Dave Woodhall on whether Villa’s late equaliser at Blackburn will really make much difference.
McGinn, Grealish, Adomah, Abraham. There isn’t a better attacking line-up in the Championship. Add El Ghazi, Kodjia and Bolasie on the bench and you have a matchday squad capable of getting at any opposition in this league from the off and steamrolling most. What we’ve got is a team that are currently between Wigan and Blackburn in the table. It might still be early days, but it’s not good enough.
At Blackburn on Saturday, yet again Steve Bruce put out a team that was less than the sum of its out of position parts. There was a first half distinct in its averageness and notable only for the decision each that both sides could feel aggrieved over. Blackburn scored after the break thanks to a bit of opportunism that could/should have been preventable with better marking and once again, after going behind Villa showed little sign that they could get something out of the game.
Until, that is, the 94th minute when Conor Hourihane’s free kick rose, curled at an impossible angle and dipped inside the post for an equaliser as brilliant as it was late as it was unlikely.
Whether it will keep Bruce in a job is another matter. If Villa had started the season better, a draw at Ewood Park wouldn’t have been a bad result. As it is, I return to what I’ve said many times before – the manager’s seeming belief that an away draw is always a good result only works if you win every match at home, and Villa just aren’t capable of such form.
To look on the positive side, there were a few plusses on Saturday. Axel Tuanzebe is a much better playing when asked to do what he does best, Tammy Abraham got in to the sort of positions that mean his first goal should come sooner rather than later, Yannick Bolasie displayed some neat touches during his brief appearance and Conor Hourihane, yet again, proved that while he might not have much to offer other than his goalscoring ability, this single string to his bow has been the most consistently important element of the Villa team for the past two seasons.
We’ve got two home games coming up this week, and Saturday’s result, added to that recent poor form, means that not only do they both have to be won, but even if we do get six points they might not be enough to stem the growing feeling that Bruce’s time is running out.
Talking of which, it’s safe to assume that the main reason he’s still in the job is down to takeover during the summer. The news that a shareholding equivalent to that held of Tony Xia has been cancelled recently would seem that the buyout is complete, his time at Villa Park has come to an end, and with it the most mysterious chapter in the history of the Villa, or probably that of any other English club.
We never knew how much money Xia had, where it came from, why he wanted the Villa and what he was going to do with it when he got it. We never even knew how to pronounce his name. In years to come students of our history will recall Villa’s owners in the early part of the 21st century as “Ellis, Lerner, Edens and Sawaris… have I missed one out?”
But time marches on, and with it we’ve got a match to win on Tuesday night. Rotherham midweek is the sort of fixture that shows the true size of a club’s hardcore support and whatever the gate might be, we deserve to be entertained, to be shown what the team are capable of. If Steve Bruce is going, let him want to go with a bit of style.