Something For The Weekend (577)
The more things change, the more they stay the same...
Villa's opening match of the new season against newly relegated Hull proved a bit too typical of Villa in recent years to prompt much in the way of satisfaction. A very positive first-half of bright and competent football, in which Villa were clearly the better team, was followed by a second-half display rather too reminiscent of too many inglorious days in the recent past to prompt much unqualified optimism for the season ahead. At the half-time break Villa's stock was riding high and they looked like a team which might be worthy of promotion but at full-time the fans had downgraded their chances to uncertain.
To complete the ugly reminders, of course, Villa created more than enough chances to have won the game comfortably but somehow contrived to miss them and then just to put the tin hat on it, a guilty Villa party went missing, which left two against one at Villa's far post and Hull scored to share the points. Once again the Villa offered evidence to substantiate the claim, as offered in the book The Numbers Game, that football is a weak-link game rather than a strong-link game like basketball. In short, football is a game where a team is generally only as good as its weakest player. In other words, you can sign superb central defenders but if a player fails to pick up an extra man or goes wondering off, then you are going to draw or lose games you should have won.
Bruce decided to rest his best for Villa's midweek EFL Cup trip to Colchester and gave us the chance to run the rule over some of Villa's youngsters. It has to be said that Villa were very fortunate to survive this one as the deluge which threatened to turn the pitch into an extension of the Essex marshes made it a difficult surface to play on. Let it suffice to be said that the goals Villa managed to score rather stretched the interpretation of the off-side rules and the own-goal by Kent was as unfortunate for Colchester as it was fortunate for Villa. Only some outstanding goalkeeping from Jed Steer avoided the necessity of extra-time and perhaps even penalties. Villa youngster O'Hare and loanee Onomah got mentioned in dispatches. O'Hare demonstrated the fire and intensity which Bruce can't praise enough. Onomah is a wonderful player who was outstanding when England won the U-20s World Cup. He is quick, carries the ball well, and is an outstanding passer of the ball. He was different class in terms of his athleticism and ability compared to the majority of the players in the World Cup. What Tottenham are trying to find out, is whether he can hack it against the knuckle-dragging brutes of the Championship. We wish him well, he definitely looks like a gem in the making.
But the real heroes of the night were the travelling fans who struggled to get to the ground on time. The rain was so heavy that it was reported that they were doing lifeboat drill on many of the coaches as they approached the Community Stadium.
As the travelling Villa faithful still wait for their clothing to completely dry out after their midweek ablutions, they will no doubt be glad to hear that the forecast suggests that their trip to Cardiff this Saturday will be dry. Warnock's wanderers got their season off to a winning start at Burton with a single goal by their 6ft 3in top-scorer of last season Kenneth Zohore (12 goals). With Cardiff having seventeen shots, six of which were on target, and less than half the possession, it suggests that Warnock will play the sort of style he is (in)famous for. The game offers a chance to see whether Bruce's summer recruitment policy shows any sign of addressing Villa's besetting inability to win enough away games. It seems unlikely that Cardiff will leave much space behind them for Gabby to exploit and so we are left to wonder where the goals are going to come from. I expect a typically tough and rough Championship encounter and not a lot of goals. Villa are back on the road again but can they bring back the gold?
Keep the faith!