Whilst watching the Brentford match, it was a concern to me and every other Villa fan with the amount of hopeful long balls being played by the team. Even before the introduction of Keinan Davis in the second half, who is a genuine target player suited to taking down a long ball, long passes were being aimed towards Scott Hogan.
He won’t win headers as it isn’t his game to do so.
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I think a long ball game still holds a place in football but only at certain points in a game when you need to relieve pressure. Also, only if you have a forward who can win headers and bring others into play. It’s an absolute non-starter if you have a striker with clever movement and small in stature like Hogan. He needs service from the likes of Jack Grealish and Josh Onomah to thrive. We saw a snapshot of what Hogan can do with service as he finished well from a Grealish pass but was unfortunately offside.
The goal that Aston Villa did get actually came from a good passage of passing play which Onomah finished off with a fine header. Any goal attempts or chances of note mostly came from Villa passing the ball. Jack Grealish dribbled his way from a couple of defenders to force the opening. Long punts upfield won’t suit Grealish’s game. It won’t get the best from Scott Hogan either. They are two talented players and crucial to getting results.
Route one football is predictable and often defenders find it easy to play against as Aston Villa have found to their cost this month. A switch in style to a quicker and more fluid passing game will take time to implement which is perhaps why Bruce finds it easier to adopt the long game as it requires less time and coaching.
The great Brian Clough once said, “If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there.” Playing football on the floor is how the game is meant to be played, We’ve seen Wolves, Bristol City and Sheffield Utd score more goals without lumping the ball up front. They all currently occupy a higher league position than Aston Villa. They have played this brand of football all season and Aston Villa haven’t beaten any of them. The fans all want to be entertained when watching their team and too often Aston Villa have been lacking in that department.
If Villa are to regain a play-off place and for Bruce to silence the doubters, an emphasis must be put on passing and moving and less on long ball tactics for the remainder of the season. Many believe Bruce is a tactical dinosaur not capable of moving with the modern game and these current tactics he employs isn’t proving them wrong.