Eerie Elland Road
The unbeaten run continues under Steve Bruce as Cardiff were rolled over by an impressive home display spearheaded by Jonathan Kodjia, who picked up the PFA Player of the Month.
A late Saturday night kick off will leave Steve Bruce with a lot to think about however as Gary Monk’s side have hit form that even overshadows Villa’s efforts, rising from the lower reaches of the league to the top six. They’ve won four of their last five league matches, losing only to league leaders Newcastle narrowly.
Villa’s trip to Elland Road has historically not been fruitful as Villa have only won once in Yorkshire since 1991, although the last time this fixture was played was in 2004. Showing how long the demise of a former European football contender has been in play, the game between Villa and Leeds will be one between two teams in a similar position, sleeping giants trying to regain the status that their former glory years possessed.
Unfortunately it looks likely that only one of these two teams can get promoted this year and this game will be a good indicator of who has the upper hand in reaching the promised land.
Here’s three ways that could contribute to a Villa win…beyond scoring more goals!
Villa’s win last week didn’t come as straight forward as it looked, as the start of the match saw a lot of hopeless high and long balls by Nathan Baker, which predictably led to Cardiff attacks.
The early Cardiff pressure didn’t result in a goal until after Villa had taken the lead. Many Villa fans would chalk that down to an individual error with Ashley Westwood trying to take the ball backwards rather than staying composed and looking for the forward ball (plus, Hutton’s poor marking), but there’s evidence throughout Villa’s previous matches where the team has gone long periods without attacking intent when in possession of the ball.
The first halves against Brighton and Blackburn are two good recent examples of Villa just playing a little too safe.
Leeds with nine wins this season, almost twice that of Villa and have clearly have shown they have a cutting edge and play with purpose going forward. Villa will need to fight fire with fire by instructing the players to have more purpose on the ball. Play it forward, carve out defence splitting passes, instead of a safety-first mentality.
Newcastle went to Elland Road and showed intent and had the game pretty much wrapped up just after half-time, Villa should venture a similiar approach.
Leeds United will be the first team Villa face this year where they truly only have one main attacking threat, and a very good one at that. New Zealand international Chris Wood has scored nine of Leeds’s 20 goals this season, a whopping 45%.
He is also the only Leeds player to have scored more than two goals this season, so how can Steve Bruce stop this man in monstrous form?
Jedinak, Mile Jedinak.
Despite a slow start to the season Jedinak has really grown into the player that we were all promised by the Palace faithful. His aerial presence was the dominating factor in games against Cardiff and Birmingham especially.
Chris Wood is an old fashioned target man, he’s going to win the ball in the air, whether it be to put the ball past Gollini or to a team mate to run through on goal, if he is not specifically marked by Jedinak, Villa could have a very bad time of it.
With Nathan Baker unlikely to feature and Chester and Elphick both sub six-foot centre-backs, Jedinak will need to pick Wood up on set pieces at least.
Putting Jedinak’s 4.8 aerial duels won per game, against Chris Wood’s 3.9 should make this titanic tussle in the air a spectacle to see, with Jedinak coming out on top, hopefully.
Seeing Agbonlahor’s return to the first team has either left fans perplexed, angry or happy, with some people a mix of all three. This polarising figure has sparked debate like no other but has at least given many something to smile about in his brief appearances under Steve Bruce whether they’re laughing at him or with him.
Whie Cardiff and Blackburn aren’t complete pushovers, Agbonlahor playing against the so called ‘easier teams’ when we’re already winning is one thing. However not many people will be left smirking if a repeat of what happened at the Amex is repeated against Leeds. An awful first half appearance from Agbonlahor led to his early substitution, which can be argued wasted a significant portion of the game for Villa and hindered them from establishing a larger lead.
Steve Bruce may want to include Agbonlahor and many may agree with him on this decision, but it can be agreed that maybe Agbonlahor should sit this match out as his cameo’s have not impressed enough to warrant taking a substitute opportunity from somebody like Gestede. Also, he definitely does not deserve to take a starting spot from one of the in-form attackers like Kodjia, Grealish, Ayew and Adomah, either.
Follow Richard on Twitter – @_RichardAVFC