Pre-match Report: Aston Villa v Fulham

Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)

After suffering a loss to Wolves that highlighted weaknesses in the armor, Aston Villa now move ahead to see a clash against Fulham. Although a small percentage of Villa supporters are agitated by the Wolves loss, now is the time to move forward and look to the fixtures ahead instead of behind. Although Villa would love to get three points on the day, there is a bit of mystery surrounding Fulham to most Villa supporters. Here is what to watch for:

Fulham are currently sitting in 9th position on the EFL Championship table, and for good reason. This is no longer the Fulham of the past where they play overly drab and boring football. There are many creative minds in their system, which is only solidified by Fulhams’ average of 1.3 goals a game. It may seem like a mediocre number, but when one looks at the way they’re scoring them it’s pretty impressive. While 12 of their 16 goals have come from inside of the box, 4 have come from outside, and 2 have come from headers. The rearguard of Villa must be at full attention in this contest, especially fullbacks stomping down incoming crosses. Fulham are a team who tends to mix up their attack throughout the game seamlessly. It seems as though sometimes they try to play wide through midfielder Tom Cairney while a other points Cairney is the focal point of getting the ball to his strikers. Being a mixed bag of sorts, Steve Bruce may have to employ tactics that see his side defending a lot more than what supporters would like to see.

With Neil Taylor still suspended through a red card, it looks as if Steve Bruce is once again going to bring Alan Hutton into the fold at left-back. To be fair to Bruce and Hutton, the selection was not as bad as many people made it out to be. Hutton seemed to have a fire lit under him during the Wolves game and it showed through his relentless tracking back, tackling, and determination. He might have fallen out of favor in the past few months at Aston Villa, but the ‘Scottish-born Cafu’ obviously showed that he still very much wants to be involved more often. If Hutton gets another start in the absence of Taylor, it will be very interesting to see how he reacts to getting consecutive starts.

A major contributor to Fulham in the middle of the park is Stefan Johansen. The midfielder has played all 12 games for Fulham so far this season, netting 3 goals and carrying an 84% passing accuracy. It will be a tough ask for the midfield of Villa to keep Johansen and Cairney from spraying passes all over the pitch. Cairney carries his own stout 91% passing accuracy, but has also played only 4 games this season due to injury woes. This fixture has all the makings of a battle where it is won in the middle of the park. With Conor Hourihane and Glenn Whelan being first choice on the team sheet at midfield, Steve Bruce may be forced to make an early second-half substitution if the Villa duo can’t get off of the mark quickly enough. Joshua Onomah could very well be a dark horse for this game, as he will be rested after his international play for England U21’s last week. Onomah showed quite a bit of creativity and a nose for the goalmouth during his international duty, scoring a world-class goal from what seemed like a mile away.

With Birmingham City on the horizon, Steve Bruce must be very careful to keep his players’ concentration on the task at hand. Looking forward to the Blues game will be very obvious if the Fulham contest goes sour quickly. The Villa first-team that will be selected must be of sharp mind and even sharper form. Hopefully Jonathan Kodjia gets off the mark, as his lack of training in preseason is undoubtedly starting to show. If and when King Kodjia returns to top form, look for that change of direction to affect the entire Aston Villa squad. Coming of such an unbeaten run as Aston Villa has, it would do a universe of good to bag all three points in what is to be a very nervy contest at Villa Park. After suffering a loss to Wolves that highlighted weaknesses in the armour, Aston Villa now move ahead to see a clash against Fulham. Although a small percentage of Villa supporters are agitated by the Wolves loss, now is the time to move forward and look to the fixtures ahead instead of behind. Although Villa would love to get three points on the day, there is a bit of mystery surrounding Fulham to most Villa supporters. Here is what to watch for:

Fulham are currently sitting in 9th position on the EFL Championship table, and for good reason. This is no longer the Fulham of the past where they play overly drab and boring football. There are many creative minds in their system, which is only solidified by Fulham’s’ average of 1.3 goals a game. It may seem like a mediocre number, but when one looks at the way they’re scoring them it’s pretty impressive. While 12 of their 16 goals have come from inside of the box, 4 have come from outside, and 2 have come from headers. The rearguard of Villa must be at full attention in this contest, especially fullbacks stomping down incoming crosses. Fulham are a team who tends to mix up their attack throughout the game seamlessly. It seems as though sometimes they try to play wide through midfielder Tom Cairney while a other points Cairney is the focal point of getting the ball to his strikers. Being a mixed bag of sorts, Steve Bruce may have to employ tactics that see his side defending a lot more than what supporters would like to see.

With Neil Taylor still suspended through a red card, it looks as if Steve Bruce is once again going to bring Alan Hutton into the fold at left-back. To be fair to Bruce and Hutton, the selection was not as bad as many people made it out to be. Hutton seemed to have a fire lit under him during the Wolves game and it showed through his relentless tracking back, tackling, and determination. He might have fallen out of favour in the past few months at Aston Villa, but the ‘Scottish-born Cafu’ obviously showed that he still very much wants to be involved more often. If Hutton gets another start in the absence of Taylor, it will be very interesting to see how he reacts to getting consecutive starts.

A major contributor to Fulham in the middle of the park is Stefan Johansen. The midfielder has played all 12 games for Fulham so far this season, netting 3 goals and carrying an 84% passing accuracy. It will be a tough ask for the midfield of Villa to keep Johansen and Cairney from spraying passes all over the pitch. Cairney carries his own stout 91% passing accuracy, but has also played only 4 games this season due to injury woes. This fixture has all the makings of a battle where it is won in the middle of the park. With Conor Hourihane and Glenn Whelan being first choice on the team sheet at midfield, Steve Bruce may be forced to make an early second-half substitution if the Villa duo can’t get off of the mark quickly enough. Joshua Onomah could very well be a dark horse for this game, as he will be rested after his international play for England U21’s last week. Onomah showed quite a bit of creativity and a nose for the goalmouth during his international duty, scoring a world-class goal from what seemed like a mile away.

With Birmingham City on the horizon, Steve Bruce must be very careful to keep his players’ concentration on the task at hand. Looking forward to the Blues game will be very obvious if the Fulham contest goes sour quickly. The Villa first-team that will be selected must be of sharp mind and even sharper form. Hopefully Jonathan Kodjia gets off the mark, as his lack of training in preseason is undoubtedly starting to show. If and when King Kodjia returns to top form, look for that change of direction to affect the entire Aston Villa squad. Coming of such an unbeaten run as Aston Villa has, it would do a universe of good to bag all three points in what is to be a very nervy contest at Villa Park.

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