It’d been an underwhelming start for Aston Villa before the last meeting in September, but since then they’ve taken a huge step in the right direction and find themselves within the Play-Off positions. What’s changed at Villa Park?
I think they’ve got a bit of belief back in them now. The players that they recruited over the summer – the likes of Glenn Whelan, John Terry, Ahmed Elmohamady and Robert Snodgrass – have been there and done it in the Championship; they know what it takes to get out of this division. Villa seem to know how to grind out results now; they’ve managed to pick up draws from games which they would have previously lost, and that’s kept them ticking along nicely. The away form has improved and they’ve already scored the same amount of goals on the road as they did during the whole of last season.
What do you think is a realistic aim for the remainder of the season?
The club are still hoping to get automatic promotion this season, however they’ve got to have a decent run over the festive period because there is still some ground to make up. I believe that, at present, Villa are a Play-Off team, but I think they’ve got some work to do in January - with Jonathan Kodjia out injured, they need a new striker. They haven’t got too much money to spend, so they’ll be looking at getting somebody in on loan as Gabby Agbonlahor, Scott Hogan and Keinan Davis only have three goals between them.
What should Brentford expect in terms of the way Villa set up?
They usually play 4-4-1-1 with two youngsters up front: Josh Onomah the Tottenham Hotspur loanee just behind Keinan Davis. In some games Villa have been fantastic and in other fixtures they’ve really struggled, it really depends on whether those two turn up because at times they can be unplayable. Villa tend to keep it quite tight – they haven’t conceded too many goals but still pose quite a threat in the final third - so I’d expect them to create quite a few chances.
Back in September, you said that Robert Snodgrass would be the one to watch. Is that still the case, or is there another standout performer you’d go for?
When Snodgrass signed at the back end of August, I thought he’d be the player who’d inspire Villa. I don’t think he’s hit the heights that many would’ve expected, but he hasn’t been bad either and has probably been a six or seven out of ten most weeks. At present, the player to watch out for is Keinan Davis; he hasn’t scored too many goals but his hold-up play is excellent and defenders just bounce off him as he’s so strong. If he’s playing well, Villa tend to play well.
What’s your score prediction?
3-0 to Villa. They dropped a couple of points at the beginning of the month but need to get back to winning ways so I’ll plump for a comfortable victory.
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