in the Cardiff area. Nothing remarkable and not the worst performance on the day.
Booked again today and was unfortunate to see the ball ricochet off his man for Cardiff to score. One of very few positives who needs to be built around.
The first defeat for the [surprise] defensive partnership alongside James Chester. Distribution continues to be a problem for Baker, with a completion rate of barely 50% against Cardiff. It’s one thing winning the ball and being a physical presense, but it’s no good giving it straight back to the opposition. A headless chicken for the goal, like many.
Another low-key performance to give rise to further questions about the Frenchman’s future. A good barometer for this might be that Joe Bennett [yes, him] outperformed the £25m rated wing back in a number of key areas. Whilst Dr Tony might shun “mystery” offers of £25 million from China, Marseille are stalking the international defender with increasing fervour.
Gardner (1) (Sub off on 45 minutes)
A meagre 4 touches in 45 minutes of football raises serious, valid questions. It’s hard to suppress a worry upon seeing Gardner’s name on the teamsheet, as the truth is we have seen very little to justify the years of hype whilst on loan or injured. This performance was shocking, as is increasingly the fact that the club saw fit to award a 4 year contract. The centre midfielder must be at serious risk of replacement this transfer window.
Agbonlahor (5) (Sub on 45 minutes)
Bruce’s baffling infatuation [no pun intended] with Gabby continues. Despite delaying Ayew’s departure to the ACON by a game, Agbonlahor was unbelievably preferred in the 2nd half. Whilst Ayew’s form has left much to be desired, Gabby’s contribution of literally zero produces little other than a resigned sigh. Agbonlahor tried at least when he came on, but offered little genuine threat in a side allegedly wanting to get promoted. Promotions aren’t achieved easily with this approach.
Westwood (1) (Sub off 45 minutes)
Westwood was perhaps fortunate to make it to half-time before being withdrawn. He’d received some credit against Leeds, but this was arguably one of the worst showings in a Villa shirt. Three touches in 45 minutes of football and the worst half of any Championship midfielder this season. Not a single tackle contributed. Whilst few would argue he has been on borrowed time for a long while, this could performance alone should instruct Bruce to act swiftly in the transfer market. So bad that even the most blinkered of Westwood fan’s must be appalled.
Tshibola (6) (Sub on 45 minutes)
Appearing in place of the above, Tshibola enjoyed a rare recall after disappearing following Bruce’s opening game at Wolves. By comparison to Westwood’s 3 touches, Tshibola had 47 touches, which says it all in terms of being “in” the game at the very least. Whilst not the finished article, the youngster must now have the strongest shout to partner Jedinak until suitable replacements are recruited.
Adomah was one of incredibly few positives today. Whilst not his best game in a Villa shirt, he carried our only real creative threat and also hit the post. Was, however, at fault for a hurried and tame clearance that rebounded into the net for the Cardiff goal.
Whilst Grealish was once again targeted by the opposition, this is frankly something that he has to get wiser to. That’s not to say that fouls should be shrugged off, but there are ways of out-thinking such low-rent football. He also came in for fair criticism post match from Bruce for “waving his arms around” each time he was fouled. The boss even went further and warned Jack that he risked turning into a “circus act”. Not exactly subtle, but correct. Grealish was also booked for sarcastically clapping the referee. An immature performance.
An unremarkable game, which will probably see him retain his place on the basis that Gardner and Westwood were utterly abysmal. Contributed little of note and his inclusion personifies the abject failure of the previous regimes signings ability to progress or improve. Has worked to improve his game this term, but urgently needs to find form and purpose to his game.
McCormack (6) (Sub off 82 minutes)
Isolated in the first half and looked worryingly limited in the second. Hit the bar with a free-kick, but cut a forlorn figure on his own up front for long periods. Whilst certainly struggling for form, Villa’s lack of creativity or flair doesn’t help the previously potent goalscorer. Only Villa could take a 20+ goal striker and make him look bang average. And questions about his weight appear alarmingly accurate.
Hepburn-Murphy (5) (Sub on 82 minutes)
A brief cameo for the youngster who remains locked in contract talks. Couldn’t do a great deal in the 9 minutes afforded to him. It raises the question as to what Bruce thought he might show in a brief spell. Equally, how he wasn’t considered in favour of Gabby [disregarding Ayew], is a mystery if only to test his ability at this level.