“I tell you what I think has always been important,” says former Villa boss Ron Atkinson to MOMS about the Championship. “I’ve always said, this is a division that if you’ve got goal scorers, they’ll get you out of it.”
Recruiting said strikers was certainly the prime focus of Villa’s transfer activity back in the summer and you could argue in terms of proven Championship goalscorers, Villa couldn’t have bought better.
Kodjia scored 20 goals in all competitions in the 2015-16 season. While there’s no more proven goal scorer in the Championship than Ross McCormack, who has managed over 20 league goals with three different clubs in the Championship. His best effort being 28 for Leeds in the 2013/14 season.
Already in the ranks were Rudy Gestede (who had a 20 league goals season with Blackburn in the 2014/15 season) and Jordan Ayew. Oh, and Gabby.
One thing MOMS has always maintained is in Villa’s best XI, you’d have Kodjia leading the line with McCormack playing just off him. Surely that’s what they were bought to the club for. A proper striking partnership.
“I know people in Bristol who were very impressed by him,” Atkinson told MOMS, of Kodjia, a striker that has shades of Stan Collymore and Dalian Atkinson in his game.
Certainly, from what we’ve seen this season already, most Villa fans are also impressed, but is he currently being played in a way that’ll allow him to get 20-odd goals this season?
Puzzlingly, Steve Bruce has tended to push Kodjia out on the wing just to shoe-horn in Gabby Agonlahor or Rudy Gestede as the starting forward. Is it really worth it? Curbing the potential of maybe your main goal threat to accommodate a lesser talent.
Kodjia can do a job out wide, but let him focus on what he was brought to the club to do, score the goals that will fire Villa back into the Premier League. He may get the odd goal playing out wide, but I’d fancy him for a hat-trick pretty soonish if he was allowed to ply his trade centrally.
Then there’s McCormack. Yes, he may have had fitness and injury issues, but it’s going to be £12m wasted unless he’s fully utilised. That money was spent essentially as a short-term investment into gaining the club promotion. At 30-years-old now, he was very unlikely to have a major role for Villa once they were back in the Premier League.
You also only have to look at McCormack’s goal scoring record in the Championship. He’s scored 116 goals in the division in nine seasons (including this one). He doesn’t suddenly turn average over night.
“McCormack, he had goals by the bucketful at Leeds,” said Atkinson, confirming the merits of the Scots striker, before suggesting why it hasn’t quite happened for him at Villa.
“Whether it’s the right pattern, the right blend, or playing him in the right position even, sometimes he’s played a bit wide in one or two of the games.”
Due to McCormack’s experience and goal record, you’d probably play him in the No.10 role ahead of Grealish, if Bruce doesn’t fancy playing with two out-and-out strikers.
Keep it Regular
Villa clearly have one of the best collection of strikers in the league, but not only are they not playing a regular striking partnership, they aren’t even player a regular main striker. When has that ever worked in terms of getting a team regular goals?
Teams either succeed with a great partnership up top (i.e. Withe and Shaw or Saunders and Atkinson) or by having a main man up top (i.e. Dwight Yorke, Juan Pablo Angel, John Carew, etc). Villa this season haven’t allowed their strikers to prosper on this basis, at all.
If they are trying to keep players happy, involved and interested by sharing and mixing up the playing time, it’s not working, so ditch the sentiment.
Forget about Ayew. Forget about Agbonlahor. And Gestede is a bench player at best.
How long can Jordan Ayew be left to frustrate Villa’s evolvement as a team?
Against Norwich, Ayew wasn’t the only one of seemingly playing his own game at the expense of the team, but it seems to be his default setting.
The Ghanian only got plaudits last season because he’d take players on and score the odd eye-catching goal, but ultimately his selfishness contributed to a disconnected team that was only worth 17 points. It’s unlikely he’ll help the current team prosper unless he radically changes his game.
Bruce couldn’t have better strikers at his disposal at this level. As Big Ron says, they are the key to promotion, so maybe it’s time the current Villa boss started to use them properly.
Listen to the full MOMS Ron Atkinson Interview here, just press ‘play’: