As we enter the half way point of the January transfer window, it's time to look at why this period is huge for Aston Villa's season.
With Aston Villa Football Club right now, every game is a dog fight. They are slowly adjusting to life in the Championship and with half the season remaining, they're in a relatively decent position when it comes to making a late charge for the play-offs. However whilst being in that top six in May is the aim, the next few weeks are almost certainly going to define the Villains' campaign.
The elephant in the room when discussing the near future is Jonathan Kodjia. The 27-year-old forward has netted nine times in 19 games so far this season and his absence due to the African Cup of Nations is going to be a huge blow that Villa must learn how to deal with. His influence all over the pitch and ability to pop up with a game winner at any point will be sorely missed, which leads us into how they can replace him.
Aston Villa's Jonathan Kodjia celebrates scoring their first goal
The big decision that Steve Bruce and the men behind the scenes have to make is whether or not to find a permanent or temporary solution to the Kodjia problem. It seems obvious from an outsider's perspective looking in that it should be the first option, with McCormack struggling and Agbonlahor still not quite ready to be a sure-fire starter.
That issue up front needs to be addressed, in addition to a number of other positions. Villa need someone to take games by the scruff of the neck in this division and because of that bringing in one or two central midfielders that can command and lead a team is going to be crucial in January. Plus, a pacey and skillful winger would be perfect and could provide Villa with the depth out wide that they oh so desperately need.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce
These potential moves become even more important when you look at the upcoming schedule, too. Between January 14th and February 14th alone the club will face a run of seven games, with three or four of them coming against teams that could be considered rivals when it comes to the push for promotion.
There's no doubting that the last stretch of the season in April and May is important, but it's this mid season slump that can affect so many teams heading into those crucial months. Consistency is key and if Villa can start building some momentum early on, they'll break away and put themselves in a really strong position.
If there was ever going to be a time that Bruce's credentials are tested, it's right now.