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Replacing The Irreplaceable

Make no mistake about it, Tyrone Mings is one of the last players Aston Villa would have wanted to lose ahead of the upcoming season. Whether it's his dominance in the air, his recovery speed, or even his leadership on and off the pitch, it's no surprise that Villa fans everywhere were devastated this morning after hearing the news that Mings has a "significant knee injury" that is likely to keep him out for an entire season. After playing a huge part in getting Villa back into Europe, it's truly devastating that Mings may not play any part in the European campaign this season.


Mings is one of the genuine good guys in this sport, a man who myself and many others are proud to see represent our club in every way imaginable. Not only because of how well he handles himself on the pitch, but because of the role model he has become off it as well. With that in mind, it makes the next part of this article extremely difficult. However, as is the cruel and unrelenting nature of football, the club is going to need to look for a replacement asap. So here are five players Villa may look towards when replacing the irreplaceable.


1. Pau Torres


Yes this is a bit of a cop-out but there is always the chance that Villa already have their replacement in new boy Pau Torres, which could be handy as the club will not have budgeted for having to bring in yet another centre-back in this window. Not to mention Pau is also left footed leading some to believe he may have been brought in to replace Mings in the first place. This one is up for debate but I don't personally believe that to be the case. During pre-season there were many occasions when both players were played together with Pau often being moved further out to the left meaning his exceptional passing ability could still be used to good affect while not losing out on the aerial dominance and high speed of Tyrone Mings.


So yes, Pau will almost undoubtedly replace Mings this Sunday much like he did against Newcastle, but I can't see him being the long-term replacement due to his lack of aerial presence and not being able to match up with Mings when it comes to strength and speed. There's also the problem that not replacing Mings only leaves Emery with four centre-backs, one of which in Calum Chambers who has mostly been played as a right-back under Emery, and another in Diego Carlos who's fitness is still questionable.


Positives:


  • Saves Villa having to above their budget


Negatives:


  • Leaves the squad short on centre-backs

  • Hugely reduces Villa's strength in aerial battles and recovery speed



2. Harry Maguire


All reports point to the former Manchester United captain joining West Ham in the very near future, in fact by the time you read this the deal may already be done. As we know from Sunday's drama surrounding Jack Harrison however, Villa aren't afraid of attempting to hijack a deal that is thought to be already over the line. If Villa were to try for Maguire, it would mean at least matching or surpassing West Ham's reported £30 million bid, a big ask after already spending a considerable sum this summer.


The positives are clear to see though. Maguire is fantastic in the air and would be an ideal replacement for Mings when it comes to defending and attacking set pieces as well as winning aerial duels. He can also ping a long pass not too dissimilar to Mings, in a lot of ways he's the closest available player to replicating what the team previously had. Maguire is more comfortable on the right which could mean Pau Torres fits in even better and actually results in a more balanced back line, especially if Konsa can comfortably convert to right-back.


The negatives of course come with Maguire's lack of discipline and concentration that has led him to becoming the face of football memes all over social media. People will point to Mings making silly mistakes in the past, but anybody who has watched Villa since Emery's arrival knows that mistakes by Mings have been kept to a minimum. So there's no reason why the same couldn't happen with Maguire. Maguire also fails to match Mings for speed and could easily be exposed by our high line so there's that to consider as well.


Positives:


  • Brilliant in the air

  • Strong

  • Results in a balanced back line

  • Experienced centre-back


Negatives:


  • £30 million or more taken out of Villa's budget for other players/FFP

  • High wages

  • Would need to cut out silly mistakes

  • Slower than Mings



3. Aymeric Laporte


Arguably the name that has been mentioned most by Villa fans since Saturday evening, probably more in hope than expectation, is Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte. A centre-back who knows a thing or two about winning trophies at the highest level and may well be available if reports are to be believed. This move wouldn't be impossible but may take some convincing.


Firstly let's not kid ourselves here, Laporte could well be the perfect replacement. With over five years experience playing in the Premier League, Laporte is essentially the player Villa are hoping for Pau Torres to become. He's always been fantastic on the ball and during his time at Manchester City he's become accustomed to winning aerial duals against the biggest players in the league. He's confident, commanding, and although not quite as big as Mings, is still strong enough to hopefully replicate what Villa will now be missing when it comes to defending set pieces and lofted balls into the box.


