Recent reports suggest Jonathan Kodjia might be fit for Aston Villa’s opener with Hull City on 5 August, and if he’s able to come back that quickly, it’d be great news for the club — especially when you consider Villa feared he’d be out until October or November when he went down with a broken ankle in last season’s penultimate game.
Having Kodjia back, arguably the club’s best player, for the start of the 2017/18 campaign would certainly be a boost, and where getting individual results are concerned, having “Jimmy Danger” in the lineup is certainly in Villa’s best interests — when Kodjia scored last season, Villa won 10 times and drew four more, losing just twice in a match where the Ivorian grabbed a goal. In eight of those 10 wins, Kodjia’s goal was the winner, and his lone assist for the Claret and Blues was the decided in the 1-0 win over Derby County that kickstarted Villa’s (all too brief) second-half surge.
Yet in a way, I was looking forward to starting next season without Kodjia — simply because Villa were so bad last year when he wasn’t amongst the goals.
If Villa are to go anywhere in the 2017/18 season, they need to figure out how to win matches when Kodjia isn’t scoring. It might be because Kodjia’s out with injury or getting rest in the middle of a three-match week; it might be because he isn’t as involved on the day, or the chances are simply falling to someone else. Regardless though, there will be days where Villa need a result, and Kodjia isn’t going to be the guy to get one for them.
Last season, in the 30 matches when Kodjia wasn’t on the scoresheet, Villa were abysmal. They won just six times, drawing 10 more (that’s below a point per match), and interestingly, defended significantly worse — Villa conceded just 0.75 goals per match when Kodjia scored, but 1.20 when he didn’t.
After netting 19 goals — and that includes matches missed because he was (1) at Bristol City, then (2) at the Africa Cup of Nations — it’s hard to ask much more of Kodjia or expect a greater goal haul next season. Simply put, the rest of the team, both in attack and defence, is going to need to step up and help the guy out.
And that’s why, in a way, I think an August without Kodjia could be the cure.
I’ve written about it time and time again, but Villa have plenty of attacking firepower without Kodjia. Ross McCormack and Scott Hogan have each proven they’re top goalscorers in this division, while Conor Hourihane and Henri Lansbury were among the most offensively involved midfielders in the league before making their move to Villa Park. Albert Adomah and Birkir Bjarnason have something to offer from the wings, too, while a guy like Jack Grealish could really kick on this season.
If Villa win promotion next year, it isn’t going to be because Kodjia fires 20 goals. Rather, it’s going to be because all those guys step up and chip in their fair share of goals when needed; not one of them necessarily needs to hit double figures, but they all need to be active in the final third.
Last season, both tactically and on the scoresheet, Villa were far too reliant on Kodjia. And what better way to fix that than to simply take him away from his teammates, putting the onus on the rest of the Villa squad to get involved going forward and grab the goals?
Of course, I’m happy to hear Kodjia’s recovery is going well — because ultimately, without the Ivorian healthy, it’s hard to see Villa’s season going in the direction we all want it to. But if guys like McCormack and Lansbury, or Hogan and Hourihane, aren’t going to be significant contributors to the attack, then it’s also hard to see Villa’s season going in the direction we all want it to.
Kodjia might be back for Hull, and he might not. Either way, though, the rest of the club must figure out how to carry its weight.