So now we’ve just enjoyed a taster of what’s possible for Villa…..
Jedinak, Jedinak, in the middle, or at the back..
It was back to winning ways for Villa as they passed their test against the much fancied Sheffield Wednesday last Saturday. It looked pretty comfortable by the end but a disallowed off-side goal, a close penalty call and the luxury of playing against ten men, suggested that the Wednesday fans would have seen it rather differently. Even so, there was very little doubt about the lunge which led to the sending-off. Surprise and amazement at Steve Bruce’s substitution choices turned to pleasure and amusement as the decision to replace the injured Baker with Alan Hutton and move Jedinak to centre-back, proved to be a game changer, as Hutton brought drive to the midfield and Jedinak looked more than comfortable in defence. Two nice goals from Jonathan Kodjia took him to seventeen goals for the season and we can only wonder at how many he would have by now, if his Villa season hadn’t been interrupted by the African Cup of Nations.
The three points lifted Villa up to exactly halfway and within hailing distance of the top-six. With twenty-seven points to play for, it is not impossible to construct a scenario where Villa finish a few places higher but beyond that it would require a serious meltdown from quite a few clubs for Villa to get near the play-offs. With them looking more or less safe now and with glory out of sight, it would seem that the only thing to play for is to win over the fans, redeem themselves from previous failures and build something for next season. Villa were good against Huddersfield and excellent against Wednesday and with a few players returning from injury Bruce will have a few more options. Ironically, it seems that with every injury his team has actually got better but enough is enough.
So now we’ve just enjoyed a taster of what’s possible for Villa, beating one of the better teams in the Championship, they have to take themselves off for an away battle at the other end of the table at Wigan. The Latics are another former Premier League club which had their moment of glory back in 2013, when they won the FA Cup, which was followed by the not unfamiliar decline, which ended in League One. Steve Bruce had a decent season managing Wigan back in 2008 and did Villa the disservice of selling us Emile Heskey. Certainly Wigan had some positive momentum back then and no doubt Martinez benefited from what Steve Bruce had brought to the club.
Wigan were promoted from League One as Champions with Burton in second place last May, and as they had the momentum it was assumed that they would do okay this season but it was not to be. Oddly, the team which scrambled to promotion via the play-offs was Barnsley who are a place about Villa in the table with fifty-one points. It just shows that you never can tell. Its been very much an up and under year for Wigan. The Latics are the lowest scoring team in the Championship (31), compared with Villa’s less than spectacular 37, but are slightly better than average in defence. They seem to be involved in a lot of very low-scoring games which are decided by a single goal. Their single win in their last six, was against Birmingham City. I fully expect to see the Villa away fans to be all smiles when they buy their snacks for their journey tomorrow morning, because they usually are, but I don’t think they will be expecting anything other than a dower defensive struggle when they get to the DW Stadium. With both teams having more or less the same defensive record, it seems likely that Villa with their slightly better attack, will get something from the game if they can keep a clean-sheet. Let’s hope it doesn’t get too rough, as any more injuries will make football in the Championship seem like a bloodsport.
Keep the faith!