It's been the focus of so many of my fellow writers' and Villa fans' conversations. What do we do with our midfield and how are we to move forward with the players we have? What do we need? Or, WHO do we need? On our midfield roster, we've already got McGinn, Ramsey, Luiz, Nakamba, Tim, Sanson, and even Chambers...that's already more depth than quite a lot of EPL teams. But it's not just about depth, is it? It's about quality.
If you follow me on Twitter (subtle plug @Dan_Clarkey) you'll probably see I've focused much of my criticism (or whining) on our midfield. It's been at times good, but nowhere near enough for a team wanting to push for Europe. Three words to describe it this season? Disorganised, lacklustre, and weak. Now it seems harsh, but how many games can you remember any of our consistent three losing the ball right in front of the defence? Or being bullied off the ball by opponents you just wouldn't expect? We've played two midfielders in Luiz and McGinn in DM for most of our season and it's painfully clear to see neither of them suits that position in a sole role which is evidently Gerrards' preferred system whether in the Diamond or the 4-3-3. It became a part of Villa's identity, a midfield that doesn't really work and the only G/A output coming from young starboy Jacob Ramsey and the only true defensive midfield showing coming when Tim Iroegbunam starred against Norwich at home. When you really soak it in, we've been starved of a solid midfield for so long I don't think I even remember what it's like to have one. It truly is the making of any successful team and I really do not see the mighty Villa boys moving forward with the current state of our centrepiece whilst some may seem it fair I do believe that it's time for Villa to invest in the midfield and whilst unpopular it'll mean fan favourites do get moved aside either to the bench or out of the club...that's not my decision though.
Ask any of the Villa faithful and they'll all scream "WE NEED A DM" and my oh my do I agree with them. Whilst the likes of Nakamba are solid and have the youth in Tim to come along we need a solidified defensive midfielder who's ready to take that position making it their own and giving our remaining midfielders the confidence to play with extra freedom. The main choices out there come with the likes of Kamara and possibly Sangare, two players that'll take up the DM role in the way we need. To sit in front of that defence and make the passes out that help us progress through into attacking scenarios, having that ability to read plays and not take that overtly aggressive or rash style that a Luiz takes considering he's out of position. Now, Kamara has interest from United...but knowing them they'll go out and buy another attacker with their transfer activity of recent but having those bigger clubs could prove tough hence why Kondogbia is not sat in that list. Why would these players look away from European competition? Well, hopefully, the money we have backing us can help along with retaining big players like Coutinho and having that 'Gerrard pull'. It is key, clear knowledge that we need to invest, and yes Bissouma would be a brilliant addition but he isn't the DM we need first of all....but I wouldn't say no. Moving on with Kamara, he's averaging around 2.1 tackles a game in Ligue 1 and 1.8 in the Europa league through 21/22 and a passing success % of 90.9% and 93.% in both competitions respectively. It's exactly what we need, a DM to tackle that ball and play that pass off perfectly to keep the ball moving forwards. I've convinced myself, that we're buying him and getting top 6....right?
It's a toss-up, but we have a much better chance of Kamara than Sangare in my mind and following that unless you're counting Coutinho as a midfielder (which he really isn't) then unless we can pull out a Bissoumo (or even Ndidi from the wild talks I've seen flying around) then I believe it's time we focus on who I think we should look at moving along. Nobody. Yeah genuinely, nobody. Why do we need to move these players along? Sure, if we're going to get DM we then technically have 3 in our squad rotation but we need depth. You could make a case for moving on Sanson and I quite understand that as he appears to not be in Gerrards' plans moving forwards and it hasn't exactly been a fairytale ride so far, I think in his cameos he's been good and not worse than what we've had but I'm not about lugging along with players the manager is not backing. Now I've seen the finger being pointed towards Luiz and some wanting to move him along with him entering the last year of his contract and his, let's be honest, poor season this year. But, I'm backing Dougie UNTIL I see him play in his actual position and his performances continue to be lacklustre. You can't judge a spoon on its ability to build a house. Not my best analogy but you see where I'm coming from. He has been poor this year, that's obvious, and many of his performances have contained poor passed and wayward corners yet I know that the main man himself has that #8 ability inside of him and all I want is for him to have that run in playing there. Too much to ask? In the world of football yes, we've seen enough players come and go from Villa only to do great things elsewhere with the main one being Veretout. Villa may have to offload, but I'm not going to suggest clearing out our midfield when we finally have the chance of depth and I am certain we should focus on moving on players who'll likely not appear again (the likes of Traore and El Ghazi).
Villa have the chance here to build a deep midfield, with progressive ball carriers in Ramsey and McGinn being given the chance next season to do even more. Where I believe it should be a make or break season for McGinn to join us moving upwards. Cause we love John, but I will not hear any excuses just cause we love the bloke. He too has had a rough season too much like Luiz. He's got the passion, but that takes you so far and thus it'll be the best time for John to show us why he's the man to come with us on an (eventual) European push. The desire for me would be to see the lads who've been with us through the thick and thin of the past few years to continue on the journey with us and whilst it doesn't always work that way I do not believe this summer is the one to remove them altogether. We need additions, but I so desperately want to keep the foundations we have there so one injury doesn't ruin our season.
That's about that folks, just a short piece I wanted to make on our midfield and what I want to see over the next three months in terms of incomings and (lack of) outgoings. I love writing these and if you've enjoyed make sure to check out James' piece here https://www.theavfcfaithful.co.uk/post/why-i-rate-tim-iroegbunam-so-highly.
@Dan_Clarkey + @AVFCFaithful
Up the Villa