Jonathan Kodjia has returned from the Africa Cup of Nations earlier than expected after the Ivory Coast exited the competition sooner than most expected at the group stage of the competition.
As Aston Villa Football Club’s top goalscorer this season with nine goals from his nineteen appearances in claret and blue, it is fair to say he has been missed. In his absence, his Villa team-mates have largely struggled in front of goal with a return of only two goals in four matches.
Both of the Villa goals scored whilst Kodjia was in Gabon came from the feet of Albert Adomah in last weekend’s disappointing 2-2 draw with Preston North End, a game in which the Villans let their two goal lead slip. This meant that whilst our top goal-scorer was away we have slumped to one draw and three defeats from three league matches and our FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur.
Whilst our talisman has been away much has changed, however: Ross McCormack is out of the first team picture after ‘gate-gate’ and five new faces have arrived at Bodymoor Heath, with three of those awaiting their Villa debuts.
As I wrote last week, one of our new signings – Henri Lansbury – made an impressive start to his claret and blue career, adding quality and dynamism in our midfield which has not been evident for some time. On the other hand, our new goalkeeper Sam Johnstone has had a mixed start to his Villa career, which is perhaps not wholly unexpected given his lack of experience. The loanee from Manchester United has shown some quality with his distribution, which will no doubt encourage Kodjia.
I expect, however, that it will be the signings of former Forest captain Lansbury, former Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane and Iceland international Birkir Bjarnason that will cause our returning talisman the most excitement.
Suddenly the midfield behind Kodjia is packed with players looking to play on the front foot by creating chances and contributing goals and assists. This season, Hourihane has a tally of six goals and eleven assists, Lansbury has contributed six goals and three assists whilst Bjarnason has bagged four goals and two assists.
Compare this to our midfielders this season. Jack Grealish, Gary Gardner, Ashley Westwood, Aaron Tshibola, Leandro Bacuna and Mile Jedinak have six goals and four assists between them!
Surely this will mean more opportunities and space for our Ivorian hitman to operate in given that there will now be willing runners coming from deep. Hopefully, starting at Griffin Park tomorrow night, we will see the new look midfield in action, which will bring out the best of our main man up top and see a return to winning ways for Aston Villa Football Club.