When the 2017/18 season kicked off there was one Villa player that must have been questioning his future at the club, despite being the biggest contributor in terms of assists last season.
Albert Adomah had seen Villa boss Steve Bruce sign Ahmed Elmohamady, but perhaps thought the Egyptian’s potential role was as a wing back.
Alarm bells must have finally rang for Adomah though when Robert ‘I want to play on the right’ Snodgrass, belatedly turned up on loan in the summer transfer window, earmarked as an instant starter.
A lot of football fans sometimes fail to see behind the headline statistics of goals and assists.
For example, yes, Jonathan Kodjia’s goals and individual brilliance scrapped wins and the odd draw last season, but his poor decision-making and selfishness perhaps ultimately cost Villa many more wins. While he scored 19 goals, tellingly he only managed one assist.
As a team, Villa’s goal tally last season was poor.
Likewise, sometimes it seemed that Adomah’s assists, which he totalled 10 for the season, were in isolation of what he was offering the team overall.
There’s been criticism of Steve Bruce for sidelining Albert Adomah at the start of the season, but this is with hindsight. Most fans weren’t too convinced by the winger and there were few complaints when Bruce brought in further options for the right-hand side.
That said, there was a slice of luck with Adomah initially filling in on the left-hand side, with both Jack Grealish and Andre Green suffering long-term injuries.
A little like Keinan Davis coming to prominence because of injuries.
This is how football rolls though. Opportunity knocks and nothing can be taken for granted.
According to his manager, Adomah though, rose to the challenge.
“He must have seen us bring in Snodgrass and Elmohamady – all in his position – and he got on with it and trained even harder, if that’s possible for Albert,” reflected Bruce, last week.
“His figures in stats were incredible. He didn’t sulk or moan and when his chance came along, he responded in the right way by scoring a couple of goals.”
Adomah’s stats are remarkable. Four starts and four wins for Villa. His four goals this season, are already more than the 29-year-old managed last season (three).
If Kodjia could pass, he’d have had another one against Bolton too.
Adding three substitute appearances to his four starts, Adomah’s scored four goals in a total of 466 minutes, which is the most frequent strike rate of any other Villa player.
Adomah has goals in him as he also demonstrated at Middlesbrough. He scored 12 goals for Boro in the 2013/14 season (and six in both the seasons that followed), a similar return this term would be most welcome.
Instead of playing in deep crosses or going down the line, like last season, Adomah has tended to cut into very central positions from the left, like an extra striker.
“The way he played on the left the other night delighted me,” said Bruce, after the Burton game. “He’s looked a very, very good player and added another string to his bow on that side, cutting in from the left.”
Interestingly, playing on the left this season, he’s yet to chalk up an assist, his trademark contribution to the team last season.
Playing on the wing of his weaker foot, he could maybe benefit from a more overlapping full-back to work with than Neil Taylor, ala how Elmohamady operates with Snodgrass. Although, that said, Taylor has increasingly come forward in recent games (on top of being defensively sound).
Speaking of Villa’s improved right-hand side, this has certainly allowed Adomah to ghost in from the left to take up good positions.
What is sure though, if Kodjia improves his decision-making and takes advantage of Adomah’s runs, it should benefit the both of them.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see how Adomah operates in the upcoming derby games this month, where they’ll be less room to break into, as the opposition will be more wary of his runs in from the left.
Alongside Keinan Davis’s quick feet and power, Adomah’s quick thinking and smart running have provided the Villa forward line with a dimension they lacked last season.
He’s certainly provided an early season catalyst that was much needed in terms of finally making Villa a serious contender for promotion.
More Albert Adomah discussion on the podcast: