At points last season Jonathan Kodjia became a forgotten man at Aston Villa. The Ivorian missed a huge chunk of the campaign due to an ankle injury. Can Kodjia redeem himself in 2018-19?
When the striker came to Villa Park in 2016 from Bristol City for £11 million, big things were expected. The then 26-year-old was coming off the back of a season where he scored 19 Championship goals.
And Kodjia delivered, grabbing 19 again in 2016-17. Note the variety of ways he scored those goals too; the top corner rocket against Leeds after cutting in from the right, the acrobatic effort against Fulham or the finessed finish against Nottingham Forest.
Kodjia showed in 2016-17 why he is the complete striker, scoring 40% of the Prides Championship goals. The Ivorian is more than capable in England’s second tier, with fast feet, good aerial presence and a near perfect penalty record.
Kodjia’s Season as a Forgotten Man
But last season was a disaster for the 28-year-old personally, after being rushed back onto the pitch in the Autumn, Kodjia failed to complete a full 90 minutes until the re-occurrence of his ankle injury in October. Then from March onwards Kodjia came back and made more cameo appearances, including one in the play-off final, but never looked fully fit.
In those cameo appearances, it was clear to see Kodjia still had that quality. Hopefully a full pre-season at Villa will able him to display it in 90 minutes rather than 20.
However, Kodjia’s absence for large parts of 2017-18 may have been a blessing in disguise. With Kodjia in the side would Keinan Davis have broken through? Would Lewis Grabban, who scored eight goals in claret and blue, have been signed?
Sometimes Kodjia can get tunnel vision on the ball and slow play down. In Villa’s “Unclassic commentary” series on YouTube, Robert Snodgrass and Jack Grealish are commentating on the 1-0 win at home to Cardiff City. In the highlights, Kodjia finds an opening on the right and Snodgrass quips, “he’s got that superglue on his feet. He won’t pass it. He won’t pass it!” The former Bristol City striker doesn’t see the multiple Villa shirts in the middle, instead shooting from an angle and allowing Neil Ethridge to make a fairly comfortable save.
There are a lot of questions hanging over Villa going into 2018-19, but lets say Bruce does stay and Villa continue with the one up front. Kodjia must be that man. There’s no point putting him on the wing because his first thought, unlike Snodgrass or Adomah won’t be to find a cross, but to beat his man, very much to Villa’s detriment.
Let’s not forget Kodjia as a top-level striker, but if deployed incorrectly, the team could suffer.