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Aston Villa

Three things learnt from Aston Villa’s opening-day draw with Hull City

Jake Jackman



Aston Villa

Aston Villa and Hull City couldn’t be separated on the first day of the Championship season as the two teams played out a 1-1 draw at Villa Park.

There is a lot of expectation on the hosts to push for promotion back to the Premier League this year after the transfer business that they completed over the summer. They have added experience to their already talented squad, but they didn’t have enough to overcome the recently-relegated Tigers, despite dominating the match for long periods.

Here are three things that The Boot Room learnt…

Aston Villa’s season could rest on Jonathan Kodjia

During the first half, the home side were good and created several clear-cut opportunities, but they only had one goal to show for their efforts. Scott Hogan led the line and he didn’t impress, leaving many to question whether he was worth the significant outlay earlier this year.

At Brentford, he was excellent, but he hasn’t transitioned well since his transfer and this was another disappointing performance. He didn’t look confident in the final third and his decision making was poor, as underlined by his lowly pass success rate of 50%.

Although this will be a disappointment for Steve Bruce, it isn’t the end of the world, as Villa do possess a reliable goal-scorer at this level. Jonathan Kodjia is favoured by the bookmakers to be the top scorer of the league this season and for good reason. He has scored 19 goals in each of his last two seasons at this level and at the age of 27, it is now time for him to emerge as one of the best players in the division.

The Ivorian will miss the next few matches through injury and it is important that Villa find a way to win without him. On this evidence, their promotion hopes could lie with last season’s top scorer, as their play in the final third was slow and lacking a focal point.

Kamil Grosicki could be a star at this level

A number of players have left Hull City and their squad is lacking in quality as a result, but one player that could thrive at this level and push the Tigers to a top-six challenge is Kamil Grosicki. The Poland international impressed in the Premier League and he was excellent on Saturday, as his movement and quality on the ball caused problems for Aston Villa.

During the match, he made five key passes, which was more than any other player on the pitch. The 29-year-old also got the assist for the equaliser.

It will be difficult to keep hold of the winger as he still has international ambitions and to achieve them, he may need to play at a higher level. There will be a number of Premier League and European clubs that would be open to taking Grosicki, especially given the situation at Hull. He could leave, but if he stays, he could be one of the best players in this division.

The Tigers’ number seven is intelligent and rarely makes a wrong decision when he has possession of the ball. That was on show at Villa Park and he played a major part in his side earning a point.

Steve Bruce is already showing his limitations on day one

There is no doubting his pedigree at this level, but the Championship is becoming a more competitive division. The division has become more tactical with the likes of Slavisa Jokanovic, Carlos Carvalhal and Jaap Stam leading the change. This summer, that has continued with the appointments of Nuno Espirito Santo, Daniel Farke and Leonid Slutsky.

Some of these managers have managed in the Champions League and that shows how the division has developed.

Steve Bruce was seen as a good appointment last season, but he hasn’t been a great success to date and this performance showed his flaws. Towards the end of the game when he was looking for a winner, he chose to bring on Chris Samba as a striker. That is a desperate play and he has already made it on the first day of the season.

Conor Hourihane was sitting on the bench and he was one of the most creative midfielders in the league last season, but the Villa boss opted for an ageing centre-half playing as a forward. The league will be tight this year and small gains through substitutions and tactical changes could prove pivotal. On this evidence, Bruce won’t be able to transform many matches in his side’s favour.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Aston Villa

Aston Villa want Stephane Bahoken, who had woeful St Mirren loan in 2013-14

Aston Villa and a heap of other teams want the Cameroon international this summer.



Aston Villa are said to be one of four English teams chasing the Strasbourg striker Stephane Bahoken this summer. France Football says Villa are keen, along with Swansea and Stoke City. The Express also mention Brighton, stating the Seagulls are frontrunners for the player.

Aston Villa’s interest will not be a surprise to many. They were heavily linked with Bahoken’s signature in January as well. SFR reported in the winter that Aston Villa wanted to bring him in on loan until the end of the season. Strasbourg refused but with his contract expiring this summer Aston Villa look set to return.

(Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images)

But something that is not being spoken about from the player’s past is his loan spell at Scottish side St Mirren.

Bahoken joined the Paisley side on loan from former club Nice in the summer of 2013. It should have been an exciting experience for the club and the player, but it was anything but.

Bahoken played four times for the club before the deal was cancelled in December. After a month in which another loan move failed to be ratified he headed back to the Scottish Premiership side. But, he did not play another game for the club. Four games, zero goals. It was a disaster for the Cameroonian striker.

