Nightmare In Norwich & Wigan Wimper: Dismal showings unmask the true state of affairs.

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It’s great being an Aston Villa fan.  Truly.

We can experience all of the footballing emotions which Barcelona supporters can only dream of.  There are likely elders on the Las Ramblas as you read this reciting mythical notions of defeat, relegation, Remi Garde & Marlon Harewood.

As followers of the My Old Man Said Podcast will know, I’ve endured a protracted house move over many months.  Few things come close to the level of stress, frustration and annoyance which conveyancing brings, but supporting Villa comes mightily close.

Whilst fortunes have certainly improved markedly since Steve Bruce was brought in, one man simply cannot wave a magic wand and heal the wounds brought about by years of neglect.

This neglect was evident during Bruce’s first game, as we limped to draw at home to struggling Wolves.

Despite an upturn in form (hardly difficult after RDM’s tenure), our inability to turn good performances into wins has impeded our progress (think Brighton away).

And our absolutely abject away form could result in a golden opportunity of the playoffs to pass us by.  The away defeat to Leeds may yet stand as an unwanted watermark upon our season as the halfway point approaches.

Bruce is faced with an incredibly difficult job.  There’s no doubt about that and he needs to be afforded time under the childish gaze of public relations harvester Dr Tony Xia.

Rejuvenating a football club where defeat and anonymity have become apathetically accepted is no easy task.  Whilst welcome, a run of unbeaten games is met with messiah like appreciation from the support.

The latest disappointment marks the first juncture where Bruce’s man management and experience will be tested.  The honeymoon period is over, the work has been steady so far, but we need to get some momentum in the division.

The away defeat to Leeds not only continued our woeful away form, but it suggested we weren’t capable of beating the better sides around the automatic promotion spots.

Cause for concern indeed.

Then we laboured, drearily, against a really poor Wigan side at Villa Park.

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A position I definitely hold is that wins are wins & it doesn’t matter how or when they are achieved.  However, they don’t paper over a sides glaring shortcomings which ultimately come back to haunt against better opposition.

That’s what made the 1-0 defeat to Norwich all the more annoying.

It was another chance missed, another limp (predictable) performance and the first time upon reflection that Bruce could be brought into question. 

He rightly called out the team for their display, apologised to the fans but offered up a team selection including the mediocre Ashley Westwood & embarrassment Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Whilst the manager is limited by his options, and individual failings cannot always be legislated for, glaring selection errors must be eradicated.

What is Agbonlahor demonstrating (other than losing weight he should never have gained) which warrants such a meteoric recall?  His inclusion baffles, not only for just how poor the man is, but for how it excludes others.

The unproven & untested Hepburn-Murphy may not necessarily be the answer, but how will we ever know?  I imagine most of us would be pressing for a move if Gabby were ahead in the pecking order.  Based on what?  Ability?  Goalscoring?  Striking fear into the opposition?  It’s laughable when you consider it.

Alternatively, why not sacrifice the dead-weight Gabby has become and take advantage of an additional midfielder or play a man off Kodjia + 1?  Why not mix up the formation from the 4-3-3?  It’s not all Football Manager, but there has to be a better option here.

When is someone going to question why Jack Grealish shows mere glimpses of supreme talent, when consistency and quality is what we need?

What is Ayew’s problem?  What has happened to Elphick? And how can we [realistically now people] hope to make progress with Westwood in the middle?

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Sitting plum centre of the division at this stage doesn’t by any means make the season a write off.  There are plenty of games and points to play for.

What we must do, as well as strengthen in January, is not miss the chance to learn from our mistakes within the confines of this season.  Our shortcomings are there for all to see, so let’s address them.

We must be more ruthless up front, cut out the repeated errors at the back and dispense of the faces who have routinely not been up to the task for more years than most of us care to recall.

Next up: A trip to Loftus Road represents a great chance to shift the tone back to positivity, but another defeat would deflate a fanbase desperate to cling to the hope that one day a corner might be turned at Aston Villa.

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