COMMENT by Amir Mir
On 30 October emotions will be running high when Aston Villa take on second city rivals Birmingham at St Andrews in an eagerly awaited showdown.
As things stands Gary Rowett’s men sit above Roberto Di Matteo’s side in the Championship table, with the Blues picking up 12 points from seven games, while Villa have only mustered a meagre seven.
Villa simply can’t go into that fixture with the form they are currently in, or frustration will reach boiling point among the already disgruntled fan base.
Should the team’s form not markedly improve over the next-month-and-a-bit, and Di Matteo’s men then lose to their bitter rivals, the reign of the Champions League-winning manager will come under the harshest possible spotlight.
Villa have thrown away a potential seven points this term from conceding late goals, including in their recent fixture against Brentford where the team was booed off at full-time after conceding an 88th minute equaliser.
Di Matteo opted for a more defensive-minded game against the Bees as Villa decided to sit back after scoring an early goal through Jonathan Kodjia- a tactic they rued to the anger of supporters.
Despite Di Matteo having over £50 million to spend on nine players this summer, the Italian is yet to find his best and most balanced starting XI. It is is costing him and the club points that they cannot afford to lose.
The claret and blue side are already nine points behind table toppers Huddersfield, as Di Matteo’s tactics in recent games come into question.
With his side winning 2-1 against Nottingham Forest last Sunday, Di Matteo failed to take off one of his five attacking-minded players, which cost his side a valuable three points as they conceded another late goal.
Additionally, the ex-Chelsea boss decided to field four strikers against Brentford on Wednesday, but opted for a more defensive-minded game where his side recorded only nine shots on goal.
As things stands Di Matteo is still trying to find his best formula. He has more time to develop a playing style.
Should there not be an identifiable one that works by the Midlands derby d-day, it could spell the end for the former Chelsea and Schalke boss.
He has just over a month to prove the club have not made a hiring howler.
In other Aston Villa team news, Roberto Di Matteo gives his verdict on why his side keep conceding late goals.