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Aston Villa Season Preview: is Bruce the right man?

Last season was all change at Aston Villa. Entering a new division for the first time in 28 years, they also had new owners, a new manager and effectively a new squad – yet that did not produce instant results. Therefore, should we judge the success of last season based on how those changes influence this season? Supporter Richard Dalton from ‘Just Let Them Play Football’ has his say.

Clearly last summer was very rushed with the good Dr taking over late on and having no real stability around the club. He recruited Bruce and Round as well as others in a variety of positions. There are now certainly no excuses for Bruce, he’s going into his second transfer window having had great support in January. If the new players brought in January and Bruce style work and get us promotion then clearly last season turns into a successful rebuilding period. The first few months are make or break for Bruce but unfortunately I think Aston Villa will have yet another new manager by January.

Steve Bruce’s tactics tend to work best with physical players, yet the types you’ve signed such as Henri Lansbury and Conor Hourihane rely more on technical ability. Is your recruitment strategy in line with what the manager wants?

Great point and something I’m very concerned about is Bruce style! 5-10 years ago there was a certain way to get promotion from the championship and Bruce proved exactly the right type of manager. In the last few years the league has evolved and you only have to look at Benitez, Wagner and Stam being managers of 3 of top 4 last season to realise that quality attacking football winning games home and away is now vital! Add in the way Brighton played winning lots of games and scoring goals. I’m really not convinced Bruce can play the way needed for promotion.

If there was one thing to credit Bruce for it would be firming up the defence. With John Terry signing to compete with James Chester and Nathan Baker, you must be pleased with your centre-back options?

John Terry on paper is a wonderful signing and as long as he can still perform physically then he will be a great addition. We were defensively sound last season and this season we again have strong options across the back four also with the addition of Chris Samba.

Sam Johnstone kept eight clean sheets in 21 last term. Are you glad he’s re-joined on loan?

He had a tough start and made some errors but after the settling in period he performed well and with half a season under his belt he should prove a good addition.

The most successful Championship teams last season had at least one full-back who offered a lot going forward. Is the combination of Alan Hutton and Neil Taylor a tad ‘safe’?

As detailed earlier playing attacking football is the best way to win games and ultimately get promotion. Full backs are now a huge part of an attacking team and most managers/recruitment now look at attacking assets before defensive when recruiting full backs. I’m really hoping that the Scottish Cafu doesn’t play ahead of the very promising James Bree, who is far better as an attacking option.

Midfield enforcer Mile Jedinak put in some solid performances last year. Is it important to manage his game time to get the best out of him?

The recent arrival of Glenn Whelan should ease the burden on Jedinak and ensure his ageing body can be managed. Jedinak along with Chester was outstanding for most of last season, defensively we are in excellent shape and hopefully Bruce will be far more ambitious this season.

Albert Adomah managed 10 assists last season. Will he be an important player this year?

I’ve never been a huge lover of statistics but in a poor attacking team he did well to provide 10 assists however I thought his general play was quite poor and very inconsistent. If I was picking our best currently 11 he wouldn’t be in it so I don’t see him as been vital this season.

Jonathan Kodjia scored 19 goals last term but will miss the start of this season due to injury. Do you worry that Scott Hogan doesn’t have the same capacity to score a goal out of nothing?

Kodjia was superb from day 1 and won numerous games on his own, he’d constantly score goals and make chances from nothing. Many villa fans unbelievably are very critical of him for his individual nature but the fact he got so little support and help last season made his contribution even more amazing. When he doesn’t play he’s very much missed. Hogan is a difficult one to judge but he’s a very different player to Kodjia, hopefully we will be more attacking and create more chances this season allowing Hogan to improve.

What are your thoughts ahead of the Championship season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

As always it will be a very tough league. It looks wide open, Middlesbrough are probably favourites then a whole host of others could be in contention. I genuinely believe almost any team can get promoted.

Where will you finish?

Unfortunately I’m not very confident assuming Bruce plays the way he did last season. I think we will finish 9th.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

While Aston Villa boast some of the league’s most technically gifted players, the current direct system can stifle creativity. Their play-off push will be built on a solid, Terry-led defence and Kodjia’s individuality, but it could be hindered by an internal clash of tactical ideals. 7th


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