Thoughts and issues regarding the past and present of a great football club by "The Chronicler".

Thursday, 23 February 2017

A Derby With Derby

It's been nearly 10 years since Derby last visited Villa Park, and you have to look to 10 years before that to find a Derby success at VP. But derbies are derbies - particularly against Derby! - and we, in our current spate of defeats and fall from grace, cannot assume that we just have to turn up at VP to see Villa win yet again against them. In fact, Derby haven't had a bad season: at least they're in the top half of the table.

One of Derby's team will be our old friend Darren, of course, who I am sure will pose a threat and cause us to ask the question "How on earth did we pay so much for him and then let him go so easily?" In our current plight, he would surely have been an asset to retain. But the Villa's books-based bosses thought better, and so here we are facing someone who knows well what it's like to play at VP and will give our centre-backs a real test. Bent's departure was all the more useless as his near-namesake and replacement - Benteke - threw in the towel and went elsewhere.

But the dire question is, how many strikers will Villa have available against Derby? That question is made more frustrating with Bent there on display. Well, that's where we are: another reminder of 7 years of Villa mismanagement playing in front of us. Therefore how much more do we need a Villa that can get a rub of the green and score two freakish goals (a la Newcastle) to get us back on course!

One positive is that it looks as though Bree will be available for selection, and, with Taylor and Hutton doing pretty well at Newcastle, we suddenly seem to be well-blessed in the full-back department. 

Then, three days later, we have Bristol City as visitors. The week-end after that we are at Rotherham. So - there we have it - three good opportunities to take away the threat of the sword of Damocles. And to take advantage of those matches by gaining at least 7 points will effectively remove further nervousness and let the team get itself together for next season's challenge. However, if we get those points with so little strike-power available, then surely we will have done well.

I'm taking this team to do the necessary:

Bree Chester Elphick Taylor
Lansbury Jedi Hourihan
Adomah Kodjia Green

With Samba to come on as the match-winning dynamo if we get into trouble!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Watch Out Clark; The Villans Are Coming!

Well, there's a to-do. There was I firm in the belief in January that before we went to Newcastle we'd have some good wins in our pocket. Instead we've had good (bad) defeats! So it’s eight games without a win for Villa and the Magpies are flying high at the top of the table. It does not augur well.

But the half-glass-full philosopher in me says that in this kind of situation you have to be positive, and the positive thoughts are that Villa nicked a point off Newcastle earlier in the season, albeit with a rather different team. Also to consider is the fact that Wolves, QPR and Blackburn have all taken points off Newcastle at St James’s Park this season; so why can't Villa?

The problem, of course, is that having lost two games at home on the trot after previously being unbeaten on home turf, and making mistakes and not taking chances in the process, there must be a severe shortage of confidence in the Villa ranks.

But though reliance should never be put on one player, it would be good if the Jedi can be back to give an example to his team-mates. No, he's not the most skilled passer of the ball, but he makes his presence felt, and at Newcastle that could be a prize asset in a Villa team which does not have many players with a killer instinct.

Although I'm not an advocate of this style of play in general, I don't think it would be wise to attempt to take the game to the Geordies. Instead, I would like a 4-1-4-1 formation (the '1' up front being Kodjia), and to break swiftly through a midfield and use Kodjia's 'try from all angles' approach to score. Or to rest Kodjia on the bench and see what Hogan can do on his own: he seems to have skill that could cause Newcastle some problems. But as Kodjia still finds the net every couple of games, it's unlikely he would be asked to stand down.

But this must be a team without Grealish starting in it. Have him on the bench by all means, but at this stage of affairs he must surely be a liability as we must fight to gain some points, even if it be only one at Newcastle.

I'd also like to see different full-backs in operation, but rather than chopping and changing again, perhaps we'd be better to stick with those that played against Barnsley. So long as Bruce gives them a reminding kick up the pants as they trudge onto the St. James's pitch!

So, my team (are you reading this Steve?):

Johnstone or Bunn; Hutton, Chester, Baker, Amavi; Jedinak (or Gardner); Adomah, Hourihane, Lansbury, Green; Kodjia.

The bench (outfield players): Bacuna, Bree, Taylor, Bjarnason, Gardner/Elphick, Grealish, Hogan.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Season's Over Then?

The end of the world has come it would seem: gloom, gloom, yet more gloom! Yet any gloom usually turns to light, so I am assuming we are going to see light - and plenty of it - when matters sort themselves out. Promotion? Probably not this season, but, hey, we were getting used to the idea of it not happening anyway.

I see Bruce being condemned as a dinosaur, yet in reality I felt the dinosaur was Grealish! He is coming on 22 yet still exhibits a petulance that is not easily forgivable at that age, but possibly a carry-over from the previous administration that seemed to have lost it. When Bruce took over he found he had a dressing room of wet rags to contend with and he gradually eroded that situation - but perhaps in Grealish he has his most formidable challenge. After all, Alexander the Great was strutting his stuff at a similar age, but this lad seems scarcely able to organise a tea party, let alone an invasion. However, this is perhaps an age of mediocrity - in football certainly, as well as politics. Where, oh where, has the phenomenon gone that was once known as "character"?

And the Forest match result was really down to Grealish. Arguably his one touch of any note produced a goal, but his two yellow cards effectively gave the game to the opposition. Yes, probably aided by Johnstone's fumble, but the shot he had to deal with was 'one of those', bouncing awkwardly, and we had the misfortune to see that Forest had a striker who was awake to the situation when Johnstone was about to atone for his slip.

Was it all bad? Some fans are saying that the team, the manager and the club is rubbish, or words to that effect. Once we've slept on it, we'll still feel disgruntled, yes, but we'll still be interested to see Villa keep their unbeaten home record intact next week. We've been in a 6 year haze of disillusionment and it's difficult to work ourselves out of it.

Like a lot of fans I saw the match on TV, and for me there were moments when I saw things coming together. I like the individual forays of Hogan, and the 'strike when you see the whites of their eyes' attitude of Kodjia. And in the three latest (midfield) signings I saw the beginnings of them finding their feet. And despite criticism after the match, I feel that the defence is good enough.

What is needed is simply more games for them to gel, for in their play I see the new signings having the capability of making the tail end of this season worth watching, and providing sufficient anticipation for the big push next season. It was a very similar situation back in 1936 to 1938 (from what I've read in the research I've recently been doing), so the omens are good.

Up the Villa!