Villa’s squad has not looked as together as it does for a number of seasons, but alongside the intimacy, there’s a fire burning in almost every single player to either keep their spot in the match-day squad or replace someone else in it.
Take a look at Birkir Bjarnason as a perfect example.
At the start of January, Birkir was linked with a move back to Italy with Parma Calcio.
However, an injury to Mile Jedinak and the on-again off-again form of Glenn Whelan saw Birkir move into the holding midfielder role.
In recent games, Birkir has been an instrumental part of the way that the squad has been playing and has received widespread praise.
Towards the end of the transfer window, Birkir had an interview with Icelandic publication Morgunblaðið, where he revealed that his three week stint in the team and widespread praise had confirmed to him that he wanted to stay at Villa.
Recently in the Second City Derby, Mile Jedinak found himself replacing a rather in form Bjarnason in the holding midfield role, presumably because of his larger stature and strength.
Jedinak performed well, gaining a place in the EFL team-of-the-week.
This has now offered Bruce another selection dilemma on whether to involve Jedinak or Bjarnason next week.
The Others Vying for a Squad Position
With the loan arrivals of Grabban and Tuanzebe in the January transfer window, this has offered Bruce a plethora of choice for their respective positions.
Both players came to Villa to expect to be involved in the match day squad.
But will Scott Hogan having scored five in six, Grabban will be lucky to start a game.
This also comes with the added competition of youngsters Keinan Davis and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy.
There’s also a number of players who seem frozen out of the squad.
The likes of Neil Taylor, Henri Lansbury, Glenn Whelan and Josh Onomah have had their playing time severely limited since Villa’s resurgence just before the turn of the year.
As well as this, there’s Gabriel Agbonlahor trying to win a squad position back – paired with youngsters like Callum O’Hare who continue to impress at both Senior and U-23 level warranting consideration for the squad.
Competition for places is nothing to be scoffed at, and can only benefit the Villa in their run in for automatic promotion.
Competition for places in the squad means that the performances of those in the squad are keeping others out.