Villa lost to Brentford on Boxing Day, with Dave Woodhall pondering changes.
I said after Saturday’s fiasco that we don’t have a good record in Boxing Day fixtures. It looked like that might change for a few minutes this year but fortunately for lovers of consistency, the mood soon passed.
What’s equally consistent is our record against Brentford. Played four, points two. When Villa were in division three, we were just as bad against Walsall (or so I’ve been told, because it was before my time. No sniggering at the back). The difference is that those games against Walsall were one-offs, the sort of fluke results against a bogey team that even the best sides can have. I mean, we even used to do well against Chelsea a few years ago. The four games we’ve played against Brentford since being relegated haven’t been much out of the ordinary in terms of how we’ve got on against sides who have a fraction of our resources but make up for that and more by workrate, team spirit and maximum use of resources.
There’s another reason why Brentford seem to do well against the Villa, and that’s because against two very different, yet vastly experienced, managers in Roberto Di Matteo and now Steve Bruce, their boss Dean Smith has managed to think on the hoof and successfully change his gameplan to counter anything his opposite numbers can come up with.
The latest game was a case in point. Villa, to be fair, had coped well with the double whammy of Albert Adomah going off injured and going a goal behind. Josh Odomah had equalised, we’d looked threatening after that and at half-time we could be satisfied with the way the game was going. And that was the problem, because Bruce seemed so satisfied that he didn’t think anything had to be changed whereas Smith saw that Jack Grealish was the dangerman, had him close marked and with Villa’s usual pedestrian rest of the midfield unable to create either space nor chances, our attacking threat was effectively over. One decent corner and the match was won, or more accurately, lost.
Villa almost got a late equaliser but nobody could really say it would have been deserved. A cold, horrible, wet night was matched by the performance and Steve Bruce’s job prospects seem equally bleak. There comes a time when the inevitable truth dawns that it’s not working and for Bruce, that time appears nigh. if/when he does go, the inevitable post-mortem will begin about where it all went wrong.
Until that time, let’s look at the managers we’ve had for years now, the success they’ve achieved, what they’ve done after parting company with the Villa and wonder not only what type of replacement Tony Xia might be thinking about as he surveys the current scene, but how they’re going to be persuaded to join this managerial graveyard. Then we can watch Villa see out the old year with a win at Middlesbrough, see in the new one by beating Bristol City (for some reason our New Year’s Day record is almost as good as our Boxing Day one is poor) and pretend this depressing scenario we’re talking about now never happened.