The Spaniard’s Aston Villa debut from the bench was a carbon copy of Kodjia’s involvement against Liverpool a few months ago.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Borja Baston made his Aston Villa debut from the bench against Tottenham Hotspur, but perhaps did not have the desired impact that manager Dean Smith was hoping for.
During training and in the run-up to this fixture, there were swathes of comments from the Aston Villa boss in regards to the Spaniard’s desire in training – stating that Baston was hungry to impress at his new temporary home.
When Borja graced the hallowed turf of Villa Park, however, he looked slow and laboured and either unable or unwilling to replicate the press that was being undertaken by Mbwana Samatta earlier in the game that put Davidson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld under pressure on countless occasions.
The forward almost gifted Tottenham Hotspur their winner earlier than it came, with a lackadaisical attempt at a clearance that resulted in a shot on goal from the visitors – and his Spanish compatriot Pepe Reina to bail him out.
Baston also made the decision to drop deeper as Reina hoofed the ball upfield for one of the final kicks of the game to challenge for the ball, resulting in both him and Douglas Luiz – who looked likely to win the initial header – clashing and the ball falling to Mourinho’s men who went on to put the nail in Aston Villa’s coffin via a Son Heung-min effort.
His short showing in claret and blue was reminiscent of Jonathan Kodjia’s introduction against Liverpool, in which the Ivorian’s efforts to win the ball on handful of occasions allowed the current league leaders to come from behind and score two goals to steal all three points at the death.
Excuses can be made for Borja. The new surroundings of Villa Park could be daunting for even the most experienced of journeyman strikers and perhaps the occasion got the better of him.
Moving forward, however, the former Swansea City striker will need to showcase the hunger and desire that Dean Smith waxed lyrically about before the Tottenham Hotspur loss, or he will be condemned to the similar fate that felled Jonathan Kodjia – an inherent lack of trust to provide what is needed in the Premier League – even in short cameos.
Kodjia went on to make a small handful of substitute appearances, and only when it was truly necessary, as well as an option in cup games against Liverpool’s youthful outfit and against Fulham. He scored in both of those games.
Borja Baston will not be afforded such a luxury. He is unlikely to be involved in the Carabao Cup Final against Manchester City, and there are no FA Cup fixtures to sink his studs into following Villa’s loss to Fulham.
With around five months remaining on his already short contract with Aston Villa, it remains to be seen how much involvement Baston will have in the twelve concluding Premier League games with Keinan Davis returning from yet another injury in just a few short weeks. Davis is favoured as a secondary option to Samatta and in his limited appearances this season has looked lively.
Whether Borja will be left ruing his decision to join the Villans is a question to be answered at the end of the season, but with time on the free agents list beckoning and a lack of potential suitors, he needs to impress at B6 more for his own career – which in turn benefits the club.
It is incredibly early in Baston’s Aston Villa career. But time is not exactly a luxury that the club can afford to give – and if the forward is going to be featuring more for the claret and blue, he will need to showcase the ‘hunger’ that Dean Smith spoke so highly of sooner rather than later.