Aston Villa’s season has kicked off in style with the club securing maximum points from their first two games for just the first time in almost twenty years and this is without last seasons star performer, Albert Adomah featuring too much.
Whilst that particular stat in itself is pretty startling, after the summer of turmoil we have endured it perhaps makes it all the more impressive.
In fact, the squad appears to be in relatively healthy shape considering what might have been. Whilst John Terry and Robert Snodgrass have departed, thankfully our new billionaire owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris allowed the club to keep James Chester and Jack Grealish. We appear to have made a quality signing in John McGinn and we can welcome the promising Andre Green back after injury.
In fact, it is Green’s return that puts a question mark over one of our most popular performers from last season, Adomah.
‘Uncle Albert’ is an extremely curious case. He ended last season as the clubs top goalscorer with fourteen goals, an exceptional total for a wide player. He also contributed seven assists. On the face of it, the Ghana international should be a shoe-in to start games.
But he isn’t. And even despite his superb tally of both scoring and creating goals, there is a feeling that there is just something limiting Adomah’s game. That despite the goals and assists, that there is still something lacking somewhere.
It feels extremely harsh to even be discussing the matter because not only has he bagged more than his fair share of goals, but his work rate defensively has improved tremendously during his time at Villa Park. Despite often playing as a right winger for much of his career, Adomah has flourished in being switched over to the left side. Interestingly, the same is also true of Alan Hutton who now operates most weeks at left back. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this is the reason why Adomah’s defensive work has improved so much; there has been a necessity at times. For me, Albert has made Hutton a much more reliable performer also.
So why are we even questioning Uncle Albert’s place in the side? Isn’t he doing everything that is being asked of him, and more?
Well, actually, not at the moment. And he hasn’t been for a while now. Adomah’s last goal and assist came during the excellent 4-1 victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers back on the 10th March. Since then, playoffs included, Adomah has been involved in fifteen games and has looked somewhat out of sorts for much of that time.
A hamstring injury back in February kept him out for just under a month, yet there seemed no immediate ill effects upon his return as evidenced in the aforementioned Wolves game. However, it’s interesting to note that Adomah hadn’t completed a full ninety minutes since the middle of March until the second leg of the playoff semi-final against Middlesborough. It’s not uncommon for Bruce to sacrifice Albert late on in games to tighten things up, yet more often than not during this period, he was being subbed off around the hour mark.
This suggests a lack of fitness and that perhaps the injury was being managed. It also highlights Adomah’s relative ineffectiveness, going forward at least, towards the back end of last season.
With Green chomping at the bit and with a successful pre-season behind him, Bruce appears to have decided to now go ahead with the youngster if Saturday’s lineup against Wigan is anything to go by. Let’s not forget, Green was Bruce’s preferred choice at the start of last season before injury curtailed his involvement for the rest of the campaign. And for me, right now with Adomah’s slump, that is the correct decision again.
There is a directness about Green’s game that seems lacking in Adomah’s at the moment. And whilst I do think Uncle Albert’s work rate and added security defensively shouldn’t be underestimated, primarily I want the wingers to be creating and, hopefully, scoring goals.
There was a lot of speculation over the summer regarding Adomah and there seemed to be several clubs linked with securing his services, including Newcastle United and more prominently, Leeds United on deadline day where a move was apparently a real possibility. At 30 years old, there was a train of thought that perhaps we have just had his best years and bringing in some sort of transfer fee would’ve been a smart piece of business. Maybe so, but I just think Adomah can still be a useful option for us this season.
For all of Green’s promise, he seems susceptible to picking up injuries. If that happens again, then Adomah is an excellent option to be able to bring in. Selling him now and depleting the squad of a genuine wide man would’ve weakened us for the long season ahead unnecessarily.
There are two years left on Albert’s contract. No matter what happens to the club at the end of this season, I think it’s likely that any interested parties would perhaps have more luck in securing his signature at that point. Then entering his final year, I find it difficult to see the club looking to extend his contract beyond the age of 32.
I do think Adomah has improved as a player during his time at Villa and despite his heroics in front of goal last season, I think it’s right that Bruce looks to build for the future with Green. We have had too many youngsters not given enough first-team opportunities and who suddenly find themselves in their mid-twenties still looking to break into the side. Green has real talent and getting him established as a regular has to be the priority.
However, having ‘Uncle Albert‘ around the place for another year is no bad thing and I’m sure there will be times throughout the season where he proves his worth as a squad player once again.