The appointment of Dean Smith as got Aston Villa fans talking about a new start for Scott Hogan. Smith has already stated that he will hold one on one talks with the former Brentford striker.
Hogan is by all accounts just as pleased as the fans are about Bruce’s removal from the club. In what the tabloids love to label as ‘an angry swipe’ the Republic of Ireland international has given an insight into what pretty much every single supporter already knew.
Hogan has confirmed that he felt ‘hung out to dry’ by Bruce over a couple of issues. Most noticeably that ‘playing in a system where there is just no way on this earth it’s suited to you’ has been a huge factor in the Villa faithful not seeing the best of him.
It was glaringly obvious that Hogan was being misused. There were intelligent runs being made that just needed a ball slipping through for him to run onto. Instead, we would often pump forward a long, high ball towards him. Whilst Hogan isn’t as short as his stocky frame belies and we have seen him score with his head in the box, he is certainly no target man.
Hogan is absolutely justified in believing that Bruce’s tactics didn’t suit him. However, he does need to be slightly careful to not lay everything on our now departed manager. Injuries have been a constant problem since his arrival back in January 2017. Niggles and finding true fitness has also hampered him. And this, in turn, has also led to a lack of clinical finishing at times when chances have come his way.
However, it’s clear that he was never likely to consistently flourish, injuries or otherwise under Bruce. The whole situation with Hogan just raises so many questions about Bruce’s judgement and decision making.
Decisions & promises
Most baffling of all is why spend £9.5 million on a striker and then not play to his strengths? It’s fantasy football type thinking to just see a player scoring goals for fun and expect him to continue to do so not only in a totally different system but a system that shackles his attributes no less. It’s not just bizarre, it’s actually negligent.
Hogan also claims that Bruce promised him he’d be playing this season in a formation and style that more suited him. Two days later, Tammy Abraham arrived. I have complete sympathy when Hogan admits that after Bruce’s treatment of him ‘his head wasn’t completely in it’. Imagine being frozen out by the person who’s fault it is that you’re underperforming in the first place. There is literally nothing you can do.
As well as Bruce’s departure signalling a fresh start for Hogan, an added bonus is the arrival of Smith who he worked with so effectively at Brentford. So now the question is, will Hogan even get his chance to shine on a consistent basis?
Abraham has looked good in a Villa shirt so far. A return of three goals in six appearances so far should ensure that the Chelsea loanee keeps his place in the side for the visit of Swansea this coming weekend. If Smith’s tactics at Brentford are any indicator, he’ll continue favouring using just one main striker in a 4-2-3-1 system. That means Hogan may have to wait a little while longer to make an impact.
Abraham is also a more versatile option than Hogan and has a better all-around game. It’s fair to say that Hogan doesn’t seem to have as many strings to his bow. But Smith does at least know how to use him properly and he’ll be a wholly more effective option from the bench initially.
I do think that Smith will see Hogan as a preferable option to Jonathan Kodjia however. I’m a huge fan of the Ivorian and love watching him play. It has been great to see him quieten his critics this season with both goals and assists. But I just have the feeling that his unpredictable nature isn’t quite what Smith is going to rely on. Especially when he knows for certain he can get a tune out of Hogan instead.
Goals, goals, goals
Nevertheless, Smith does have the enviable position of being able to call on three options that are proven twenty goals a season, strikers. I do think we’ll see a much improved Scott Hogan from this point onwards. But I just feel that it’s going to be difficult to keep himself ahead of Abraham especially and establish himself as our main striker.
It’s easy to see the links between Hogan and Smith’s past at Brentford and assume that is going to automatically click again at Villa. I think it’s important to remember though that Hogan was the main man at Griffin Park with very little competition for his place. This is a very different scenario. For me, talk of Hogan now being a candidate to end up as top scorer is slightly premature.
There is such a long way still to go through, and if he can stay fit, he will undoubtedly be given opportunities by Smith. The positive for both Hogan and supporters alike is that we know when those opportunities do come along. He’s now much more likely to put in the performances that his effort and determination should’ve been rewarded with a long time ago.