Steve Bruce’s rebuilding job at Aston Villa reached another stepping stone in their impressive away draw at Championship high-flyers Brighton & Hove Albion on Friday night.
Nathan Baker’s first goal for the club was cancelled out by a superb strike from Brighton’s Glenn Murray, but it was the visitors who pushed for the winner in the second half and only a combination of the woodwork and keeper David Stockdale prevented them from grabbing all three points.
— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) November 19, 2016
Bruce took over from Roberto Di Matteo in October with the Villains struggling in the second-tier of English football, but they are undefeated in the six matches following his arrival, securing three wins and three draws in that time.
If he can continue to pick up points at this rate then Villa will finish with 80, a total that has never seen a club finish outside of the play-offs since the current 24-team format was introduced for the 1992-93 season.
The 55-year-old has already proven himself to be more tactically astute than his predecessor and he demonstrated these capabilities again at The Amex Stadium.
Villa had played a 4-2-3-1 formation against Blackburn in their previous match, securing a vital 2-1 win, but here Bruce introduced Ashley Westwood as part of a three-man central midfield to offer more protection to the defence.
This kind of pragmatism had been lacking under Di Matteo, who routinely started with as many as four forwards in the side, expecting to bulldoze teams off the park.
Bruce is experienced enough at this level to know that a win is never guaranteed pre-match and his willingness to tweak his tactics depending on the opposition has been welcomed by fans.
Certainly, at Villa Park the team will be expected to take the game to their opponents, but away from home at the league’s big hitters a draw has to be considered a good result.
Owner Tony Xia has repeatedly stated that his aim is for the Midlanders to achieve promotion back to the Premier League this season, a feat that has been hugely complicated by the poor start to the campaign.
However, with Bruce at the helm, there is a feeling that they may finally have the right man to steer the club back to where it belongs, whether that is this season or further down the line.