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Villa Still Need A Plan B

Bruce tried something different against Fulham - and he needs to keep trying.

Fulham v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

With two losses over the Easter weekend, Villa are once again smacking their collective heads on the exit door of the season. We are the drunk guy stumbling out of the party, who looks like he has it all together right up to the point he vomits on his jeans.

But, just because you have one bad night, that shouldn't necessarily stop you going out next Friday. And I am here to argue that Villa should return to the bar next week - but try a different drink.


The damage against Fulham was self-inflicted, as Jonathan Kodjia received an early red card for a kick that was petulant at most, and Villa slid to a 3-1 loss with only Jack Grealish's stunning curler for consolation.

Losing our star striker within 22 minutes was always going to make the game an uphill challenge, but Steve Bruce's choice to experiment against with a 3-5-2 and rest a number of Villa's most prominent players also played a part. Jordan Amavi and James Bree did little in their wing-back roles, while Scott Hogan was isolated up front.

Bruce did little to fix the situation either, as Bree and Amavi were replaced by Alan Hutton and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy. As keen readers may notice, the latter substitution took out a left back for a striker. Fulham also noticed this, and for their third goal passed it to Kebano in the gaping space and put the game to bed.

But Bruce had (partly) the right idea

So the result was disastrous. But that doesn't mean the manager wasn't right to experiment with the team, with nothing left to play for in the league.

At the moment, Villa's hopes of promotion next season rest on Jonathan Kodjia having another blockbuster season, Hourihane and Lansbury holding onto the form from their previous clubs, and the Chester-Baker axis remaining strong. Also, we now think Alan Hutton is pretty good and can help us get promoted, apparently.

That's not a great promotion platform.

We haven't won games by big margins and we don't have an identifiable style of play. There's too few goalscorers in the side and too many defensive liabilities. We're bad at keeping possession and rarely seem to fight to get it back.

Being defensively solid and creating just enough chances for Kodjia might get us into play-off contention next season, but it's not a sure thing and certainly won't prepare us for the Premier League.

Bruce seems to recognise that, which is why he experimented against Fulham. It's important to know if Grealish is a genuine first-team option, if Tommy Elphick can provide adequate back-up, and if Amavi and Bree are options as the wide players (the answers so far appear to be maybe, no and no).


On Sunday we have Birmingham at home and we'll be facing them without Kodjia. Our home fans deserve something to cheer at the end of the season. The pressure is on for Villa to come up with some new ideas.

Personally, I'd like to see Grealish, Hogan and Hepburn-Murphy play as the front line of a 4-3-3 and see if we can actually keep the ball for a bit.

But no matter what we try, I hope it's something new, because ultimately having a plan B for next season is even more important than beating the Bluenoses.