Away at Cardiff on Saturday afternoon was a disaster. There’s really no two ways to say it. Beginning the season against foes that Villa were expected to fend off for the top spot for promotion was ideally going to show the league this teams ambition, instead through two league games we’re faced with the same old question of whether this team will ever even be equal to the sum of its parts.
In spite of the top-to-bottom no show against the Bluebirds, the squad will have the opportunity to either quickly respond and reassert their claim, or, more dourly, will have the chance to confirm those niggling concerns we had coming into the season.
Against Hull in the opener, Villa had myriad opportunities to put the game away and earn a home victory and who is to say what could have happened through the rest of the Colchester game if James Chester hadn’t Andre Green’d an open goal header? Could that missed goal have dispirited the team so much that they lost confidence against Neil Warnock’s top to the table and firing on all cylinders Cardiff team?
Chances to win against Hull, getting beasted by an in form first place team away, then pulling out a victory on Tuesday would put Villa at four points through three, and that the victory game against a Reading squad higher in the standings gives a bit of a boost—as much as a 21st spot team beating a 20th placed one matters, that is, but we’ll take it. After that, a weekend match at Villa Park up against Norwich City gives Villa a shot at 7 points through 4. A decent pace and one we’d have taken before the season, right?
The point is that all is not lost—yet. There’s nothing encouraging to take from a performance like the one at Cardiff except this: The opportunity is there to turn it around and it’s only settled on the pitch.
What to know about Aston Villa
This team needs a win. The players need the confidence. Steve Bruce needs to reiterate that he’s the man for the job.
It’s nearly impossible to see how Alan Hutton gets the start at right back. The right side of the defense was porous and he consistently let attack opportunities die at his stationary feet. During the late stages against Cardiff, Hutton was on the line awaiting a ball for throw in and was simply standing around with his palms up looking confused. It was a picture perfect summation of his Saturday. ames Bree has a chance to be the future right back and Villa at least need to see if they have an option there.
On the left wing options need to be considered. Alex Carson showed that Villa practically played as if they had no one there and that needs to change, this team needs to take advantage of every yard of the pitch. If Andre Green is still unavailable, Bruce has looked for opportunities to get Birkir Bjarnason in games and this could be his chance to show that he has a role for this team.
Ahmed Elmohamady suffered a mouth injury and will be unavailable leaving Albert Adomah the best option on the right side of the attack.
What to know about Reading?
James sat down with The Tilehurst End to discuss Reading’s start to the season (and you can read that tomorrow morning), which has been just as mixed as Villa’s, with one point through two games. Reading couldn’t get the job done against ten-men Fulham and opened up their season with a gutting loss to QPR. It’s very much a battle of blood brothers today, and that’s without mentioning Leandro Bacuna who has just made his move to Reading from Villa. The Royals and the Villans are two identical sides going into this match and both have something to prove.
Villa need to watch out for Jaap Stam, who might not be the best manager on the block, but he can drag something out of nothing. He’s also patient, whereas Steve Bruce isn’t. It’s instincts vs heart tomorrow night. Villa also need to deal with Modou Barrow, who can pull a bit of magic at the drop of a shoulder, and will punish them just like Cardiff did if Villa are as stupid as they were against Cardiff.
The smart money is on a draw. 9/4 is what you’ll find for a draw, while a Reading win is in the region of 39/19 on Oddschecker. You’d be seriously going out on a limb to bet for an away win, but stranger things have happened, and Villa did get the job done last year in this fixture - if Steve Bruce can turn his team around, now is the time. Scott Hogan is 11/2 to score first, while Reading’s Jon Dadi Bodvarsson is 13/2 on that same bet. The money is on Reading’s man, to be frank and based on what we have seen.
There’s no reason not to be optimistic, but a win might be beyond Villa. It’s an away game and they are coming off the back of a demoralising hammering. Reading need to prove themselves as well, and being at home will favour them. If Leandro Bacuna plays, you’d expect him to score, as well. I’d go for a 2-2, with both teams putting it on the line to prove themselves.