An underwhelming first half of the season has highlighted that the club still has several players who are not quite at the races. With the transfer window just about to open, the supporters’ thoughts are turning to which players within the squad are still worthy of places. Here are my verdicts on who the club should be looking to get rid of, hang on to and who should be on the team sheet.

GOALKEEPERS

Pierluigi Gollini

After a less than convincing start to his Villa career, Gollini has finally been earning plaudits for several steadier performances. However, it is clear that Bruce is far from convinced, and consistency is still an issue. Being dropped for the game at Loftus Road could be telling. Whilst many keepers often come through shaky starts (David De Gea is a top example), Aston Villa Football Club is not in the position to be able to tolerate those teething troubles this season. I personally think David Marshall should have been snapped up in the summer before his move to Hull City, yet a move for his team-mate Allan McGregor is now rumoured. Manchester United youngster Sam Johnstone is also being touted.

VERDICT

Experience is needed now but potential is there. Keep him.

Mark Bunn

A capable keeper, he mostly does a decent, solid job when called upon. I don’t think many people would see him as a long term number one, however.

VERDICT

A good backup option. Keep.

Jed Steer

A promising youngster who has suffered a potentially season-ending injury. At twenty-four years old he now seems unlikely to make it as a top level keeper.

VERDICT

After three years, it’s time to move on. Sell.

DEFENCE

James Chester

A resounding success so far. Clearly extremely competent at Championship level and, should we somehow gain promotion this season, he will be good enough in the Premier League also.

VERDICT

Must play. Keep.

Tommy Elphick

He has not been quite as good as we first thought. It never sat well with me that Bournemouth seemed happy enough to let him leave then there’s the fact that no other teams were in for him. A blood and thunder approach initially won over fans, perhaps due to that level of commitment not being seen at all last season. However, his displays have since highlighted a lack of pace and a tendency for indecisiveness.

VERDICT

He will be useful this season as backup. Keep.

Nathan Baker

Despite being out of the frame at the start of the season, Baker took his chance when Elphick was injured for a few games and is now first choice alongside Chester. His loan spell at Bristol City last year could have spelled the end of his Villa career yet it seems to have been the making of him. This level seems to suit him perfectly, with his physicality having a huge impact in shoring up our defence. He’s been excellent so far.

VERDICT

Please stay fit. Keep.

Jordan Amavi

Battled back from being overlooked early doors and has rightly firmly cemented the left back spot. Capable of a great final ball into the box with his attacking play, his defensive duties seem to have improved this season also. We should brace ourselves for an approach, if not in January, certainly in the summer.

VERDICT

Make the most of him this season. Keep.

Aly Cissokho

It is mindblowing to think that this player once moved for a £12 million transfer fee and has played regular Champions League football. He never seems comfortable on the ball, is error prone and gives away sloppy penalties.

VERDICT

Backup only. Keep.

Ritchie de Laet

We haven’t yet seen much of him, but he looked to be a player who could balance us out a bit at right back and was by far a preferred option. Unlucky with a serious injury after just three games, which was bad news for both him and us.

VERDICT

Give him a chance! Keep.

Alan Hutton

He’s simply not good enough and a weak link. Despite plenty of endeavour, which is admirable, if we want to progress then Hutton cannot be a regular starter. His effort alone is not enough as he is often guilty of leaving us exposed after venturing forward and putting in a poor ball which leads to counter attacks. He is clumsy in the tackle and often doesn’t tuck in enough, leaving space for players to run into.

VERDICT

He has done well to last this long. Sell.

Micah Richards

Although he is a calamity at centre back, with De Laet injured, I would perhaps prefer him at right back to Hutton at least. Out of favour with Bruce, the fact that he can’t dislodge the Scot with no other current competition for the place perhaps tells us all we need to know.

VERDICT

He is offering nothing right now. Sell.

MIDFIELD

Mile Jedinak

After a slow start, the Australian has proved to be our most consistent midfielder. A key player for us, he is someone who knows his role. With our current lack of quality in this area, at the moment, he is invaluable.

VERDICT

Our most influential midfielder. Keep.

Ashley Westwood

I’ve tried to look for positives in his play and I don’t want to just jump on the bandwagon against him for the sake of it. However, I genuinely do not know what he brings to the side. Lacking a physical presence, he is no enforcer. He very rarely ventures forward to help with the attack. There is no adventure in his passing of the ball so he slows the game down rather than looking for a killer ball forward. It is easy to meander around the middle of the park and play some simple passes. He doesn’t offer enough, even at this level, and certainly isn’t Premier League class should we make it back to the top flight.

VERDICT

We look a better team when we isn’t in it. Sell.

