By Richard Wakefield
Same Old Villa
The January transfer window has passed and most of Steve Bruce’s signings have had two games to settle in, yet so far, they’ve managed to adopt ‘the Villa way’ of disappointing fans. Back-to-back defeats to Brentford and Nottingham Forest have all but confirmed Villa’s place in the Championship next season.
Saturday’s opponents Ipswich Town will travel to Villa Park off of the back of a winless run stretching back five matches. Scoring only three times in this torrid run of form, this match should really be a formality for Villa. Potentially nothing more than an unbeaten home record and pride is at stake in this fixture, but for the new signings, three points would help them get a vote of confidence from the fans.
Here’s three ways of making it happen…
The Icelandic utility man hasn’t impressed in his first two appearances for Villa and he perhaps should be relegated to the bench for this match. He looked lost in the midfield three against Brentford and looked out of his depth out wide against Forest. It may only be two games, but the first impression Bjarnason has left on many fans has been underwhelming.
Bjarnason will have the excuse that he hadn’t played for six weeks before signing for Villa, but that reason will soon get as old as the dog eating your homework. A drop to the bench could help not only himself but Villa as well. With Bruce’s new three at the back formation, a return for Jordan Amavi in a slightly more advanced position that focuses on his attacking ability may be just what he needs.
Bjarnason could make the ideal substitute, as he can fit almost anywhere in the midfield five, thus giving Bruce options. The Icelandic international can then utilise his work-rate and energy to give Villa that extra surge in adrenaline to see out the game, something Villa have sorely missed this campaign.
The Tractor Boys have struggled to score this season which was inevitable after the sale of star striker Daryl Murphy. However Leicester loanee Tom Lawrence has more than earned the title of Ipswich’s player of the season so far.
Looking at Ipswich’s last ten games, Lawrence has scored in five of them as well as scoring a brace in three. A more worrying statistic for Ipswich is that eight of the last nine goals that they have scored, have come from the feet of the young striker.
Either being deployed as a left-winger or a striker, Lawrence will prove to be a tough player to handle, but the youngster does lack a large physical stature and should easily be bullied away from the ball. A back three should allow a specific defender to mark him, preferably Tommy Elphick, so that Chester and Baker can focus solely on solidifying their partnership and keeping the ball as far away from Johnstone’s butter covered hands, as much as possible.
God Has Spoken
The defeat to Forest was a difficult one to take as not only was the game lost in stoppage time, but Villa managed to squander a lot of chances throughout the match. Jonathan Kodjia may have scored a spectacular goal, but soured his performance with his reluctance to pass to strike partner Scott Hogan. Not only did most of the Villa fans pick up on this, but so did Villa Park’s resident God.
Paul McGrath and Kodjia have since apologised to each other and all is well, but the point still remains Kodjia cannot go anymore matches trying to win the game on his own. It may come as a shock to Kodjia that he’s finally got a more than competent strike partner, but only by playing in unison will the team potentially thrive.
Kodjia technique and ability to create space should compliment Hogan well up front, all that needs to be done now to complete this deadly combo is to get Kodjia to pass. Kodjia dragging men out of position, creating space in behind for Hogan to play off of the last man. A carefully placed through ball from Kodjia to put Hogan through on goal and the rest will be history. A match made in heaven.