Something For The Weekend (589)
If it wasn't for bad luck...
Villa's magnificent run, which took them into the top-six and to the top of the form-table, came to an end at Villa Park on Saturday. A guy who hardly scores scored a worldy and to add horror to that first-minute shocker, Captain John Terry limped off on twenty minutes after a routine sliding-tackle. In a state of discombobulation, Villa were quickly two down after Wednesday enjoyed some fortuitous deflections, which allowed Villa OB Bannon to create a tap-in for Rhodes. Then on 40 minutes Snodgrass's rib injury reasserted itself in eye-watering clarity and Villa had lost another important player. This meant Villa were without four players from the team which had been looking so convincing over the last month or so. It was the sort of freakish bad luck best reserved for games like Saturday's rather than the play-offs, and was a perfect demonstration of what the statisticians keep telling us: all things return to the mean eventually. Villa proved the point by getting a big chunk of bad luck all in one dose.
Wednesday played some eye-catching football in the early minutes of the second-half and came close to making it 3-0 when Palmer put a chance wide. Villa gradually settled and created some pressure which forced the Owls into resorting to increasing amounts of rough stuff. They treated Keinan Davis to the usual amount of shoving and shirt-pulling, which the referee ignored, and Villa only got a free-kick when Butterworth deliberately kicked Grealish. As the beat-the-traffic contingent began to trail out of Villa Park, our Jack and young Callum combined down the right to create the chance which put Samba on the score-sheet. It offered the consolation that Villa had kept going right to the end, despite the set-backs.
In the post-match analysis the questions were mostly about why Bruce had picked Snodgrass, who was known to be carrying a rib-injury, and why he decided to move Hogan into his position after he departed, when a like-for-like replacement was available in Grealish. Presumably both decisions had more to do with man-management than tactical considerations. The inclusion of Snodgrass was understandable because he has been such an important player during Villa's resurgence but the Hogan decision was harder to understand. No doubt Snodgrass's anger at having to leave the field was a measure of his frustration at being injured just as he was enjoying his best form since leaving Hull.
Judging by the number of players who have dropped out of the England squad for the FA's money-spinning round of friendlies, it seems that it is definitely the time of year when fatigue and injuries are beginning to take their toll on teams, at every level. Preston suffered last Wednesday and Villa suffered on Saturday. The international breaks create the congestion and then offer the respite. Villa started the last break having looked a bit knackered against Bolton and they start this one having looked a bit out of sorts against a better team in Sheffield Wednesday, albeit with more tenable excuses.
The question haunting most Villa minds is all about how important John Terry is to the Villa team. How dependent have Villa performances been on the confidence created by having a solid defence organised by Terry, his top-draw anticipation and his numerous crucial interventions? Will Bruce feel obliged to shore up the defence with an extra defensive midfielder and so limit Villa's attacking zeal? Or, can Samba come in and do an adequate job?
According to Dr Google, a broken metatarsal takes six weeks to heal, and after adding a couple of weeks to get properly fit, it looks like Captain Tenacious will be available for the Christmas holiday fixtures at best, or early January. Hopefully Kodjia, Onomah and Snodgrass will have recovered by the resumption of play on November 18th and Villa don't add to the injury list due to the rigours of the international break. It seems that we are about to find out just how important John Terry is to the team. He will be missed but let's hope it doesn't turn into an epic problem.
Keep the faith!