It's already been well discussed just how dreadful Aston Villa were in their opening day fixture against Bournemouth. This article doesn't exist to retread those same points. But if you do want some great analysis of that terrible game, make sure to check out Harry's post match debrief here.
Instead, I want to discuss the problematic handling of our former captain - Tyrone Mings.
After Villa's embarrassing display on Saturday, Steven Gerrard was unsurprisingly not in the best of moods. His frustrations were being taken out on the media and, more worryingly, the players.
Tyrone Mings found himself in the head coach's firing line after already being benched for the game. In this article, I want to take a wider look into how Gerrard has managed Tyrone Mings since taking over at Villa. Mings.. a player who has given Villa his everything on and off the pitch, and a player who I'm worried may not be around for much longer.
O Captain, My Captain!
The warning signs have been there since the day Steven Gerrard stepped through the door at Villa Park. All the way back in November, he was already putting out the idea of changing the captain.
Gerrard said the following;
“When you come into a club during a season, you are not going to turn the club upside down. The captaincy is one of the decisions I am going to be analysing moving forward."
“We are still working that out. I still won’t rule out the option of someone coming in, who I know, who is also capable of being in the running. It is something I am analysing really closely now and I will make a decision some time during pre-season.”
Well, the head coach stuck to his word, and on July 27th Tyrone Mings was stripped of his captaincy. Many supporters, myself included, felt that Mings hadn't warranted losing his place as captain.
However, Mings put out a very well-written tweet congratulating the new captain - John McGinn, and all seemed to be good in camp Villa. But then details began to emerge about other captaincy decisions within the club..
It turns out that Steven Gerrard wanted two vice-captains, as well as a so-called club captain to back up John McGinn. Surely one of these roles would go to Tyrone Mings given his excellent leadership skills as captain? Given how much charity work Mings does off the pitch? Given how great of a spokesperson Mings has been for Aston Villa?
One of the vice-captain roles went to Emi Martinez. Fair enough, Martinez is a very vocal and well-loved member of the team so this made sense. The other vice-captain position, though, went to newcomer Diego Carlos.
Now, Diego Carlos might well be a fantastic leader, but to place him ahead of Tyrone Mings in his first season feels more than a little disrespectful to the England international. It is yet to be seen how well Carlos can lead a defense, but nobody can argue with how vocal Mings has always been in that back line.
Well, at least there's still the new role of 'club captain'. A captain who is to act as more of a dressing room leader, an ambassador for the club, a player who can captain the team without being guaranteed minutes every week. If the arrival of Diego Carlos does indeed signal Mings playing less games, then surely this role would be perfect for the former captain..
Introducing Aston Villa's new 'club captain', Ashley Young.
Once again, this isn't meant to criticise the appointment of Ashley Young as one of the four captains, he fits that bill. What's frustrating, is after years of doing the job to his best ability, Tyrone Mings is suddenly deemed unfit for any of these multiple captaincy positions.
“When Tyrone is back at his best and looks me in the eye and shows me he’s ready to play, he’ll get opportunities"
These were the words spoken to the press by Steven Gerrard after Saturday's game. One simple comment that has simultaneously left an entire fanbase feeling uneasy over Gerrard's handling of his squad.
Not long before being stripped of the captain's armband, Tyrone Mings was dealt another blow when he was left out of Gareth Southgate's England team for the Nations League games back in June. After 18 games for England, Mings kept 14 clean sheets and only conceded 4 goals. I, for one, couldn't help but feel sorry for Mings after yet another questionable decision by Southgate.
"At least he won't be treated with this much disrespect from the Villa", I foolishly thought to myself at the time. Fast-forward two months and Mings finds himself on the bench for the first game of Aston Villa's Premier League season.
Now I understand that the Villa fanbase is often split down the middle on Mings, and he's not the perfect defender by anybody's standards, but the way he's being forced out doesn't sit right with me. And maybe saying he's being forced out is a bit of an overreaction, but that's the sinking feeling I'm getting as I watch this situation play out.
Sadly, Saturday's comments came following another similar jab at the player. Gerrard had already said the following regarding Mings;
“Tyrone has been slightly quieter, I'm sure it's still a little bit raw and he's still a little bit disappointed by my decision, which I accept.”
It's fair to say that something doesn't feel right between Gerrard and Mings, and when I think back to everything Mings has given for the shirt, it feels nearly impossible to back Gerrard here.
The Good Times With Tyrone
Tyrone Mings was one of the most important players in achieving promotion back to the Premier League. That iconic image of Mings standing in Bournemouth train station in his full Villa kit following the play-off final feels so far removed from the frustrated looking Mings we saw return to Bournemouth this past weekend.
Sat on the bench, watching the centre-back pairing of Ezri Konsa and Diego Carlos struggle to contain Kieffer Moore and Dominic Solanke must have been a tough pill for Mings to swallow. Especially for a man who helped lead Villa to Premier League survival only two years prior.
After the departure of Jack Grealish, it was Tyrone Mings who stepped up as Aston Villa captain. It was Mings who would become a positive presence on social media and help Villa fans in need. It was Mings who was the first to speak at charity events and become the face of the club. And now, after all of that, he feels unwanted.
There's no doubt that every player in a Villa shirt was poor on Saturday afternoon. You could drop any one of them for the Everton match on Saturday and nobody would complain. With that being said, Mings will surely be one of the first players in line to claim his spot back. Especially when looking at how Villa have performed without Mings in the team.
As was widely reported over the weekend, Aston Villa have a win percentage 35.2% with Mings in the team, and 10% without him in the team. Villa also conceded an average of 1.4 goals per game with Mings, compared to 2.0 goals without him. He also completed more passes, more headed clearances, and won more duels than any other Villa player last season. (Credit to @AVFCStatto)
So with these stats in mind, it would almost feel criminal to keep Mings out of the team for a second week running, especially when looking at how lost Konsa looked against Bournemouth. I'm not saying that Villa can't improve on Mings in the near future, but judging from preseason and this past Saturday, Mings is still among the best two centre-backs at the club in my personal opinion.
Mings will surely be having a hard think to himself right now. There's a good chance he might even be considering moving on, and who could blame him? After everything we've just been over, if Mings is snubbed for Villa's first home game of the season, he has every right to question his place in this team.
With his place in the England team also at serious risk, he needs to be playing football on a regular basis to have any hope of going to the World Cup. If Mings can't get back into Villa's starting eleven after that embarrassing display on the weekend, then why stick around?
As the transfer window approaches its final days, we could see a less than ideal scenario that sees Mings try to leave the club in order to get first team football. After everything he has done for Villa, it would be a sad way to end what has been an incredible journey to this point.
Personally, I really hope to see Mings line up against Everton this Saturday and put in a captain's performance that makes Gerrard question his own decisions. I hope to see Mings then keep the shirt and get back into the England team before the World Cup later this year.
My most concerning thought, however, is that Gerrard does not share any of the same hopes as I, and most of the fanbase do. And if Mings was to leave this summer, we would only have Gerrard's poor management of the player to blame.
What are your thoughts on this situation with Tyrone Mings? Will he get back into the team? Or have we seen the last of Mings in a Villa shirt? Make sure to let us know and remember to subscribe to the brand new AVFC Faithful podcast for more Villa talk!