Something For The Weekend (580)
Bristol City held by Onomah..
I wouldn't say I was ungrateful for the point Villa gained at Ashton Gate but no one could claim that it went entirely to plan, because the plan had been to play three at the back, a system known to have served Steve Bruce well at Hull, but the trouble was that for reasons unknown, Bruce had the the wrong players on the pitch to implement his experiment successfully, as James Chester, a much admired centre-back, looked rather less competent out on Villa's right, even though Christopher Samba was the busier on Villa's left, where he was required to provide some heroic interventions as Villa struggled to get out of their own first-third. Then as the evidence became too overwhelming to be ignore, Bruce decided to revert to a back-four, and again he found he had the wrong players on the pitch and he was forced to swap the robust Samba for the more mobile James Bree. Chester and Terry shuffled one position to their left and Taylor reverted to left-back.
Opinion amongst the fans was split between those who thought Bruce had needlessly unsettled his team with a formation which was a non-starter, which allowed City to dominate the middle-third with their passing game, and those who thought that with Villa's lousy away record, any innovation was worth a try. Others wondered out loud whether Bruce had hired the fat bloke seated behind him to make himself look slimmer; the black away kit only being a partial success. City's manager Lee Johnson looked like he was being sponsored by Dunn & Co, in a jacket louder than the home fans and measured for someone else entirely.
With the balance of the team restored Villa looked much better in the second-half and having struggled in the first, Villa's attacking players began to stretch City, which offered a bit of hope to the Villans. But it was City who took the lead after John Terry had made a clumsy tackle on the edge of the Villa box and Villa failed to get the ball away when the free-kick rebounded off Neil Taylor. But almost straight away before we could indulge our gloomy prognostications, the classy Onomah shot from distance, and with the blessing of a deflection, it looped beyond the floundering Fielding in City's goal. Hourihane had a half-chance to win the game which he fluffed and City were happier than Villa to take the point at the final whistle.
It was very much an equal contest, and there's the rub, because there was not much sign that Villa are anything much above ordinary. The recruitment of Snodgrass looks to offer more options for Bruce but the Scot is very much an unknown quantity and a transformation looks unlikely. Bruce has got himself a decent sized squad and presumably he's hoping that as the season goes on, the likes of Cardiff and Ipswich will become less invincible and Villa can close the gap. Villa are only two points shy of sixth and seven goals but Villa's form and position in the table (15th) hardly inspires much optimism but they may be better to watch.
With football taking a half-term break so that England can play a meaningless game in Malta, the Championship is required to cram two full programmes into just four days when things resume. Such self-inflicted fixture congestion is why the EFL is known to be so attritional. No doubt the TV people dangled a few bob in front of the Football League suits and Tuesday it was. But being that Villa are at least temporarily one of the richest clubs in the Championship, then such venal arrangements should be to our advantage with two home games offering the chance for Villa to radically improve their position in the league table. And maybe stoke a bit of optimism. You never know, Kodjia might even be available which would certainly be a positive sign. I'm not expecting a revolution but if there is one I think it might be slow.
Keep the faith!