Match days at Villa Park gave been nothing short of spectacular so far this season. Two games. Two last-minute goals to gain four points for Steve Bruce’s side in the most dramatic fashion possible.
The next instalment comes on Saturday as Reading visit B6 with Villa’s unbeaten start on the line after two wins and two draws from the first four games of the campaign.
The best performance of the lot came on Wednesday as two goals from the rejuvenated Jonathan Kodjia helped Villa battle to a 2-2 draw with an in-form Brentford side. Dean Smith’s visitors proved to be a tough test as they were heading for a win before the Ivorian in Claret and Blue nodded in a late leveller to get the home side a deserved point.
What impressed most about the performance was the attacking intent shown, a notable difference from other games this season. Bruce has taken some flak for a style of play that has been nick-named “Bruceball”, but the way in which Villa passed and moved on Wednesday was a breath of fresh air for fans.
Villa will expect more of the same against a Reading side who have struggled so far including throwing away a two-goal lead in the draw with Blackburn on Wednesday.
Speaking about the style change, Bruce said:
“The way we set out our stall, chased the ball, moved the ball – I was delighted with us. We had a great energy about us and Brentford were close to being blown away.”
“We played very, very well. Sometimes you just have to look past the result and say ‘that’s the way we want to go about it, that’s the way we want to play. I think the supporters enjoyed it. They stayed until the end. Fair play to them. We all got our reward with the last kick of the game.”
“I asked for that bit more energy and zip about us, and I got it. The way we moved the ball and got after it was much better. In all aspects, it’s just what we’re looking for.”
Bruce also spoke about the unbeaten start and is pleased with how his side are thinking about each game. He said:
“I’m delighted with the mentality of the group. We’ve still got a bit to go, but we’re a lot better than we were a few weeks ago.”
“As I keep saying, the majority owners have breathed life back into the club and the supporters at a good time. We’ve brought in a couple of really good individuals and there’s still a few more to come.”
Bruce might be tempted to call upon an unchanged line-up for the visit of the Royals, but the arrival of Anwar El Ghazi will have Albert Adomah fighting for his place. Another option would be to move Ahmed Elmohamady back to right-back and moving Axel Tuanzebe to his preferred centre-back role, but Bruce’s preference for Mile Jedinak may be a stumbling block for that option.
In the midfield, Bruce may decide to drop Glenn Whelan back to the bench. The veteran defensive midfielder filled his purpose against Brentford with an impressive display, but against an on-paper ‘weaker’ side, the manager may bring in Conor Hourihane or Birkir Bjanarson instead.
An added bonus for Villa is the return to form of Kodjia, who Bruce described as “like a new signing” in his post-match interviews. The coach said:
“All last year we missed him. It’s always difficult when you’re overcoming an injury like the one he had. He’s starting to show glimpses of just why we missed him so much.”
“He’s getting there. His physical stats were great on Saturday. He led the line well again tonight. Only he could score that first goal – it was out of nothing. He’s produced that little bit of magic in the box to wriggle past his defenders and smash it home.”
“His second goal, the header, was excellent, too. It’s good to see, it’s like having a new signing. Long may it continue.”
Predicted Aston Villa starting line-up to play Reading:
Nyland; Tuanzebe, Chester, Jedinak, Hutton; Elmohamady, Grealish, Bjanarson, McGinn, Adomah; Kodjia
THE NUMBERS THAT MATTER
- Villa have a 50% record against Reading since their drop to the Championship, winning two and losing two against Saturday’s opponents.
- One third of all goals that Villa have scored this season have come from set-pieces while all three of Reading’s strikes were from open play.
- The two most creative players on Saturday are expected to be John McGinn and Jack Grealish as both men lead the way with key passes from both teams in the games so far this season.
Picture Credit: Aston Villa