Aston Villa will seek to extend their unbeaten Championship run to three matches when they host struggling Brentford on Saturday.
Steve Bruce’s men made a sluggish start to the campaign with two defeats from their opening three matches, with losses at Cardiff City and Reading highlighting the immense amount of work the former Birmingham chief still has to do at Villa Park, ten months on from his appointment.
Yet there have been signs of improvement in recent weeks courtesy of a 4-2 victory over Norwich City on August 19, and they showed some battling qualities to come from behind and secure a point away at Bristol City just before the international break.
That would have given Bruce some encouragement going into the fortnight’s interruption, although their lowly position of 18th in the Championship table needs improving fast if the 56-year-old is to remain in charge.
And they have an opportunity to record another home win when they face Dean Smith’s Brentford on Saturday, and they have received some good news in recent times as star striker Jonathan Kodjia is training again following a five-month injury lay-off.
The 27-year-old broke his ankle in their 1-0 defeat at Blackburn Rovers back in April and has since been on the road to recovery, which is set to step up a notch over the coming days as the forward, scorer of 19 goals for Villa last term, is due to play for the club’s Under-23 side against Southampton on Tuesday.
Yet, regardless of how influential and potentially match-winning Kodjia could be for the club over the coming weeks, it is absolutely imperative that they do not rush him back, as it could disrupt the pieces of momentum they have at present, and could also do him harm in the long run.
The threat of further injury or a recurrence of this one is high if drafted in too soon – he hasn’t played a competitive match since April after all, and will likely need longer than a week’s training to get back to full fitness.
And just because he gets back to full fitness doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be at the level that saw him bag 19 times for Villa last term – that ascent will take time once again.
Thus, with Kodjia nearing full fitness, this is the perfect time for the likes of Scott Hogan and Gabby Agbonlahor, as well as Albert Adomah, Conor Hourihane, Andre Grenn, and new signing Robert Snodgrass, to prove to Bruce that there is enough goals in the team to give Kodjia the necessary time to get back to his best.
As such, there should be no rush to push Kodjia back into the first team – there should be enough quality in those attacking ranks to deal with his absence. If Bruce feels the need to put him back into the side over the coming weeks, it may well be because the forward options aren’t doing enough.
And as such it is up to the front players to make sure that Bruce is not forced to do so in the coming weeks.