Gary Gardner

It is good to see the local lad finally getting a run of games, although, in my opinion, he isn’t dynamic enough. I would have him ahead of Westwood as I think there is more attacking threat from him. Similarly to Westwood, I just don’t really see any benefit from him playing.

VERDICT

He can do a job but is not a starter. Keep.

Aaron Tshibola

I would love to know what Tshibola has done to Steve Bruce. After some promising early season performances, the former Reading man has disappeared from the first team completely, not even making the bench recently. For me, Tshibola offered the athleticism that Westwood and Gardner don’t possess. He is box-to-box and I would have certainly at least give him a run of four or five games to show what he can do.

VERDICT

I would love to see him back in the first team. Keep.

Leandro Bacuna

After being one of the hated ones from last season, some disciplined performances have won round some of those offended fans. Solid without being spectacular, Bacuna is a useful member of the squad.

VERDICT

Versatility could be key. Keep.

Jack Grealish

Progress is being made this season, although he still isn’t doing enough to command a regular starting place. We’ve seen glimpses of his ability and he has the potential to turn games. He’s the mercurial sort of player that could really make the difference.

VERDICT

He has the potential to be a legend. Keep.

Albert Adomah

He’s done well since joining the club, chipping in with few assists and a goal. He gives us natural width on the right, but we are unbalanced without an equal on the left. I would like to see him take on and skin a defender a bit more, but he should start games.

VERDICT

He has the ability to make things happen. Keep.

Jordan Lyden

Despite a few encouraging performances at the back end of last season, the Aussie has disappeared from first team action this season. He needs to get to some game time to progress.

VERDICT

Highly rated. Keep.

Andre Green

He made a few appearances under Roberto Di Matteo and I thought did well. I’d like to see him come on late in some games and use his pace. As as a left-sided player, he could complement Adomah on the opposite flank.

VERDICT

An exciting prospect. Keep.

STRIKERS

Jonathan Kodjia

He offers our best chance of winning games but, unfortunately, is having to do it all on his own so far. There’s no doubt for me that he can score goals at Premier League level also. Quick and direct, he stretches defences. Hopefully Bruce has stopped that nonsense of playing him out wide.

VERDICT

Quite simply, the main man. Keep.

Jordan Ayew

He has come in for some criticism, but I do sympathise with him. Playing out wide doesn’t suit him. If he was played through the middle I think he’d be scoring goals. He is a talent and so far has got on and done what has been asked of him.

VERDICT

I would love to see him up top in a two with Kodjia. Keep.

Ross McCormack

He has been a huge disappointment so far. A clever player, he has struggled to get into games lately. The most frustrating thing is that we know there is a prolific player in there somewhere. Competition for places has hindered him and I don’t see him suddenly finding his touch in the second half of the season.

VERDICT

This may be our only chance to salvage a large chunk of the fee we paid. Sell.

Rudy Gestede

Gestede is a funny one. If he is in the mood, he can be superb. Those days are few and far between though. I see him more as an impact substitute, but I do think he plays a role for us that nobody else is really able to. Currently, he is our second top goalscorer this season.

VERDICT

He’s useful at this level. Keep.

Gabriel Agbonlahor

I can understand Bruce not freezing him out, especially if the player shows he is willing to work. Nevertheless, to bring him back into the team when he is clearly not fit enough and hasn’t earned a starting place is bonkers. I think his best is behind him and I would much rather a couple of the promising youngsters be given a chance first. If he suddenly discovers some form then great but it’s pretty obvious that he now offers next to nothing on the pitch.

VERDICT

End of the road. Sell.

Libor Kozak

I always quite liked Kozak. I still think that with a decent run of games, he could have been a decent player for us. Horrific injuries have robbed him of a career with us and he is now little more than a dead man walking.

VERDICT

It’s a shame that it turned out this way. Sell.

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy

There is certainly an argument for giving the youngster some game time. With misfiring colleagues, it does seem unfair to not be given fifteen or twenty minutes here and there. The obvious contrast with Agbonlahor getting in ahead of a kid who is banging in goals for the Under 23 team really does rankle with the majority of fans. We have to be careful of protecting youngsters too much. It seems that we are happy to keep our kids in reserve leagues until they are twenty-one or twenty-two, which may be more of a hindrance than risking them in the first team.

VERDICT

He will surely get game time in the new year. Keep.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I suspect you’ve forgotten that Richards has done his knee, hence that’s not the reason he can’t get in instead of Hutton.
    Just saying.
    Otherwise, I pretty much agree with your assessment.

    And if you delete this reply, as it seems you did last time, I won’t bother again.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here