Every successful team needs a focal point: someone dynamic enough to elevate the performances of those around him and turn what otherwise may be a bleak situation into an opportunity. Last year, Aston Villa’s focal point was unquestionably Jonathan Kodjia. As Villa calibrated to life in the Championship, creativity was often absent from Villa’s attack. However, on many of those occasions, Kodjia was able to latch onto a stray clearance or misplaced pass to create a goal from nothing. In the context of last season, that skill was extremely important in making sure Villa’s first season in the Championship didn’t snowball into what Sunderland’s season is slipping towards.
After last year's markedly average performance, a step up was expected and required this season. So far, that has been the case. Most Villa fans expected that improvement to result from an expanded version of last season's winning formula: a reliable tally of Jonathan Kodjia goals complimented by strong defensive stability. While Villa’s defensive stability has been sufficient so far this season, Kodjia’s prowess in front of goal has not continued at last year’s level. While Kodjia’s season has been admittedly derailed by injury, his one goal thus far is far from a reliable backbone for a campaign hoping for promotion.
This departure could have torched Villa’s pre-season model of how to best achieve promotion. Kodjia still might return to the striker he was last season, but a rudderless attack without him so far this year would have already put Villa in a perilous position for promotion.
Despite all this, however, Villa have made an extremely strong start. In light of the void left behind by Kodjia, Villa’s success has been determined heavily by the exceptional goal-scoring record of Albert Adomah. Following two goals on Saturday against QPR and another on Tuesday night against Sunderland, Adomah’s 8 league goals have been absolutely essential. Without Adomah’s consistent efforts, the defensive record Villa have worked so hard to build would be all for naught - creating a confidence that sends ripple effects through all members of the team.
In a league as grueling as the Championship is, having a player who can deliver a goal in an otherwise lifeless match is an invaluable asset. Villa will likely need more reliable goal scorers to emerge as the season continues, hopefully in the form of Keinan Davis, Jonathan Kodjia, or Scott Hogan, but for now Adomah’s excellence will suffice. Just as Conor Hourihane has brought life into Villa's midfield with his agility and goal-scoring ability, Adomah’s pace on the left and clinically precise right foot has saved Villa’s forward options from stagnation.
Villa still have much work to do in preserving a top 6 or top 2 finish, but Adomah’s rise to the responsibility previously shouldered by Jonathan Kodjia has ensured Villa’s current strong position for a future move up the table.