Following Villa is a surreal experience at the best of times.
Last weekend was no different.
As The Villa Underground was quietly minding it’s own business in the departures lounge at Birmingham Airport, an hour before kick off at Wigan, who should be encountered but a solitary Jonathan Kodjia.
Kodjia was polite and personable. There was nothing to dislike about the man apart from a dreadful choice of red Givenchy hoodie.
However, his absence from an important matchday squad, a convenient ‘knock’ in training, links to Nice and a awfully coincidental flight to France…does get the mind wandering. All dismissed by the club of course.
In a world where we are now always connected, those seemingly declining number of aircraft that aren’t Wifi enabled, permit a bliss.
It’s wonderful, glorious ignorance in fact. We’re free from the strife of Brexit, Trump and live Villa updates.
There’s nothing quite like boarding a flight, knowing that Villa will absolutely, definitely beat one of the worst form sides in the division.
Then, the audible groan as cellular data kicked in at our destination, naturally, confirmed that Aston Villa exist to exasperate.
A 3-0 away pumping to Wigan, is not promotion form, nor is it an acceptable result by any standard or measure.
[Thanks to Chris Budd for going to the DW Stadium, enduring one of the worst 90 minutes in living memory and still submitting the match ratings. Chris insists he will recall the day only for the quality of pie.]
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BREACH THE HULL
And so it is that Villa must now face one of the divisions most in-form sides, at a point where we find our season lurching erratically.
If Smith can re-focus and re-group this miss-match squad, then the playoffs remain our objective. Fail, and the season genuinely risks hitting the rocks, with Villa limping into the port of mid-table obscurity.
The issues aren’t any different from those which concerned and have impeded us in recent weeks.
We urgently need to stop leaking dreadful, multiple goals. This has to be a priority, with a side previously slick on the attack, now unable to guarantee two or three goals a game. Not that it should have had to.
The midfield, so balanced in the early season, now fails to protect the back four nor adequately service the attack.
A balance must be struck, but individuals simply have to be accountable too.
John McGinn cannot do the job of 4 men. El Ghazi and Bolasie have to deliver consistently, not mere flashes of brilliance. Smith must decide whether the path to promotion is seriously going to be anchored around a Whelan, Hourihane, Bjarnason or Jedinak. Yikes.
Up front, retaining Abraham is a major win. But as with McGinn, we cannot be utterly dependent upon one man.
Jonathan Kodjia needs to be reinvigorated. A decision made on Hogan. Can a Keinan Davies, so promising holding the ball up, play an important bit-part?
It’s not easy, with the squad inherited, injuries and the chronic loss of form from key individuals.
However, the playoffs remain in our reach and have to be the aspiration for Aston Villa.
Hull are a stern test, but by no means the best team in the league.
This is simply a game that Villa must win.
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- Jonathan Kodjia returns from ‘injury’ / France.
- Jack Grealish is still out with a shin injury.
- Andre Green has been recalled from a loan spell at Portsmouth.
- Hull = 10th (39 pts)
- Aston Villa – 12th (38 pts)
- Villa have won just 1 in 8 games.
- Villa have conceded the most home goals of any team.
- Villa can rise as high at 7th with a win.
- Dean Smith has yet to beat Hull as a Championship manager.
- Villa beat Hull 3-1 on the opening day, with Elphick scoring.
- Tommy Elphick then joined Hull for a successful spell, before recall.