It’s Saturday, it’s Villa so it must be a draw.
There is something of ‘the morning after the Lord Mayor’s show’ about the draw with Wolves and if we’re honest, the result was always likely to be. Expecting change from a manager with a couple of days to work with the players was too much to expect.
In truth, if you wanted an early judgment then it would be ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ which is harsh on Bruce; he’s barely had chance to fill the wine cabinet and beer fridge in his office at Villa Park.
It was a mixed bag performance. Slow to start, scoring with – I thought – a contentious penalty, the sort you take gleefully but despair of officialdom when it is awarded against you. Then conceding a penalty; so typically Villa with Cissokho handling the ball. Bruce, an accomplished defender in his day, must have despaired.
He rightly despaired of Elphick. Panic stricken at times, the early composed performances this season are lurking inside him, screaming to get out. Were it not for James Chester’s presence, we may have suffered more than conceding a single goal; the mantle of defensive leader has passed.
That’s defence is the loosest sense of the word. The full backs were awful as well whilst in the midfield Jedinak certainly looked nak’d. Bruce later agreed he was too tired to play but privately probably admitted that he wouldn’t have played half the side had he known how distinctly ordinary the performance would be.
It wasn’t all bad, just not enough good. Albert Adomah glittered, shining all too briefly in the first half before fading. Kodjia rifled home his penalty but threatened little else. He might have put McCormack in with a clean shot on goal but chose to take the effort himself just before half-time. It wasn’t anywhere good enough but asking a striker to pass when there is a scent of goal is like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.
The second half offered little at all from a Villa point of view. H-A-P-P-Y? Not this time and the full extent of the task ahead of him became manifestly apparent. This is a squad bereft of confidence and with some serious question marks hanging over it. Before kick-off, Wolves would have taken a point following back-to-back defeats. After the final whistle, I’ve no doubt that they were disappointed not to have all three.
Reading away and Fulham next weekend. Tough games with both holding promotion aspirations. We have the same except being just one point above the bottom three, we are grateful that Cardiff and Wigan have tricky fixtures ahead of them whilst Bruce works on the training ground.
It’s going to be a long haul. There’s no magic potion he can bring with him, just confidence. At the end of next week, we’d expect to see some improvement in the performance. Fulham gave Newcastle a rude awakening on the opening game of the season and have enough ability to test us. If you think I’ve given up on Reading, I haven’t; just low expectations – maybe a draw…