Villa still have more questions than answers

Dave Woodhall talks about events at Villa Park, and mentions a 1-1 draw with Ipswich.

Two weeks into the season and it’s already getting difficult to find new angles to write about. The local media get plenty of abuse for the trivialities they cover but most of the time it must be hard work coming up with stories about a club every day of the week, unless they’re one of the top half a dozen or whichever one happens to be Crisis At… of the moment.

It’s particularly hard at this stage of the season, where you can’t really draw many conclusions and the transfer window hasn’t properly closed yet. If the idea of stopping clubs from buying players once the season had started was to get rid of this strange phoney war period it hasn’t really worked, as there’s still a lot of waiting around for the last-minutes loan deals to be done at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, there are still games to be played and points to be won or lost. Villa picked up one of the former or dropped two of the latter at Ipswich on Saturday. I would guess that Steve Bruce is in the ‘former’ camp. I’ve said before that he seems to work on the adage that success can be obtained on the back of winning at home and getting a draw away, and that while this is a useful guide when things are going right, it doesn’t leave much margin for error.

Bruce can argue that Villa’s start to the season justifies his caution. It’s certainly been better than the last two, although the style of play doesn’t seem to have improved. The defence is certainly a lot weaker and while on the face of it you can’t argue with six goals in the first two league matches, they were against the teams you’d expect to beat as a matter of routine rather than struggle against.

Which leads us on to Saturday, and a trip to Ipswich. Again it was a line-up that hammered square pegs into round holes, with players out of position and a gameplan that seemed to consist of hoping Messrs Grealish and McGinn could win the match on their own. The first half might have looked incident-packed – two goals, one of them Jonathan Kodjia’s much-needed opener for the season, the second coming from a mistake by Orjan Nyland, then an Ipswich player sent off – but in reality these were isolated events in 45 minutes of mediocrity.

The second half was just mediocrity. Villa couldn’t score against a ten man team, or even summon up much of the initiative needed to break down a side who were happy to settle for a point. Bruce was critical of social media earlier this week and while I don’t doubt that the criticism in that quarter doesn’t entirely reflect wider public opinion, the afternoon was more evidence for his critics rather than for his defence.

So, still nothing much new to talk about, although that won’t stop the obsessives amongst us from dissecting every word that comes from Villa Park and over-analysing every story, however unlikely or how obscure the source. Brentford on Wednesday night will be the first real test of the season. It’s the first time we’ll be playing a team who’ll be looking to score goals rather than not concede them, and of course we’ll be up against a manager who could be regarding the evening as not just a game, more an extended job interview.

Things promise to get a lot more interesting from now on.