Villa / Newcastle games now carry a strange pre-match build-up, largely centred on the infamous “Sob On The Tyne” banner.
What the game has actually become is a ritual reminder that neither Villa nor Newcastle are in the midst of achieving anything noteworthy any time soon. Indeed, it’s generally the case that one (or both) teams are on the slide when we meet.
Last season it was Villa’s turn to help in dragging Newcastle down from the Premier League. This time round, the hosts can help make a very poor campaign even worse.
This latest fixture see’s Villa languishing in no mans land. 17th in The Championship is a dismal return on not only the investment, but our inability to change the ethos at the club around. Many of the faces have changed, but the losing mentality persists.
The facts are the facts; we are just 6 points above relegation.
What could have been a promotion clash, could be quite a mis-match given ongoing struggles at Villa Park.
Newcastle look likely to return to the top flight at the first attempt. The form table shows a couple of recent draws, but see’s them ranked 2nd for the division. Newcastle could leap-frog Brighton to lead The Championship with a win.
Villa by contrast are joint worst (with Rotherham) over the last 6 games, which says everything about our recent nosedive. No win in 9 is alarming.
Therefore, a visit to St. James’ Park really couldn’t come at a worse time.
We haven’t been unlucky in our recent losses, we’ve just been dreadful. Barnsley & Ipswich were insipid, deserved defeats. The prospect of 90 minutes against a side on the ascendancy and whom enjoy getting one over us doesn’t appeal.
If Villa are to have any success, we must bring Scott Hogan into the game. The huge outlay on extracting him from Brentford has been a complete waste so far, with the supply line next to nothing for the 24 year old.
Bruce also must find a settled formation.
The 3-5-2 is at best at 5-3-2 when we start with defenders in the wing-back role. On the flip side, when we switch to more attack minded players like Adomah & Green, we immediately look vulnerable. The defensive 3 has also left much to be desired, as has rookie loan ‘keeper Sam Johnstone.
The midfield, despite the arrival of Hourihane, Bjarnason & Lansbury desperately needs to be unshackled. Jedinak, injured in recent weeks, looks set to return and should bring much needed defensive balance. In theory this will allow for others to be released to do what they were bought for.
It’s old fashioned, but 4-4-2 looks a necessity. Given the opposition, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bruce sacrifice a striker to overload the midfield and try to stifle the game completely.
All in all, if we can take anything from tonight’s game, it would be a bonus. It sure won’t be pretty, that’s for sure.
- Newcastle top scorer Dwight Gayle is fit and expected to start following injury (*gulp)
- Villa haven’t won at Newcastle since 2005.
- No win in 2017 for Villa.
- No away win for Villa since QPR in December.
- Form: Newcastle=2nd | Villa=23rd
- Villa are 19th points off the playoffs. 6 off relegation zone.
- 9 games without a win for Steve Bruce.
- Newcastle have taken 14 points from 18 (Last 6)
- Hosts have statistically the best attack & defence in the league.