Exclusive: Whelan suggests Smith unconvinced by Aston Villa int'l who started v Fulham

Noel Whelan suggests that Aston Villa manager Dean Smith is unconvinced about the quality of striker Jonathan Kodjia as the club suffer a centre-forward crisis.

The former Leeds United forward and broadcast pundit, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, says that it remains to be seen whether the Ivory Coast international has what it takes to fill the boots of Wesley.

With the Brazilian ruled out for the rest of the season, Kodjia is the only fit senior striker, Smith handing him his second start of the season against Fulham in the FA Cup.

Having seen the 30-year-old struggle for game time despite Wesley’s troubles in front of goal, Whelan suggests that Smith does not believe his second-choice striker has what it takes for the Premier League.

Asked if Kodjia was good enough to play in the top flight, Whelan told Football Insider: “Well, look, we don’t know, he’s not been given the opportunity yet.”

“The fact of the matter is that he wasn’t first choice for Dean Smith which suggests he’ll be looking in the market for a striker and that Kodjia will be on the bench.

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“We know his contract’s running out at the end of the season, who’s to say that he doesn’t sign a pre-contract with a club abroad this month?”

Kodjia played the full 90 minutes against Fulham on Saturday afternoon, notching an assist for Anwar El Ghazi’s goal, but was unable to prevent the Championship side wrapping up a 2-1 win at Craven Cottage.

Having played just twice in the opening 16 games of the Premier League season, partly through injury, he has now featured in four of the Villans’ five last top-flight matches as a substitute.

In other Aston Villa news, Whelan has made a “crucial” transfer claim after a “huge” update from the club.