Jonathan Kodjia was the silent hero in Aston Villa’s Second City Derby win over Birmingham City.
Amidst all the joy of the result of Aston Villa beating Birmingham on Sunday, one player in particular caught my eye, and not for obvious reasons. He did score the equalizer to Birmingham’s opening goal, but Jonathan Kodjia produced a performance he has struggled to create since signing for the club. Playing out on the left hand side of midfield, which is where Dean Smith has opted to play him in his reign so far, he tormented Birmingham’s defense but also got back well to help out Neil Taylor when the opposition had the ball.
This is a trait that Aston Villa fans are not used to seeing in Kodjia’s game but perhaps he himself is wary of the strong competition being provided by Yannick Bolasie for that spot, and feels he needs to improve his game.
Another facet of Kodjia’s game which has gotten better under Smith has been his passing. A prime example of this being during the build up to Grealish’s goal when he picked up possession on halfway and played a quick, short pass into Conor Hourihane, when in previous games he would be more inclined to take a player on.
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He has been labeled as ‘frustrating’ and ‘selfish’ by many for his individualism when in possession but he seems to be maturing into a team player, which at 29 seems to be a transformation more suited to someone a lot younger, but I guess it shows how much of an effect the new manager is having on the team at present.
The improvements in Kodjia’s game has made him into more of a threat to the opposition too, as allied to his new found strengths discussed above, this wing position allows him to come inside and shoot, which he likes to do, and he can hang on the back post for deep crosses as well, without being as tightly marked as the striker invariably is. This takes the pressure off Kodjia to score all the time too, which may serve him well and see him score a few more before the season is out.