Jota’s involvement this season has been limited – but as Trezeguet and El Ghazi continue to struggle since the Premier League’s return, the Spaniard may have a larger role to play.
Words: Harry Trend | @HazaTrand
Dean Smith has struggled to find a system to get his forwards firing since the return of the Premier League.
Since the return of England’s top tier, Aston Villa have scored two goals in four games – with one of these goals coming from centre-back Kortney Hause, a man who has also contributed to a quarter of Aston Villa’s shots during these games, changes need to be made to Smith’s frontline.
In the most recent defeat at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Villa’s attacking movement was absent, despite the presence of Keinan Davis and Mbwana Samatta up front. Smith’s orchestrator-in-chief, Jack Grealish, was coming too deep at times to hurt the Wolves defence, resulting in a lack of creativity in the final third.
Could Jota help get Aston Villa firing again? Since joining from Birmingham City, the Spaniard has had a forgettable time at the club. Appearing nine times in the Premier League this season, Jota Peleteiro has only started in three – with his last start coming in Villa’s 3-0 defeat at Vicarage Road, where he was dragged off at half time for Anwar El Ghazi.
Nevertheless, Jota revealed in late 2019 that he had been suffering from two hernias in his groin, which would perhaps explain his lack of inclusion during this campaign.
Fitness issues are not the sole reason for a lack of appearances however. The Spaniard has a habit of going missing in games and struggles physically at times, whilst the 29-year-old has also been known to shirk defensive responsibilities – whether due to a lack of fitness or lack of tactical nous.
At Brentford, Jota was one of the most dangerous players in the Sky Bet Championship, averaging a goal every three games for the Bees. Throughout his time in England’s second tier, the Spaniard displayed quick feet and a willingness to make incisive runs beyond opposition defenders.
Mark Warburton, Dean Smith’s predecessor at Brentford, once quipped how the attacker possessed “real technical craft”.
Jota has spent much of his career on the right-hand side of midfield. But, if Dean Smith continues to pursue a narrow diamond, it could be argued that Villa’s number 23 would be best utilised as a second striker alongside Keinan Davis. Jota could then drag opposition defenders into wide areas, with Davis remaining central.
By starting him as an attacker rather than a midfielder, Smith’s side would not have to rely on his questionable defensive approach. Maybe the lifting of these responsibilities is what the former Brentford man needs.
Let’s not forget, Jota has had his moments in a claret and blue shirt; a goal in the Carabao Cup away to Brighton and a clever through ball to set up Wesley’s opener against Everton.
Dean Smith’s side made 443 passes in the 1-0 home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers – but not one of those was a through ball. It seemed Villa were almost terrified to try anything left field, and that must change in the upcoming fixtures against Liverpool and Manchester United.
In these games, Villa will see much less of the ball and will need to make it count when they do have it. Jota could be the man to find that killer pass.
In all honesty, it feels like Smith has exhausted most of his options. Anwar El Ghazi and Trezeguet, two more traditional wingers, have flattered to deceive for the most part this term, and frankly, Jota offers something a bit different.