Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)
With the International Break finally behind us, football has once again returned. With smiles on supporters faces all over the world, it feels as if now is the real start of the campaign. Aston Villa would be wise to get back in the thick of it with a positive result at Villa Park, but let’s see what Brentford has to say about the contest.
Brentford come to Villa Park without winning a single game in their first five outings of the season. They have drawn twice, and have lost three in such early days. This poor performance sees Brentford second to bottom of the table, with only Bolton Wanderers beneath them. Although Villa have mustered only one win in their own first five contests, one would place a proper wager on Brentford coming out fast and hot for this contest. Brentford have only placed the ball into opposition net five times in league competition, so the probability of them trying to amplify that number against a much bigger Aston Villa will seem on the cards.
Recently acquired French attacker Neal Maupay leads the line in scoring for Brentford with 2 goals. The former Saint-Étienne man never made much of a name for himself there, but did look very promising going out on loan to lowly French side Brest last season. On his time at loan, Maupay scored eleven goals in twenty-eight appearances. Steve Bruce would be wise to make sure that Maupay is closely watched, as he seems the only considerable goal threat in a otherwise low-scoring side.
Brentford is managed by former footballer Dean Smith. Smith spent his playing days at Walsall, Sheffield Wednesday, Hereford United, Leyton Orient, and Port Vale. As a manager, this is his second job at the helm with Walsall being the other. Smith carries a 38.82% winning percentage since taking charge in November 2015 at Brentford. Obviously when comparing Dean Smith to Steve Bruce, there is a glaring hole of experience for one of the men. If Villa are to kick off with hopes of three points, Bruce would be wise to concentrate on exactly how Dean Smith chooses how to line his squad up for this fixture. This very may well be a fixture that needs a heavy midfield presence. Glenn Whelan very may well be that presence, as Villa must be tidy in the midfield areas to ensure the counter-attack of Brentford does not get the best of them.
With West Ham loanee Robert Snodgrass being implemented into the Aston Villa fold, supporters will be roaring to see their new man in action. Steve Bruce has identified that he is not sure where Snodgrass is in terms of fitness coming back from the international break. It would be a mammoth selection if Snodgrass is fit and ready to go for the Brentford contest. Bruce has also identified that talisman striker Jonathan Kodjia is very close to returning to full fitness. Kodjia will get some playing time with the U23s with hopes that he is ready to go for the next fixture against Middlesbrough. Mile Jedinak is also very close to full fitness, and it wouldn’t come as a shock to see the bearded Villan on the bench in either games. For the first time in almost 10 months, Steve Bruce finally has a mostly fully fit squad. With such a positive notion comes a negative one. The selection process seems to be a bit more of a happy headache moving forward. Will Albert Adomah feature? Does Jedinak come back and take his place in the midfield? Who is going to be the main striking option moving forward with Kodjia coming back? All valid questions that I’m sure will all be answered in time. Although a very positive sign, Bruce must be clutching his hair out trying to keep his bigger than average squad fit, happy and active.
Seeming that Villa will play a staggering seven games this month, getting off of the mark on a positive foot is vital and necessary. Villa have not had the best of record against Brentford since returning to the Championship. Steve Bruce will be looking to turn those fortunes around. Even with such a bloated list of fixtures, Steve Bruce will be likely to field a ‘first team’ squad in this contest. Joshua Onomah could very well have the pace to unsettle the back line of Brentford while continuing his good run of form so far. Conor Hourihane could also have a massive game, and there is zero doubt that he would love continue to add to his growing goal tally.