In the last game against Crystal Palace, Rémi Garde gave both Mark Bunn and Libor Kozák their first starts of the season in the Premier League. This was a bold move, although it proved successful: the French manager won his first game since he took over from Tim Sherwood in November.
Most Aston Villa fans had been calling for changes in the team selection for weeks, with Brad Guzan looking to be getting worse game by game. Guzan didn’t help himself with his conduct on the bench last weekend against Wycombe Wanderers and now faces a real struggle to regain his place in the side.
Mark Bunn was brought to the club in the summer and hasn’t really had a chance to show what he can do in the first team. He arrived with the reputation of being a back-up goalkeeper for almost all of his career so far, much like Steve Harper and Stuart Taylor, the latter spending a couple of years at Aston Villa in that reserve role.
The situation with Guzan got to the point where he could not continue to play every week, making the same mistakes. Guzan should not be made a scapegoat but he has cost us a lot of points through poor goalkeeping this season.
I hope that Garde continues to select Bunn and that he gives him the chance to make the position his own. From what we have seen in his two games in the last week against Wycombe Wanderers and Crystal Palace, Bunn looks confident and his distribution is better than Guzan’s this season.
Libor Kozák is a player Garde seemed to freeze out of the first team picture in the first month and a half of his tenure. All I can say about that is that Kozák must have looked atrocious in training if he couldn’t force his way into the struggling first team.
Whenever the Czech striker has played for Aston Villa, he has put in a real shift. That is something that has been missing from the side in recent weeks. Fans want to see the players giving their all, regardless of the results. The fans want the players to feel that the Villans could not have given any more for the team – and Kozák certainly fits that bill.
Our options up front have been fairly limited this season, with Jordan Ayew our main striker and Rudy Gestede the player that Garde has mainly chosen to pair with the Ghanaian.
The problem with Rudy Gestede is that he offers very little to the team and, unless you play the ball directly to him, he is virtually useless. In addition to this, Gestede doesn’t like a physical battle with defenders, which is something that I find strange considering his physical attributes. It seems that he was signed as a replacement for Christian Benteke, although he is nothing like the Belgian hitman and never will be.
Libor Kozák arrived at Aston Villa from Lazio, a club that was in the Europa League at the time. Rudy Gestede arrived from Blackburn Rovers, a club that has struggled in the Championship in recent seasons. The difference in quality between the two players is evident so I find it surprising that it has taken Kozák this long to get into the first team.
Rémi Garde has refused to rule out selling Kozák during this transfer window, which is madness. We need to have the Czech international in and around the first team if we are to have any chance of survival this season. Selling him would potentially be the worst bit of transfer business that the club has done for a long time.
The bottom line is that Kozák and Bunn both deserve a chance. It is no coincidence that the Villans looked better on Tuesday with them both in the side. I just hope the manager realises that!