Steve Bruce: Aston Villa manager says signings must 'handle' being at big club

Paul Lambert and Steve Bruce
Steve Bruce's side were beaten by Wolves, managed by ex-Villa boss Paul Lambert (left), on Saturday

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce says any prospective new signings for the Championship promotion hopefuls must "handle" the pressure of being at a club "everyone wants to beat".

After starting with a seven-game unbeaten run when he first succeeded Roberto di Matteo, Bruce's men have now lost five of their last nine games.

Bruce told BBC WM he has to be sure that any arrivals are the right ones.

"If there's been a failing, we've just bought and bought and bought," he said.

"It's just piled and piled and piled and that has not improved.

"But we are a big scalp. Everyone wants to beat us in this division. I have to be 100% right that the people who we are bringing to the club can handle playing for Aston Villa."

Three successive defeats without scoring, including the FA Cup third-round exit at Tottenham, has left them 13th in the Championship, 10 points adrift of the play-offs.

Apart from selling striker Rudy Gestede to Middlesbrough, his only January transfer business so far has been to bring in goalkeeper Sam Johnstone on loan from Manchester United and move out Pierluigi Gollini to Atalanta.

"We're never going to give it up," said Bruce after Saturday's 1-0 local derby defeat by Wolves. "But we have to be brutally honest with ourselves.

"We will keep working away to find the formula and eventually get a team which can mount that challenge. But, at the moment, we're short. The sheer lack of ability to do the basics at Molineux was not good enough. It epitomised everything I'm not."

'It doesn't seem to be working'

"We're not making easy for ourselves," said Villa defender James Chester, who was reunited with Bruce when the ex-Hull City boss arrived in October, having been part of his first promotion-winning Tigers team in 2013.

"There's an awful lot of games to go, But if we don't start going on a run quickly, we're going to find ourselves further and further away."

The loss of Ivory Coast striker Jonathan Kodjia and Ghana's Jordan Ayew to the African Cup of Nations is a factor in Villa's decline of goals.

"They're obviously a big miss," Wales international Chester told BBC WM. "Kodjia has scored a lot of goals and Jordan has a lot of creativity. But there's still plenty of quality on the pitch.

"It doesn't seem to be working at the moment, and we're not keeping clean sheets at the other end."

James Chester and Nouha Dicko
James Chester and his fellow Villa defenders have not kept a clean sheet in five games

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