It was ultimately a frustrating afternoon at Villa Park, as Villa scrapped to a 1-0 win. Bolton with an extra man in midfield hustled and harried Villa, closing down and swarming any Villa player in possession.
With Bolton’s new free agent Karl Henry typifying the new found grit of Bolton.
Still, the fact that Bolton haven’t scored this month, tells you all you need to know about their threat going forward.
Despite endeavour by Robert Snodgrass and Albert Adomah on the flanks, too many stray passes with strikers on different frequencies upset the home team’s rhythm.
In many ways, the minute leading up to Villa’s goal summed up the team’s problem, that seemed to be a headache from last season.
Jonathan Kodjia will score goals that will win the odd game and allow you to scrape through, but as we witnessed seconds before he won a penalty, his selfishness will also cost Villa goals and opportunities.
He had the simplest of passes to make in squaring the ball to Adomah, who had an empty net gaping, but he elected to go it alone trying to score with the outside of his foot.
If Kodjia felt any guilt, he should have offered up the penalty to Adomah to take.
In the end Villa won, but like last season, Kodjia’s goals will only get Villa so far. If he contributed to the team, Villa would go a lot further and Kodjia may even ultimately score more goals.
There’s a reason he’s a Championship striker and not a regular for the Ivory Coast. Top managers are no fools.
Hopefully, the penalty will not mask this point and he will learn.
In the end, Samba coming on for Snodgrass summed up that Bruce was happy to settle with what he had, although it did invite pressure and needed a block from Samba at the death to win the game.
Aston Villa Player Ratings vs Burton
Sam Johnstone – 7
A smart save to his left in the first half was his main contribution in the first half, as Bolton struggled to create many clear goal attempts. Claimed everything he had to and was once again sound.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 7
While there wasn’t too much space for Elmohamady to get forward often, he still managed the most crosses in the game.
Villa struggled with forging any progressive possession, which would have helped him further, but he’s certainly remains one of Villa’s main outlets to create chances.
Again, he showed defensively there can be few complaints of him being Villa’s number one right-back.
John Terry – 7 MOTM
Business as usual from Terry. Almost scored his first Villa goal, getting on the end of a Hourihane freekick. Decent enough distribution.
James Chester – 7
Another steady performance and another clean sheet. Nuff said.
Neil Taylor – 6
Again, the Villa player who saw the most of the ball and he had a solid enough game, before the referee saw fit to send him off in injury time for a high challenge.
Bruce furious with it. Xia furious with it. Will have to see a replay before passing judgement (and seeing if there’s a potential appeal). Will be a miss if suspended for the Wolves clash after the international break.
Glen Whelan – 6
Whelan seemed to do 80% of what he is meant to do in theory. When he broke up play, despite one of the better pass completion rates of the team, his resulting distribution was often negative (selected a backwards pass over a free teammate further forward). When the opposition has the ball, he prods at the ball instead of cleanly tackling.
Yes, he does a thankless job, but it never seems to be done convincingly.
After picking up an early yellow card, he did well to say on the pitch though, in what was a tough battle in the middle of the park.
I still haven’t made my mind up about Whelan. To be continued!
Robert Snodgrass – 7
A committed performance without the end result. Snodgrass kept trying to feed Villa’s strikers with slide rule passes, but nothing really came off. Also, some smart touches provided Villa with rare unpredictability to their game going forward. He almost scored on 78 minutes, cutting inside onto his left foot, but he was thwarted by a decent save.
Conor Hourihane – 6
Clearly got around and involved, but even as Villa’s main passer, he didn’t seem to impose himself on the midfield to dictate the game.
Keinan Davis – 6
Tended to be swarmed by Bolton players when he got the ball which compromised his contribution. Probably the most physical resistance he’s experienced and his most quiet game in a Villa shirt.
Jonathan Kodjia – 7
As predicted by MOMS last week, Kodjia scored (the opener), but seconds before, he demonstrated why he’s not the complete article.
With the goalkeeper in his face, as Villa broke through, Kodjia failed to simply square it to Adomah, who was faced with an open goal.
We’d hope he’d learnt a few things from last season and his his first few games this season.
There’s a reason why he’s not playing in the Premier League at the moment and not a regular starter for the Ivory Coast, He’s too selfish and his decision making is sometimes off at key moments.
Still, he won the penalty and converted it, which will no doubt make people forget what happened seconds before.
Albert Adomah – 7
Got into a great position to score what would have been the opening goal, but Kodjia didn’t pass it to him. Some neat touches, but was a little unlucky at times in a rare start without a goal.
Off the Bench…
Hogan (72) – 6
Was a bright presence when he came on. No goal in his last 17 league appearances though.
Onomah (72) – 6
No really impact in what was a scrappy finish to the game.
Samba (89) – 6
A goal line clearance that Samba didn’t seem to know much about, as the ball hit him in the head from a close-range effort from Bolton, saved the three points at the death.
As telling a contribution as Kodjia’s penalty in terms of the result.
Check out the Villa discussion on the latest podcast episode