The two AFCON contenders return to training at Aston Villa this week.
Words by Guy Poxon | @GuyPoxon
Now that the African Cup of Nations is finished, Dean Smith will regain another two players for consideration in the matchday squad. Namely, Jonathan Kodjia and Ahmed Elmohamady.
But how did the pair get on with their respective countries during this summer’s tournament?
Elmo’s campaign with the tournament favourites, Egypt, included games against Zimbabwe, Congo and Uganda, before being knocked out by South Africa. Overall, he didn’t register an assist, but he scored 2 goals and got a Man of The Match award against Congo. However, he did overperform slightly above what would normally be expected – as his expected goals were 0.8 for the tournament.
In typical Elmohamady style, he completed three successful crosses out of nine attempts, made 12 long passes, but only two successful dribbles from four attempted.
Looking at defensive specifics, Elmo won 52.9% of his defensive duels – suggesting that he was okay defensively, but not as solid as he could have been, and he did lose the ball 37.5% of the time in his own half. That’s isn’t particularly high but it’s nothing to write home about, either.
Elmo’s level of concentration in his passing, crossing and holding onto the ball has been a key part of his season at Afcon as well as the Championship, and it’s shown by his strong ball-playing stats across the board – consistently making 72% of the passes he attempted at AFCON. In addition, Elmohamady made 11 recoveries after losing the ball which shows his desire to perform even at 31 years old. That being said, Elmo does look a little bit lost when coming up against tricky players of better quality than those of Zimbabwe, Congo, Uganda and South Africa.
Despite a reasonable attacking display, it is worth noting that Elmo’s dribbling was fairly uninspired. Something that Villa fans have become used to is his inability to really take a player on. Granted, his conservative style is made up for in part by his crossing proficiency, and at Afcon he actually made 5 progressive runs, but Elmo’s attacking intent is limited somewhat by his one-dimensional play: run forward, cross the ball in, or play it back inside. He usually doesn’t try to get to the bi-line.
Overall, Elmo did rack up some really strong performances:
6.92 – Zimbabwe
7.75 – Congo
7.8 – Uganda
6.41 – South Africa
Jonathan Kodjia played four times, registering a healthy 2 goals and 1 assist for the Ivory Coast. He played against South Africa, Morocco, Namibia, Mali and Algeria – however, he only featured for 5 minutes against Namibia.
Kodjia’s disregard for team play and frustrating nature is well documented. Indeed, only the one assist in a team playing with Wilfred Zaha is reflected by him taking at least two shots a game, with a low expected goals rating of 0.19 on average. He also only averaged 13 passes per game with 72% of them on the mark. And what’s more frustrating is the fact that he only succeeded once out of the 4 dribbles that he tried per game, which is backed up by his loss of the ball at least 6 times a match.
This makes for pretty grim reading, but to be fair to Kodjia he did put in a physical performance as he won 45% of the 5 or so aerial duals which he had per match. We know how much of a presence he can have, but that’s impressive by any forward’s standards.
And in typical Jimmy Danger fashion, he popped up with a few brilliant moments which sealed the victory for his side – the winner against South Africa, assisting the winner against Mali and giving his nation a lifeline against Algeria (losing on penalties). His passes in the final third were actually very accurate, in fact, they were 100% on the mark for the first three games.
Jonathan Kodjia’s overall performances in Afcon were varied, in truth. While the averages may look a little bit low, he played with ratings of:
7.42 – South Africa
5.74 – Morocco
7.21 – Mali
7.36 – Algeria
This shows something typically Kodjia – sometimes he’s unplayable, and sometimes it just doesn’t go his way.
What does this mean for Dean Smith?
Here we have two very different players.
Elmohamady is consistent, but not exceptionally talented, and Kodjia is (almost) exceptionally talented, but inconsistent. Elmo does have a solid foundation of “Premier League experience”, and his sparkling displays at AFCON will give Smith something to think about when comparing him with the impressive Guilbert.
However, while Ahmed Elmohamady’s weakness is his lack of attacking versatility and unexceptional defensive prowess, his crossing ability is difficult to ignore. He and Guilbert will have a good battle for the first couple of weeks of the for that right-back position. But, I expect the Frenchman to win this battle and offer a better all-round game to Aston Villa.
Kodjia stands less of a chance of getting consistent game time at Aston Villa, given the unquestionable quality of Wesley and the reasonably impressive Davies upfront during pre-season.
It’s a shame because had Kodjia replicated even half of the form he showed in his first season at Villa Park over the last couple of seasons, then he would have undoubtedly shown that he has enough quality to give anyone a run for their money with the number 9 spot.
But, in honesty, it looks like Kodjia is set to be a bit-part player this season. I really do hope he proves me wrong and becomes a fans’ favourite again.