The international break has gone the Championship is set to resume in earnest.
September is going to be a very important month for Aston Villa. Five league matches and one league cup fixture await Steve Bruce and his charges and he knows that if the club are still languishing towards the foot of the table Dr Xia will, in all probability, hand him his P45 just as he did with Robert Di Matteo last year.
If September is to be fruitful for Villa, there are some issues that Bruce will need to address. The back three experiment needs to be forgotten about now as Villa simply do not have the full backs for it.
James Bree would be comfortable with it although I feel Bruce would use Ahmed Elmohamady instead who just doesn’t have the legs to be effective in that role.
Neil Taylor, however, is a defensive full back and needs to be played as one. Against Bristol City, he looked lost and just stayed wide without supporting the attack or the defence, which made the whole team lopsided. Bruce has tried Birkir Bjarnason a as wing back already with poor results and the time has come to settle the defence. A flat back four suits everybody.
A big problem so far has been in defensive midfield. Glenn Whelan is no Mile Jedinak (who is?) and will likely make way for the Australian when he gets over his injury. Jedinak’s presence has been missed badly, without him breaking up attacks as often as he does, Villa have been put on the back foot far too often, especially away from home.
I only hope Bruce does not see fit to play them together as he has no need to be that negative with the attacking players at his disposal. At the end of a game to protect a lead, that duo would be be fine but other than that, no.
Whilst the left side pretty much chooses it self, Taylor behind Andre Green, the right is a different story. Villa have no less than four right backs and three right wingers at the club and Bruce needs to choose carefully. Bree should be first choice right back but hasn’t been and that needs to change now, the youngster will only get better with a run in the team and he is a better player than his rivals for that spot.
With Robert Snodgrass joining, I expect Bruce to start him ahead of Elmohamady and Albert Adomah on the right side. Josh Onomah has earned his place behind the striker and it would be harsh if he is the one to make way for the Scotsman.
Bruce normally plays with a lone striker and he must pick his favourite and play him consistently. This is all about personal preference as both Keinan Davis and Scott Hogan have been very good but neither will benefit from being dropped one week and starting the next.
Whoever gets the nod needs to be allowed to forge an understanding with his team mates if they are going to score frequently. Personally I would choose Hogan with Davis regularly coming off the bench as that eases the pressure on the youngster who will blow hot and cold has he develops.
I may be wrong on some of these issues but if Aston Villa are to be promoted, Bruce can not afford to be. A slow start needs to be turned into a winning run or another season in the Championship beckons and maybe another manager does to.