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

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The Big Push

Last weekend Villa gained what looked like an unlikely win at Wednesday's ground and thereby got some suitable payback. It seems an age since Wednesday came to Villa Park and gave us some pre-bonfire night fireworks with their early and explosive goal. That and Barry Bannan's smooth display and the enforced retirement of John Terry (whose services we lost for several games as a result) are the main memories I have of that day. With both sides ravaged by injury (though our opponents' state was somewhat worse) the game this time seemed to be drifting towards a draw. It was hardly a game where we deserved to win: the result seemed to be obtained as though it was Villa's destiny. A 7500-To-The-Holte article decided that Villa "are proving that it doesn’t end when you’re knocked to the canvas - just that you’re not the last body on the floor. When you’re hit hard with a bone-breaking riposte, you’ve got to push those weary muscles once more and rise - not because it’s your job, and that you should do it, but because it’s what you deserve." Well, I suppose if the phoenix is determined to re-birth itself then we shouldn't complain!

In the VP match I also remember Chris Samba giving us a 90th-minute sense of "all is not lost" respectability. Chris Samba (like Micah Richards) is just not talked of anymore. After Samba's knock all went quiet and perhaps Axel's loan signing says it all. Who remembers that it was Samba that got sent off when playing for Blackburn against us in the League Cup semi second-leg at VP in 2010? We were losing 2-0 after 25 minutes and then pulled it back to 2-1. It was Samba that then pulled Gabby down in the penalty area (boy was Gabby a livewire in those days!), a result of which Samba was sent off and the Milner penalty kick meant we went in at the break 2-2. We won 6-4 (7-4 aggregate)! Memories, memories.

Back to the present! It only takes a slip or two to produce a call for the manager to change his policies with cries of "How does Whelan get selected?" (before Whelan scored and put in a useful shift versus Wednesday) and the question is raised of why he and the Jedi get the nod over the Iceman. And the big one - why no O'Hare? On that perhaps I have some sympathy as he would surely offer more than Onomah, whose slipshod play seems to have annoyed at least one of his colleagues. Onomah seems to be equipped with good skills, but when it's mainly application that's required his heart doesn't seem to be in it.

Whether you agree with his approach or not, overall you can surely see the logic that Steve Bruce applies to Villa's situation and their need (nay, their historical and size-related right) to return to the Premiership. In a tough division in which he has experienced and achieved much, and knows how to do it his way, he wants to include players who have the experience, physicality and character to succeed as the primary requisites. But that makes Onomah's selection all the more puzzling. I can only conclude there's something in the loan arrangement with Spurs that enforces an obligation on Bruce. Well, when Jack's fit Bruce can't keep Onomah in, can he?

But it did seem to me that the other nine outfield players each had to put in proportionately extra work against Wednesday to make up for Onomah's lack of worthwhile contribution. But at least another loanee - Grabban - shows he wants to be part of the action (Grabban's goal grabbin' ability is noted!), as, of course, does Snoddy with ten assists already and a few goals up his sleeve as well. And to help keep the wheels on track we have Axel.

Looking at Villa's overall league stats (according to the 'Who Scored' website) Villa have achieved a pass accuracy of 75.1% and 12.1 shots per game. 'Not bad', I thought, but I then checked the stats for Cardiff and Fulham and found they both have better stats. It is possible that Villa's stats since December have been much improved (we're certainly scoring more), so it would probably be more accurate to compare the clubs over that specific period. Nevertheless, those two teams are putting their game together well for the run-in and it emphasises even more how much Villa have to keep on winning to secure that second place. Fulham's victory over Wolves and Cardiff's late win this week against Bristol City confirms that they both have the tenacity to take the fight to the wire. The home games Villa have to come against Wolves, Cardiff and then Derby take on a more important hue. And these are the kind of games that will call for the full experience and togetherness of Villa's squad despite any shortcomings they may have individually. The remaining matches are not the time to try the blooding of youngsters in my view; whatever momentum has been obtained needs to be preserved.

In fact (as someone has said) it's a series of cup finals to be faced; a whole dozen of 'em. At least this upcoming weekend we face QPR and we might fancifully imagine that we can score six or seven against them after Forest's result last week. But Bruce - I'm sure - will be just as happy if we win-win by one goal. And by the same margin in all the other 11 matches. Sounds boring, but if it gets the Brucie points...? However, it would be good to replicate those thrilling promotion seasons of 1938 (though I wasn't around then!), 1960, 1972 and 1975 and finish in some style. Come on Villa!



I know you will enjoy my latest book, "The Villa Way - 1874-1944". Please look into my bookshop (click here) and purchase a copy. 

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