Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)
With the run of form Aston Villa have been in lately, this should be an easy match for the Claret & Blue. With that considered, the Villa first-team need to ensure that lowly Bolton do not get the best of them and embarrass Villa in the process. The team needs a professional outing in this fixture, and Steve Bruce need to keep his players focused ahead of a game that they undoubtedly should be winning with ease.
Sam Johnstone could be the cog in the machine that matters most as he has been in tantalising form lately. Steve Bruce has said earlier in the week that one of his main priorities going into the summer is to sign Johnstone on a permanent deal from Manchester United. The young Villa keeper notched himself a clean sheet against Barnsley, and that should not only build his confidence, but also the confidence of the defensive line that stand in front of him. Johnstone seems to be doing very well with commanding his area, giving instruction when needed and distributing the ball into areas where Villa have a strong probability of keeping possession. Although many are very critical of Johnstone, during Villas’ current run of form, there is no real need to be critical.
Bolton come into this game on an absolutely dreadful run of form. The newly promoted side have yet to win a single contest through ten matched played this season, and are the only Championship club yet to win so far. With a goal difference of -17 through a shocking four goals scored and twenty-one goals against, Bolton does not look like a team that will be able to turn it around against a side like Aston Villa. Although there are some decent players in Boltons’ side, including Jem Karacan coming off of a one-game ban, one could argue that Bolton do not have the same quality in their squad as Aston Villa does in theirs. However, Bolton have won against Aston Villa in their last two meetings going back to in 2011, winning once in the Premier League and again in the League Cup.
Bolton gaffer Phil Parkinson has received full backing from The Trotters chairman Ken Anderson this past week even with the woeful run of results so far. Parkinson would be wise to include striker Adam Armstrong in his plans. Armstrong scored at Villa Park last season while playing for Barnsley on loan, and solidified a 3-1 win over Aston Villa. Armstrong is property of Newcastle United, and has been on loan to three different clubs so far in his career. Not the start to his career that the 20 year old would have hoped for, but he seems to be on track to get things rolling his way again at Bolton.
Undoubtedly, Albert Adomah and Robert Snodgrass will start on the flanks for Villa in this match-up. Adomah now has 5 league goals to his name, and Snodgrass plotted his first in the 4-0 victory against Barnsley. Glenn Whelan could be rotated out of the squad for Tottenham loanee Joshua Onomah, as there have been indicators that Whelan may be suffering from stamina problems. Neil Taylor, James Chester, John Terry and Ahmed Elmohamady should also keep their places in the team. The back four for Aston Villa have had phases of looking a bit shaky, but they haven’t cracked under pressure often over the last seven games. Look for Steve Bruce to keep this clique tightly knit for the long-haul.
Aston Villa are on a run of seven games without a loss while winning the last three fixtures. There is no clear indicator that Bolton has any chance of gaining points from this early-season encounter, and it would come as a complete shock to both clubs if Bolton find a miraculous way to actually defeat Villa. Steve Bruce must do all he can to maintain his personal record against Bolton. The Aston Villa boss has won a staggering nine games out of eleven when facing Bolton at home, regardless of the club he was managing.