Dave Woodhall tries to find consolation in Villa’s 1-0 defeat at QPR.
I used to enjoy Friday nights, but that was in a The Weekend Starts Here way when i was young and feckless. It certainly wasn’t because of football, which should never be played at such a time. And it certainly shouldn’t be played in such a frustrating, so near yet so far, way as we endured for ninety minutes at Loftus Road.
Villa had enough possession and chances to win two matches, particularly in a second half when at times they showed distinct signs of looking like a football team. But the chances were all either wasted or foiled by a keeper who looked better than anything we can call on – another example of what was a combination of summer uncertainty and Steve Bruce transfer market incompetence.
Bruce will say until the end of time that he was unable to bring in the players he wanted because of financial circumstances beyond his control and I have some sympathy with him on that score. I don’t doubt that in the normal course of events Sam Johnstone would have been playing for us tonight and for a few years to come – but Bruce still had plenty of time to bring in better defensive cover than he managed.
I known the former manager is old news now, but I do wonder how long his legacy will linger. Older readers (and I don’t suppose anyone will believe I’m not one of them) will remember the Morecambe & Wise sketch where Eric played the right notes, but in the wrong order. Villa are now playing, or trying to play, Dean Smith football, but with Steve Bruce players. Which is ironic, because QPR’s goal came from the most Bruce-like of punts upfield, Villa’s defence failing to clear and the ball going in off the bar.
Chances were spurned and a Jack Grealish free-kick hit the post from 35 yards, and that was the difference between the two sides. Their went in, ours stayed out. They’re four wins from five, we’re one win in seven. Of such minor differences are success and failure made.
The league table doesn’t make for good reading at the moment, but right now the Villa squad don’t just have to train between matches, they have to learn an entirely new philosophy. For all his ability, Grealish drops back too readily and can be easily contained by players who shouldn’t be getting within five yards of him. Yannick Bolasie has talent but needs to make his mind up whether he’s a Robert Snodgrass (another player we might have been signing permanently last summer) or Charles N’Zogbia. I don’t doubt that both of them could flourish under Dean Smith’s coaching but I do wonder how much has to be unlearned first, and where the Villa will be by the time it is.
I said after Tuesday night that the odd defeat isn’t a catastrophe provided lessons are learned and likewise, you can always take consolation in signs of improvement. Despite losing again, Villa did show that the lessons are starting to sink in and I remain hopeful that in a months’ time the team will, indeed, be more like a team.