Sometimes you cannot argue with stats. Steve Bruce has been promoted to the Premier League four times, twice with Birmingham City and twice with Hull City. The latter he guided to an FA Cup final in 2014. So with Villa winning on the weekend, why are fans still calling for his head?
There’s no doubt that Villa’s 1-0 home win against Derby County papered over the cracks. Villa were penned inside their own half towards the end of the game; the fact Alan Hutton was the standout performer for the claret and blues tells its own story.
Losing is a habit, not just a sign of a bad team. In turn, winning is also a habit. The winning habit also started when Bruce took over from Roberto Di Matteo. Due to some functional football, Villa won five home games in a row. The new manager bounce that Tim Sherwood brought with him was apparent.
On the other hand, between the 29th December 2016, and the 20th February 2017, Villa failed to win in nine games. Before the turn of the year, Villa Park hadn’t seen a home win all season, but in that run, they lost two consecutive home games. 1-0 to Ipswich and 3-1 to Barnsley three days later.
So why is this not Bruce’s fault? Tracing back to the 20th June 2016, Tommy Elphick was signed for a fee of £3 million from Bournemouth. Immediately he was made captain. In hindsight this was a poor decision. Especially as Villa did the same thing with Micah Richards the previous year and finished rock bottom of the Premier League.
Aston Villa went on to bring 50 million worth of players in an attempt to artificially build a spine. In turn, the Championship outfit let go 11 players. Unsurprisingly, this team didn’t gel immediately. There was a clear lack of organization in midfield, and after the January transfer window the same thing happened. The team fielded in a 2-1 away defeat to Nottingham Forest included five January signings.
I’m not defending Bruce for throwing these players in at the deep end, but at the same time fans shouldn’t expect this team to suddenly come good. You also get the feeling with some players that just because individually, they make up one of the best teams in the Championship, they have the right to just turn up and win.
On the same note. Players could be feeling the extra pressure heaped on them from their transfer fees. Jonathon Kodjia may have scored eleven goals this season, but it seems as if his potential £15 million transfer fee has been the incentive to try and be the hero too many times. Dropping deep to collect the ball then trying to go past players rather than waiting in the box for a cross.
The players need to trust in each other, then things will begin to click, something that hasn’t happened yet. Granted Bruce needs to get his tactics right, but at the end of the day it’s the eleven men on the pitch that do the business.