Villa lost 4-1 at Sheffield United, with Dave Woodhall making a not-so-bold prediction.
The first of September marks the meteorological end of summer and the beginning of autumn. As far as Steve Bruce’s Villa career is concerned, it heralded the end of the early season optimism and the beginning of what could be a long, hard winter.
Villa’s summer transfer dealings have been about increasing their attacking options while trying to plug the gaps in defence caused by departures and the end of loan deals. This might have led to open, attacking football and plenty of goals at both ends. but to do that would need a more radical mindset than the one currently occupying the manager’s office. But hope springs eternal, and so it was off to Bramall Lane and another ground where the Villa won last season.
Hope might spring eternal, but not when the team that’s been so lopsidedly poor for weeks is given yet another chance to redeem itself. It didn’t work first time round and it won’t work now. That should be obvious to anyone who’s ever so much as watched a single match, yet alone a manager who regularly lectures anyone who’s listening on his vast experience at getting out of this division.
And what flickering flame might have still been, er, flickering, was fully extinguished by the time Sheffield United had expose the Villa defence, not for the first time, to go a goal up within ten minutes. Two more followed before half-time, another one shortly afterwards and there could have been more, if the home team hadn’t declared at four, much in the way that we were watching teams do the same during the relegation debacle of three years ago. The difference between then and now was that during those unforgettable days we were getting battered by world-class players who cost their clubs a fortune. This time it was Sheffield United.
If there was a bright side, it was that Anwar El Ghazi capped a good performance with a goal that mattered little and John McGinn is still impressing. Bruce claimed that several players weren’t fit, although it was hard to tell which ones were so affected and which ones were merely going through the motions.
A performance of such ineptitude, even this early in the season, usually means only one outcome. Bruce hasn’t yet assumed the resigned air of a man who knows the end is nigh but picking arguments with supporters, whether in the flesh or via the media, is often the prelude to an announcement thanking the manager for his services and wishing him well in the future.
My own feeling, and I could be wrong on this, is that the big annoucement won’t be made this week, but Bruce is effectively on a month’s notice. Whatever he does from now on, he’s no more than two bad results from the sack. Whether this will cause him to finally throw caution to the wind and get the team to play in the way that’s beeneffective when he’s (rarely) done so, or whether it will just waste another couple of weeks, time will tell.
But there, I’ve just said I don’t think Steve Bruce will be sacked this week. Stick your wages on him going.