Steve Bruce will have to use Aston Villa’s youth in 2018-19 whether he likes it or not. With most unsure over how much money we need to hit financial fair play targets, it’s likely that Scott Hogan or Johnathan Kodjia will leave this summer.
Keinan Davis proved last season he can play at Championship level after making 30 appearances and scoring 3 goals. The former Biggleswade Town striker got his first start in a 4-2 demolition of Norwich and played most games until Grabban came in January. Davis’ pros and cons are obvious, he can hold the ball up, win flick ons and foil a nippier front-man, but his goal and assist record is poor.
However Davis’ is the only striker Aston Villa have that could probably play in a front two. We’ve seen Hogan and Kodjia struggle to link up together, and if Villa do buy another striker this summer, it’ll probably be in the Davis mould, so why not play the man himself?
Ideally, it wouldn’t come to this, but if we had to then Rushian Hepburn-Murphy could partner him. That’s not a dig at Hepburn-Murphy, but you would think if he was starting week in week out it would be a result of injuries and sales to more senior strikers.
On the other hand, why shouldn’t Hepburn-Murphy be ready for regular Championship football? The Birmingham born front man has been on the brink of the first team for a while, making his competitive debut as a substitute against Sunderland in 2015, although he hasn’t made the impact Davis has – mainly because of injuries.
Nevertheless, Hepburn-Murphy still played a part last season, making three Championship appearances and helped set up Robert Snodgrass’ goal in our 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at the end of December. Also, you can’t overlook his excellent record for the u-23’s, banging in 13 goals in 15 games. The 5ft 8 forward is surprisingly strong and unsurprisingly quick, plus he has that classic striker’s knack of sniffing out goals in and around the six yard box.
But Championship football is a very different beast to U23s, Davis and Hepburn-Murphy haven’t played up front together in senior football.
Could they form a partnership? Well firstly we’d have to play a formation that accompanies two strikers, obviously. Although rare, 4-4-2 systems can be found in England’s second tier. For Millwall, the partnership of Steve Morison and Lee Gregory got 15 goals last season. A decent return considering Morison is 34 and Gregory hadn’t played at the level before.
Aston Villa are Used to a ‘Little and Large’ Partnership
The main point of reference for Aston Villa fans is the of John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor, who got the best out of each other. In the three full seasons where Gabby was at Villa with Carew, he got 39 of his 86 Villa goals.
In a Davis and Hepburn Murphy partnership, Davis would be the Carew, but the big man must up his goal tally to match the Norwegian who got 45 in his three full seasons with Gabby.
Realistically, with Davis at 20 and Hepburn Murphy at 19, it’s too early for them both to be relied upon playing week in week out next season. In a few years the partnership could work, but I think loaning one out, preferably Hepburn-Murphy, would be for the best before attempting to form any sort of striking duo.