Such a disastrous stint north of the border must be something Aston Villa and any other interested party will be concerned about.

(Photo credit should read XAVIER LEOTY/AFP/Getty Images)

He himself even admitted to being like a ‘spoilt kid’ at the club when talking to the Daily Record. He vowed to become a man.

It would be fair to say Bahoken has come a long way since his disastrous loan in Scotland.

After leaving Nice for Strasbourg in 2014 he quickly became very important for the team. This season he has scored seven goals in 23 games and his displays even earned him a first call-up to the Cameroon national team this year.

Aston Villa know that his signature would be a risk, based on his St Mirren disaster and rather muted goal record.

But seeing as he is a free transfer, it might be worth rolling the dice.

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Aston Villa

Lovre Kalinic best keeper in Belgium, two years after red tape scuppered Aston Villa move

The Croatian has been in fine form since his move to KAA Gent.



Back in January 2016, it looked like Aston Villa had found themselves a new goalkeeper. It looked like Croatian stopper Lovre Kalinic was on his way to join Villa – who at the time seemed doomed to relegation from the Premier League. The giant goalkeeper had been in talks with Villa for some time and the Daily Mail reported that a £4.9 million fee had been agreed between Villa and his club, Hajduk Split.

It soon emerged however that Kalinic would not be making the move. As reported by Index Kalinic did not have the requisite qualifications to be eligible for a work permit to play football in the UK. He had not fulfilled the quota of playing 75 percent of games for Croatia in the past two years – playing just once.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

That summer Aston Villa signed Italian Pierluigi Gollini, whilst Kalinic remained in Croatia until the following January. In the winter window of 2017, the goalie headed to Belgium, joining KAA Gent for a club record fee.

To say his move has been a success would be an understatement. Kalinic has been in fine form for the Belgian side. Despite playing just half of last season he was named the Goalkeeper of the Season in Belgium. He has just received the same accolade for the current campaign.

Aston Villa eventually did find a new goalkeeper, with Sam Johnstone arriving on loan from Manchester United.

But with his deal expiring at the end of the season, and Villa chasing promotion, should they return for Kalinic two years down the line?

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images,)

The 28-year-old is clearly good enough to make the step to English football and at one point was very excited to head to Villa Park.

He has played much more regularly for the Croatian national team and is now in a genuine battle with Monaco’s Danijel Subasic to be number one at this summer’s World Cup. If Kalinic can get the nod there, then a work permit will no longer be an issue.

With Johnstone only on loan, Aston Villa need to consider the fact they might need to find a different keeper in the summer. Two years ago they found the perfect man for the job in the form of the 6ft 5ins goalie but red tape stopped his arrival.

This summer they should surely consider going for Kalinic once again.

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Aston Villa

Ritchie De Laet has now been dropped by his loan club

The Aston Villa defender is now struggling for football at Antwerp.



Photo: Getty Images

When Aston Villa started to make wholesale improvements to the squad in the summer of 2016 they went on a spending spree bringing in talent good enough for the Premier League. One man they snapped up was even a Premier League winner the season before.

Ritchie De Laet was snapped up in the summer of 2016 after a season in which he won both the Premier League with Leicester City and promotion with Middlesbrough whilst on loan.

Considering he had also won promotion with Leicester in 2014, he looked the perfect addition to the Aston Villa fold.

Unfortunately, that has not proved to be the case.

The Belgian defender, who cost a fee reported by The Sun to be in the region of £2.5 million, was earmarked as the solution to Villa’s problem position of right-back.

However, De Laet never managed to have any sustained impact at Villa. He played just three times in his first season at the club before picking up a knee injury against Brentford. He was subsequently ruled out for the rest of the season.

This term he managed to feature sporadically through the first-half of the season but in January found himself out of contention. The 29-year-old was therefore sent out on loan to his boyhood club Royal Antwerp until the end of the season.

He immediately went into the starting XI for the Belgian side but has recently been dropped for the Europa League play-off fixtures.

It comes after a switch to 3-5-2 from his loan club, who have preferred to play Benfica loanee Aurelio Buta at right wing-back ahead of De Laet.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

This will certainly not have been the plan for De Laet, who will have hoped to have found his best form again in Belgium. However, it has not been that straightforward and he now finds himself on the bench.

This summer will be interesting for De Laet. It certainly does not seem as though Steve Bruce sees him as an Aston Villa player in the future. If the Villans can also capture promotion, it is expected new faces will arrive to push De Laet even further down the pecking order.

Thriving out on loan might have changed the mind of a few figures at Villa Park.

But seeing as he is not even an immediate starter with Antwerp, Aston Villa will likely consider him dispensable in the summer.

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