After a positive opening few months at Aston Villa, Steve Bruce’s tenure as manager is now in the midst of its first major crisis.
The club have not won in the Championship for seven matches, a run that has all but ended their slim chances of sneaking into the play-offs.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) February 10, 2017
They are now 16 points adrift of sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday and Bruce must make some tough calls to ensure that a dreadful season doesn’t get any worse.
First of all, he needs to stick with the 3-5-2 formation that he has employed in recent matches.
No, it has not yet bought the desired results, but Villa are in need of stability in all areas and this includes tactics.
Give the players time to get used to the new set-up and hopefully they can then begin to operate as a unit instead of a group of disparate individuals.
Secondly, Bruce should consider reinstating Jordan Amavi to the starting XI, particularly given the change in tactical approach.
The Frenchman has sometimes struggled on the left side of a four-man defence, but would seem ideally suited to play as an attacking wing-back, which has left many fans wondering why he has been omitted from the last two line-ups.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) February 7, 2017
Finally and most crucially, Bruce must get the Villa fans back onside and that means stringing together some wins as soon as possible.
The good thing about life in the Championship is that after a defeat like Saturday’s against Ipswich Town, the next game and a chance to put it right is never too far around the corner.
They host Barnsley on Tuesday in what could be a pivotal evening in Bruce’s Villa career; a convincing win would temporarily silence the doubters and give him some breathing space, but a loss could send the Midlanders into meltdown.
Some sections of the Villa Park faithful have already begun to question the 56-year-old’s position and whilst sacking him would clearly be an error at this stage, another couple of bad results could see the team slip into a relegation battle.
Bruce is experienced at this level and given time should make a success of the job, but the green shoots of recovery need to start showing soon to placate supporters who have been forced to endure the demise of their once-great club drawn out over the last six years.