Villa struggled to a goalless draw at home to Brentford on Saturday. Dave Woodhall was not amused.
I’m not going to dwell on the ‘worse situation for nearly fifty years’ stuff. Everyone who was watching the Villa then knows it, and if you’re too young you only have to look at the league table. We’re headed into the stage of the season where everything is starting to fit into place (aka “the table doesn’t lie”) and we’re at the wrong end of it.
Brentford on Saturday afternoon should have been an ideal time to start moving up the league. They’re in the bottom three, struggling to find their feet after losing some of the spine of their team. You couldn’t have wished for better opponents. And as it turned out, neither could they.
Looking at the eighteen-man match squad before kick-off, I thought that a decent manager could have them champions with a month to spare. Add the players who weren’t picked and Villa easily have the strongest selection in the league. They should be capable of blowing away anyone who sets foot inside Villa Park.
Then the match started. Villa looked vaguely promising for a couple of minutes, then stepped backwards as Brentford became the latest in a long line of Championship sides to realise that were going to give them all the time, and the room, in the world in which to play.
The first half was a non-event. Villa were a bit sharper in the first ten minutes of the second half then gave up as Brentford were once more quicker, sharper and more inventive. A couple of injuries might have affected Steve Bruce’s tactics for the later stages of the game, although I couldn’t see how they could have made much difference. Scott Hogan and Gabby Agbonlahor came on to little effect while Robert Snodgrass looked lively but didn’t really have much chance to impress.
The closest Villa came to scoring was when Ahmed Elmohamady was robbed of a potential one on one with the keeper thanks to a tackle straight from the McGrath book of last-ditch defensive interceptions (and that comparison alone made it the highlight of the afternoon) while James Chester had a shot charged down by the Brentford keeper.
When you compare this with the fact that Sam Johnstone was Villa’s man of the match you can see how desperate the performance was. In fact, the only crumb of comfort to be gained was that the threatened rain kept off while I was on my way to the ground.
All of which leads to the inevitable question mark about the future of Steve Bruce. I’ve said previously that he shouldn’t be judged until the end of this month, but I’m really starting to wonder how he’s going to change anything, not least the mindset of a bunch of players who don’t seem to care whether they win or not.
I’ve not seen a single bit of urgency about the team all season and to give just one example, John Terry has spent his entire career shouting at people, whether it be his team-mates, opponents or match officials. That win-at-all-costs attitude seems to have vanished completely.
Coming up on Tuesday night are Middlesbrough, who are making a better job of living up to their pre-season billing as one of the favourites for promotion. If Villa don’t improve dramatically on Saturday’s display, Tony Xia’s patience might finally be running out. A bit of attacking intent will be good, but if that’s too much to ask, can we please get rid of those patronising adverts to buy pies and drinks that kept popping up on the scoreboards against Brentford?
It’s Villa Park, not a cinema. We don’t go there to enjoy ourselves.