The right-wing position is a hot topic for debate amongst Aston Villa fans before the big game, with three players mentioned. We take a look at the potential pros and cons of starting Jonathan Kodjia on the right.
Who plays on the right?
This appears to be the main question relating to Dean Smith’s starting XI on Monday.
It’s pretty much certain that Anwar El Ghazi will be playing on the left, but on the right only those inside the club know for sure. Most have touted either Albert Adomah or Andre Green to fill the void. However, could Johnathan Kodjia be the answer?
The case for starting Jonathan Kodjia
Don’t get me wrong, it’ll probably be Adomah or Green, but Kodjia is certainly in contention. The Ivorian is prominently a striker but has played on the wing on 21 separate occasions this season. Playing Kodjia out of position isn’t necessarily a hindrance. The 29-year-old possesses an ability to beat his man with a combination of fast feet and pace that Adomah doesn’t have. This is something that could be utilised against a 38-year-old Ashley Cole on Monday.
In terms where he outmatches Green, Kodjia is more experienced than the 20-year-old and is a confidence player. A wall of claret and blue supporters at Wembley could just be the confidence boost he needs.
Also, Kodjia is a proven goal scorer at Championship level, getting 19 in 2016-17, 40% of Villa’s total that season. This term he’s bagged a respectable a respectable nine – just two of those coming off the bench, thus weakening the argument that Kodjia performs best as an impact player.
If Jonathan Kodjia does start out wide, Villa will get the most out of him as an inside forward. The Ivorian can finish with both feet and is dangerous in the air, as illustrated with last minute looping header which rescued a point at home to Brentford.
Talking of that Brentford game, Kodjia was the best player on the pitch that evening, bullying the Bees centre-backs with his hold up play as well as grabbing two goals.
The case against starting Jonathan Kodjia
Although his form did pick up under Smith initially, inconsistency has plagued Kodjia during 2018-19, especially on the wing. Between the 6th October and 7th December, the Ivorian played 471 minutes on the flank and only registered one goal with no assists.
There have been times this season where Kodjia has had a real off day. Against Wigan in August, the former Bristol man missed a fair few good chances. To give a more recent example, the last time Kodjia started on the wing was in the 3-3 draw at home to Sheffield United. During that game the Ivorian couldn’t get past George Baldock let alone create anything and was subsequently substituted for Andre Green after 65 minutes. Green would go on to outperform his colleague as well as head in the last-minute equaliser to make it 3-3.
A major problem in playing Kodjia on the wing is his tunnel vision, Villa’s number 26 sometimes opting test his luck from a narrow angle rather than looking at the men in the middle. A prime example of this can be found during Villa’s 1-0 home victory over Cardiff last season.
Moreover, you get the feeling Dean Smith doesn’t even trust the Ivorian, failing to let him off the bench in games against Derby, Birmingham and Blackburn. When all of Smith’s attackers have been fit in 2019, Kodjia hasn’t started, simple as that.
Ultimately, if Dean Smith does decide to play with a 4-3-3 on Monday, it’s too risky playing Kodjia on the right. Understandably there’s not enough knowledge of the position there. It’d be a safer bet for the Villa gaffer to select the more defensively minded Adomah. Nevertheless, the Ivorian could have a big say on matters coming off the bench.
That’s something we could all get behind.