In July 2015, Bristol City announced the purchase of the 2014/15 Ligue 2 Player of the Season – Jonathan Kodjia. Previous winners include Olivier Giroud, Yoan Gouffran and Diafra Sakho, so naturally there was much anticipation and excitement amongst the ranks of the Championship new boys. How would the newest Robin fare at the ever-developing Ashton Gate as Bristol City look to secure their status in the second tier after gaining promotion by winning League One last season.
From the little I’ve seen of Jonathan Kodjia at this albeit primitive stage of the Championship season, I am certainly impressed by the man from Angers SCO and also excited for the flair and energy he looks set to bring to the English second tier from the French equivalent.
Bristol City benefited from the relative weakness of the Euro to secure the signature of the Franco-Ivorian for precisely £2.1 million. Reports suggest that Kodjia (pronounced Cod-ger) rejected an increased wage at Angers; whom he helped fire into Ligue 1, and other top flight French clubs such as Lille. Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion, Cardiff City and Reading and indeed teams further afield such as Ajax and Olympiakos were also rumoured to have taken a close look at the striker-cum-winger; therefore for Bristol City his signing represents something of a coup.
In a slow transfer window for the Robins, Kodjia is the marquee signing and this; along with the failed bids for Dwight Gayle and Andre Gray, heaps pressure on 25 year old’s shoulders. It is a big ask for the newcomer to stand firm in these circumstances, especially for someone who is learning English by the day. A story doing the rounds in south Bristol is that Kodjia actually got lost on his way to Ashton Gate for the first home game against Brentford, requiring a City supporter to jump in his car and direct him. Regardless of whether this is true or not, Kodjia’s English clearly needs some work, but as it improves expect him to integrate to a greater extent into both Bristol City’s style of play and English culture in general.
What Kodjia brings to Ashton Gate is raw talent and an almost fearless attacking intent. As someone who watched Yannick Bolasie learn his trade in the Football League, there are obvious comparisons. Immediately one can see that both are real live-wires whose unpredictability is an asset. Furthermore, Kodjia is comfortable with the ball at feet just inside the opposition’s half with the license to run at defenders. Tricks and neat turns aplenty, he can be a real nightmare for defenders with; above all else, his electric pace.
The video below demonstrates the form that earned him the Ligue 2 player of the year last season.
The so-called ‘rawness’ of Kodjia’s talent has led some to label him as an unpolished diamond, which is something I concur with. The reasoning for this is simple. Saint-Denis born Kodjia was not signed by a professional club until he was 19 years of age, when Stade de Reims were the team to acquire him. Prior to that, he was playing amateur football in the suburbs of Paris and in doing so, gained a reputation within the French capital. Therefore, Kodjia did not spend his formative years at an academy or centre de formation and this showed; and to an extent still does, in his lack of a sustained breakthrough at Reims. Loan spells at Cherbourg, Amiens and Caen slowly helped to refine Kodjia and he reaped the rewards as Angers SCO bought him in 2014. Immediately following this, he had a stand-out season scoring 15 goals, winning the Player of the Year accolade and becoming one of the hottest prospects in French football. You can now see why he attracted suitors of such a high standing and why Bristol City should be pleasantly surprised that they got their man.
However, City fans expecting an immediate 20 goal-a-season striker may be left disappointed. Kodjia is very much still a work in progress and the transition from France to England should not be underestimated. The language barrier is obvious but the differences in the two leagues are also quite profound. The Championship is a significant step up from Ligue 2 both technically and physically. In England’s second tier, any mistakes are punished and as a striker you cannot rely on defenders being sloppy as you perhaps can in provincial France. Finishing and the timing of runs need work on the training ground, but this is perfectly achievable and will be aided by the gradual build-up of chemistry with his team-mates.
Steve Cotterill has talked of Kodjia needing to “get up to speed with the Championship” – and for that read “Fans, give him time”. I could not agree more. I believe Kodjia will become a valuable asset for Bristol City, but to do so he needs to be afforded patience – more so than almost any other new player. With time, his English will improve, and in this process he will be able to gel with his team-mates both on and off the pitch. He will also become acclimatized to the rigours of the Championship. Both of these experiences will benefit him immeasurably.
Jonathan Kodjia is not yet the finished article, but 600 words in he looks a terrific prospect.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Libby
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