Something For The Weekend (584)
Triple echo of better times past...
A resounding win at Burton made it nine points out of nine for Villa, on Tuesday night, with a made to measure performance, which took us all the way up to eighth in the Championship. It was the sort of dynamic display which suggested that Villa had taken off the straitjacket and slipped into something more comfortable. Some sexy football ensued and the after-glow lasted all week.
It was two moments of class which got us all the points against Forest at Villa Park on Saturday, which put the shine on an otherwise patchy performance, which had had the home fans biting their nails to the final whistle. Adomah rounded Forest goalkeeper Smith with the sort of smooth, confident, assurance, not seen often enough at Villa Park, after he'd collected Jonathan Kodjia's defence-splitting pass. The goal seemed to knock Villa out of their stride. For reasons which remain a mystery, the players looked like they were trying to remember some instructions about what they should do if they took the lead, and a period of buggering about culminated in Whelan inadvertently providing the perfectly weighted pass for Murphy to score from. This seemed to electrify Kodjia and his powerful run from midfield ended with the free-kick which Hourihane classily bent around the wall for Villa's second. Villa tried to kill the game with some fancy stuff but Forest would have none of it and Villa tended to give the ball away. Forest came very close, Villa nails were chewed to the quick, and the final whistle came as a huge relief.
With Burton having held QPR to a goalless draw at the weekend, and their reputation for being hard to beat, Villa's trip to the Pirelli looked like a place where the wheels might come off and the feel-good could get punctured. It turned out the exact opposite, as Bruce's 4-4-2 just brought too many threats from too many directions for Burton to deal with, with tactics alone. Kodjia drew out Burton's first bank of four and Elmohamady put in a great cross for Keinan Davis to head home his second senior goal, which judging by his celebration, he enjoyed even more than his first. Hourihane was at the centre of a slick move through midfield and Adomah somehow wrong-footed the goalkeeper and swept in the second. Snodgrass looked like a man who had rediscover his joy in football, when he ended a game of defensive ping-pong, with a sweet, flashing volley, for Villa's third from the edge of the box. The game was won by half-time, Burton battened down the hatches, Bruce rang the changes and Hogan created a tap-in for Onomah to make it four.
The big question is what has made the difference. The first thing I noticed is how Kodjia seems be playing deeper and Adomah is playing further forward. Kodjia has been key to so many of Villa's goals since he returned from injury. He was assumed to be an out and out goal-scorer who could be a bit selfish but he seems to have become one of Villa's most creative players. The arrival of Snodgrass has energised the front line and double-banked with Elmohamady, who puts in quality crosses from deep positions, has weaponised Villa's right flank. Keinan Davis is the pivot and linchpin who makes it all possible. Villa are still liable to mental aberrations but this should improve with their confidence. As Hogan proved on Tuesday, with the game already won, he was far less desperate to score and did exactly the right thing by creating a goal for the team.
Having said all that, there doesn't look like a bigger banana-skin than Villa's home game against Bolton Wanderers this Saturday. With a big win in the week and the accolades being handed out to one and all, it would be just the sort of circumstances which might tempt Villa into complacency. Bolton have lost all of their games and only scored a single goal, so it would be very easy to take a win for granted. No doubt Bolton will win a game or two this season but Villa must not allow themselves to be presented with that particular wooden spoon. Obviously there will be pressure from the home crowd should Villa not score early enough, against a team going through such a horrendous time. I really hope that Bruce doesn't need to make too many changes. Even so, Villa should have more than enough to get the three points, which will be more likely to consolidate our position rather than put us in the top-six. That would be as much as could be reasonably asked for and would definitely feel like progress.
Keep the faith!