Back-to-back wins for the first time since 2015 have lifted the mood around Villa Park considerably. Steve Bruce is winning over the supporters and we seem to be experiencing some luck on the pitch for a change. Suddenly, everything seems rosy again.
There is one outstanding positive in particular for me and that is the real promise of a new goal–scoring hero in Jonathan Kodjia.
An initial fee of £11 million was paid to Bristol City for the Ivorian international, which could rise to a hefty £15 million depending on various clauses. It is a huge outlay for a player at this level and is the record transfer fee for the Championship. He is certainly already beginning to repay his fee with some important goals. Saturday’s winning effort against Fulham was his fourth in nine appearances. Whilst that may not be totally red hot form overall, he seemingly represents something Aston Villa has had all too infrequently over the years – namely, a player who gets fans off their seats and a regular goal-scorer with it. He appears to be growing into the team more and more.
Christian Benteke was obviously the last great striker we had. His goals were the only thing that stopped us being relegated sooner than we actually were. Other heroes during the Premier League era have included the immensely likeable John Carew and the equally affable Juan Pablo Angel. Both finished as our top scorer in all competitions for three seasons each, as did Benteke. Dion Dublin also managed three seasons as our main marksman and so did Dean Saunders. Dwight Yorke went one better and was our top scorer on four occasions. It is noticeable that Gabby Agbonlahor, for all his years of service, has only once finished as our top goalscorer in all competitions, way back in 2006-07. He is on a par with Milan Baros and Julian Joachim in that regard.
Going back to the beginning of this millennium, only on six occasions have we had a player score fifteen or more goals in all competitions. Angel, Carew and Benteke each managed it twice. It is even rarer for a Villa player to break the twenty goal mark, with Angel and Benteke the only two to do so in the last twenty years. In short, we have been starved of players who can score with regularity over the years.
Kodjia has made a good start to his Villa career and seems to be in the same mould as those truly endearing great goal-scorers of years gone by. The fans are already firmly behind him and he has coupled his goals with plenty of effort and determination so far. I believe he could be our next true Holte End.
What I especially like about him is that it would seem that he has an eye for the spectacular. Now, as Villa supporters, we know that we can’t choose to be picky right at the moment. Winning games again is all I need right now after so long without. However, having someone in the ranks who can really excite the crowd with the occasional worldy doesn’t half go down well. Efforts against Brentford and on Saturday especially against Fulham show a player who is confident enough to take a chance and, furthermore, who can actually deliver.
Saturday’s effort in particular was superb improvisation and showcased excellent technique. It feels like we only ever see those sort of goals being scored by players at other clubs and are left wishing we had someone who could convert such chances. To have a player capable of such efforts is so encouraging. So many of the players we’ve endured over recent times would perhaps have tried to have brought the ball down first and lost possession. Kodjia appears to have an instinct and can back it up with ability. It’s fantastic to see someone like that in a Villa shirt.
Of course, we shouldn’t expect spectacular goals to be flying in every weekend. Nevertheless, the fact that Kodjia is attempting such efforts shows his confidence right now and if we have a player who can occasionally pull something special and unexpected out of nowhere then those moments could make the difference between gaining a single point and all three, which is exactly what happened on Saturday.
It isn’t just for Aston Villa Football Club that Kodjia has been in good form for. He has also recently broken into the Ivory Coast national team. The Elephants are bringing through a new group of players after the likes of Kolo and Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba finally called time on a golden generation. It is worth noting that Kodjia, who has never played in a top league, is still starting ahead of figures such as Wilfried Bony and Saloman Kalou. In his four appearances so far, he has made it very difficult to be left out, notching three goals already. As you may well have seen online, a couple of those goals have also been fairly spectacular. A twenty yard effort against Mali was decent enough yet his sensational acrobatic bicycle kick against Sierra Leone is the one to really get excited over.
The Villa attack is by far the strongest part of the squad. Despite being brought in for a large sum of money, Kodjia has done well to establish himself as the main striker. With the likes of Jordan Ayew, Ross McCormack and Rudy Gestede all extremely capable at this level, the competition for places should help to keep an edge to Kodjia’s game. For me, he has been hardworking and a willing runner who contributes more than just goals. He has pace to burn and stretches defences and is by far our most mobile player so he does hold that as an advantage over our other options. He appears to have the attributes to really become a serious player.
It is very early days but the signs so far are really encouraging. If we are to make a push for those play-off places, a reliable goal-scorer is needed and Kodjia appears to be the most likely to oblige. The African Cup of Nations tournament in January may be a hindrance, although Kodjia could well be our next twenty goals a season man.