Over 90 minutes, Bruce may reflect on at least two balls into the box from Conor Hourihane from which Villa should have scored. Bjarnason hitting the angle of post and bar being anther singular moment of “what might have been”.
However, the facts are the facts. Over 90 minutes, we rarely looked like commanding a fixture against Ipswich Town.
Additionally, and perhaps more alarmingly, we have developed the nasty habit of being picked off at ease.
Ipswich did a professional smash and grab on us at Villa Park, and they also went long swathes of the game completely untroubled by us with it.
Bruce has the CV which tells us he is the right man for the job, but no manager is immune from criticism or getting things badly wrong. Recent performances and the defeats they have seen inflicted upon us, should make this clear to anyone.
The perseverance with what is a flawed system needs to be urgently reviewed. His substitutions, often desperately trying to to turn the game, leave us exposed to the counter, as it did yesterday. What that perhaps overlooks, is that despite the investment in attack minded players, we are neutering their abilities by restricting them in the approach we adopt.
Villa now sit 16th in The Championship. A completely un-defendable state of affairs. Further, it’s an unbelievably precarious to be in.
The young goalkeeper is under increased scrutiny after a number of shaky displays. Ipswich was no different. Johnstone appears to unsettle the defence, a worrying trait, with an inability to command the box. It was interesting to compare how both keepers fared on a blustery day at Villa Park. His kicking was also notably poor, often gifting the ball back to Ipswich of hoofing it aimlessly into no mans land. Could do little for the goal, which was pinged in past him from close range.
Hutton (4) (Off 67 mins)
Deputising for newcomer James Bree (Injured: Swollen knee), Hutton often the usual effort minus the required quality. Ipswich were one of few sides to not really target our fullbacks, particularly in the first half. The second period saw Hutton increasingly stretched at the back whilst offering next to nothing going forward. Predictably subbed off just after the hour mark for Adomah. Bree cannot return soon enough.
Adomah (4) (On 67 mins)
It’s interesting to reflect that Albert Adomah has been on the pitch almost 20 minutes before the Ipswich goal. It’s interesting because of the limited success we enjoyed for his introduction. Whilst not entirely his fault, the sub unbalanced us, meaning the winger spent as much time tracking back (not natural to him at all) as he did attempting to unlock Ipswich. Deployed to little or no effect whatsoever.
Chester spent most of the afternoon carrying the other centre halves and produced at least one impressive challenge to deny Ipswich a likely break. Unable to prevent the cross leading to the Ipswich winner after Elphick’s error & would have to be disappointed that Baker followed him to the ball rather than support Hourihane with the runner. Cut a frustrated figure after the goal (head in hands) and at full time.
Elphick (4) (Off 89 mins)
Tommy Elphick’s stock has nosedived sharply since his early / close season promise. Elphick now has the same unsettling nature about him when on or near the ball and looks decidedly uncomfortable in our back three. Elphick often seems to be making a recovery tackle or finding himself in difficulty. Equally, his slip and efforts to recover (actually fouling the Ipswich man) directly lead to the winner. Another performance where it’s hard to conclude that he simply isn’t up to the task at hand.
— Villa Underground (@avfc_vilr) February 11, 2017
Bacuna (On 89 mins)
A completely pointless substitution.
Baker tries incredibly hard, but as the pages of this site have no doubt stated countless times, that doesn’t translate into quality. Baker was dominant physically, but repeatedly wasted his efforts by immediately kicking the ball back to the opposition. Whilst there were occasions where his options were literally nothing, he might as well play it back to the goalkeeper or sideways as opposed to an Ipswich shirt. Baker also inexplicably drew himself to the ball alongside Chester for the Ipswich goal, leaving the central defence barren, bar for a desperate Hourihane tracking back.
Taylor (5) (Off 77 mins)
A low key debut for the former Swansea full-back. Untroubled in defensive duties, particularly in the first half. Cut a more reliable left back, in contrast to the questionable Amavi. Like many before him, Taylor came unstuck in the attacking expectations of the role, with limited offerings when over the half way line. Appeared to lack match fitness & was swapped for Green in the final quarter of the game.
Green (4) (On 77 mins)
Green again showed a creative spark which was so lacking for long periods against Ipswich. Equally, he seems to offer this spark along the byline, which would give us immediate natural width. The perseverance with a formation that limits his game-time continues to baffle.
Hourihane grew into the match, with visible drive and determination. Produced two superb free-kicks into the box which Villa contrived to miss in the 2nd half. Also took control of corners, with mixed success, but improved on what we ordinarily see. It was good to see him motivating others and also dishing out verbal tirades to players who were letting the side down. Was unable to get back to prevent the goalscorer sealing the points for the visitors, as the defence went AWOL. Appeared anchored too deep for the early parts of the game, again pointing to questionable team orders/formation.
Lansbury ran himself into the ground but seemed to also be positioned far too deep to dictate much further up the pitch. Contributed any number of passes, some excellent, but was arguably the player whom you would want his pass going to. Faded as the game went on. We are desperate for the return of a holding midfielder in order that he can be harnessed further forward or a re-think on the formation.
Bjarnason does appear to be growing with each game, but looks lost in this formation. There are also huge question marks over match fitness, with his game trailing off badly in the final third. A tired pass late on was clear evidence of this alone. Whilst first team football is certainly the best place to get up to speed, there is little to convince that he’s clear on his role in this Villa side as yet. The Icelandic international was unfortunate with a fine first half effort that crashed against the angle of the bar and post.
A fruitless performance from the striker, who looked a dejected figure at full-time. Clearly with the words “pass” ringing in his ears from all corners of the ground, there were 2/3 attempts to release the ball which suggested promise. However, this stood at odds with at least 2 occasions in the second period where his failure to release Hogan and Hourihane when better placed defied all logic. Kodjia has all of the skill, but lacks a footballing brain at times.
Isolated and rarely used by his team-mates. Contributed many runs and positioned himself on the last man all afternoon. Struggled for a good first touch all day, but little, if anything to judge him on. A major concern in itself for a team starved of goals.