Dave Woodhall on Villa’s Monday night misery at Newcastle.
There comes a time in the career of every struggling manager when he picks a “What the???” team. The formation’s changed, the players are changed and there are a couple of inexplicable personnel choices. What invariably follows is a defeat and the end draws a bit closer.
Steve Bruce has raised a few eyebrows with his selections in the past month or so. Monday night’s team against Newcastle was another one of those moments. Amavi and Bacuna still can’t get a game as either full-back and Tommy Elphick, for some reason, was in the side ahead of Nathan Baker. The team might have been unpredictable but the performance wasn’t.
Villa did alright in a backs against the wall, plucky underdogs type of way for most of the first half, then with half-time approaching and the possibility that Newcastle might start getting anxious, Elphick does what Elphick does best. One-nil, game over.
The second half kicks off and Villa look as though they might be thinking about making a contest of it. Another corner, another cock-up. Two-nil. It was the sort of deflection that only goes against you when you’re struggling but even so, Villa should have made a better attempt at clearing the ball.
Of course, two-nil doesn’t have to be the end of the match, as we saw when Villa were in a similar position at home to Preston the other week. You can battle for everything, snap up every available loose ball and make life difficult for the team in front. Sometimes, as we saw in that game, you canoupll something out of a situation that seemed lost.
Or you can give up, settle for a two goal defeat and let the team who are winning have an early night. Your manager can help as well, by not making any substitutions until the game’s lost. And to make the evening absolutely pefect, your latest big-money star striker can go off with an injury in the dying minutes, leaving you to end the game with ten men and an even bigger worry about where the next goal’s comning from.
Saturday sees Derby County visting Villa Park, bringing with them Darren Bent, who we considered surplus to requirements four years ago. Bent’s injury in 2012 heralded a slump in form that ultimately led to the dismissal of Villa’s former Blues manager of the time. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?