However, after winning everything there is to win with Manchester City, there's a strong chance that the player will have a bunch of Champions League clubs banging on his door looking for his services. So straight away it would take a special pitch from Monchi and Emery to convince their fellow Spaniard on the Villa project. Even then his wages alongside whatever fee City are looking for could well be a huge stumbling block for Villa, especially with Saudi teams also rumoured to be interested in the player. Maybe a loan-to-buy could be a solution but I'm not sure how that would benefit City in this situation. Sadly this one feels just a little too far out of reach for Villa's ambitious owners.


Positives:


  • Proven winner at the highest level

  • Elite level centre-back

  • Could easily become a leader like Mings


Negatives:


  • Would cost an astronomical amount in wages as well as a large transfer fee

  • Little resale value

  • Would need convincing to come to Villa



4. Juan Foyth


If Villa are happy to shuffle the pack a little bit and potentially kill two birds with one stone, then Juan Foyth may well be the answer to all of Emery's problems. Almost a forgotten misery from Saturday afternoon now following the Mings news was how exposed Matty Cash was in Villa's backline. Cash is a wonderful footballer but looks too rash and forward-thinking to really be Emery's first choice right-back going forward. Knowing this, and with Ashely Young still not replaced, it's fair to say the club have probably been looking for a more defensive right-back for a while now. Enter Juan Foyth.


Foyth would practically be the perfect signing for Aston Villa in my opinion. Emery of course knows him well from his time at Villarreal and he's a player who can cover a number of positions. Primarily a right-back, Foyth is also comfortable playing centre-back as well as defensive midfield if needed. He's surprisingly strong in the air and has worked well in partnership with Pau Torres in the past. It's also worth mentioning that he's Argentinian so could also fit in well with Villa's south American contingent that appears to be blossoming right now.


Admittedly he's not a like-for-like replacement for Mings, but he would undoubtedly go straight into the first team and allow Torres to make the left sided centre-back position his own while Foyth, Konsa and Carlos all compete to replicate what is lost with Mings. Once again though this would involve Villa parting with a fair bit of money, however if they were planning on spending money on a right-back anyway then this could be the perfect solution.


Positives:


  • Can cover right-back and centre-back

  • Knows Emery and Pau

  • Good age

  • Good in the air

  • Money spent covers two positions in need


Negatives:


  • May take a lot of money to get him out of Villarreal

  • Not a like-for-like replacement for Mings



5. Lloyd Kelly


A left footed defender who can play both centre-back and left-back, Lloyd Kelly could be worth a look despite the obvious issue of his much smaller size compared to Mings.


If there's one attribute missing from every player on this list so far, it's speed. And it's no secret that the speed of Tyrone Mings has gotten Villa out of trouble on more than one occasion in recent years. This is where Kelly shines. With a top speed of 21mph last season, Kelly was the eighth fastest defender in the Premier League, only surpassed by some of the leagues fastest fullbacks. At 24 years of age he's also one that can be coached into what Emery wants and be a player for the future as well as a short-term replacement.


Of course with what Kelly offers in speed he loses in height and strength. Standing at 5ft 10in, he simply cannot match what Mings offers in the air. There's also the issue of Bournemouth probably not wanting to sell to another Premier League side this late in the window, and the player playing a lot more games at left-back than centre-back last season despite centre-back being his first position. Finally, it's probably fair to say that Kelly would be more of a squad player than an instant first team starter, at least to begin with.


Positives:


  • Can match Mings for speed

  • Left footed and can play left-back

  • Young and mouldable

  • One for the future as well as right now


Negatives:


  • Much shorter than Mings

  • May be difficult to get Bournemouth to sell

  • Less experienced and probably doesn't start



If there's one thing writing this article has confirmed to me, it's that Tyrone Mings is well and truly irreplaceable. Every one of his attributes as well as his leadership is near impossible to find in one affordable centre-back. Whether or not Villa go big in the transfer market, look towards the loan market, or just stick with what they have remains to be seen. Either way, it's a huge dampener on what was an optimistic time ahead of the first game.



I think I speak for not only myself, but everyone involved with AVFC Faithful and the Villa fanbase at large in wishing both Tyrone Mings and Emi Buendia all the best in their recoveries and here's hoping they both come back stronger.


UTV


As always remember to check out Dan & James talking about the Villa games on the AVFC Faithful podcast available on all great podcast platforms and YouTube!



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