Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)
In Norse mythology, “Mjölnir” is the name of the hammer wielded by the Norse God of Thunder named ‘Thor’. Mjolnir was known to be the most powerful weapon in existence, capable of levelling mountains and anything else that might stand in the way of its path. There are also rumours abound that if Thor were to throw Mjolnir at a target, Mjolnir was powerful enough to destroy its target and return to the hand of Thor as if by magic…
Pretty cool, huh?
I remember fumbling my phone out of my pocket to bring up my YouTube app. I was so, so, so severely curious to what this Icelandic midfielder that Aston Villa brought in had to offer. I couldn’t even pronounce his name correctly. Didn’t care… from what I read in comment sections as his transfer news broke, a few words stuck out to me: Icelandic, menacing, strong on the ball and looks like a Viking. What’s not to be excited about? But what about that name…?
Beeker? Beerkir? Berker?
Barnasin? Bjornassin? Byarnissin?
After having the patience of a school boy and trying to pronounce his name again, Birkir Bjarnason seemed like a great signing for Villa. The first video on YouTube that I clicked on was his classy goal at the 2016 Euros against Portugal. Just a regal and sublime play by Bjarnason to place the ball into the net from a pretty standard cross. It had promise. It had a touch of something that seemed promising. I really wanted to see him do well in Claret & Blue. After a few more montage YouTube videos of Bjarnason set to badly done house and techno music, I was sold. He indeed looked menacing. He looked like he was a well-rounded player. Not only offensively responsible, but defensively as well. He wasn’t going to shock the world with his pace or dribbling, but he seemed to put in the hard yards and Villa needed that. This was going to be a promising signing for Aston Villa at a time that we needed to start making positive signings.
Flash forward to the present day, and there are all kinds of rumours swirling that Serie B side Parma want to purchase the services of Bjarnason. This coming off of his great display as a substitute replacing Glenn Whelan in the victory against Nottingham Forest. Villa supporters have practically seen Bjarnasson play almost everywhere at his time in Villa. Left-wing, left midfield, central-midfield, attacking midfield and even left-back. But until the Forest match, we never really got to see him play a central defensive midfield role.
And what a role he played.
Looking back on the Forest match, I wasn’t looking for anything special from the man known simply as “Thor” when he came onto the pitch in the 46th minute. Like so many others who watched the game, it probably came off with a sigh and a thought of, “Well, let’s see how this goes…” What Villa supporters got was a real showing of what Bjarnason is capable of when playing a position he is 100% comfortable in. It really showed how much a player like himself has to contribute to Villa.
That is… if Steve Bruce will allow him to contribute.
One constant in every single Aston Villa squad is the role of the scapegoat. For the long haul, it has been Gabby Agbonlahor. In recent past it was been Micah Richards, Ashley Westwood, Scott Sinclair and Gary Gardner among others. Presently, it has been Glenn Whelan who has been the whipping post, and sometimes for good reason. I won’t get into the debate of the positives and negatives of Whelan as a player, but I will say that there are always two sides to every coin. Against Nottingham Forest, Whelan actually had a pretty good game in the first half before sustaining an injury. He seemed to be getting stuck in and broke up a lot of the Forest attack that found itself in the final third of the pitch. Alas, Bjarnason may have just given Steve Bruce a thing to think about with Glenn Whelan now being injured, although we do not know the extent of the injury to Whelan at the present time.
It just does not feel like a good idea to sell Bjarnason for the sake of selling a player. I know, I know…transfer funds are low to nil. Financial Fair Play is something that Villa must abide by. There are positions at Villa that could use a bit of depth. No one is should be arguing those statements because they are factual. Another fact is that Bjarnason has only been selected in the starting eleven for Aston Villa in league play twice this season. He’s been picked as a substitute 16 times, and only made it onto the pitch 8 times as a substitute.
Has Bjarnason been given an honest chance at Aston Villa in a position he is comfortable in? Did Villa accidentally strip “Thor” of his hammer, Mjolnir? Is there a real case of favoritism for Glenn Whelan by Steve Bruce?
Those are questions that need answering. And I’m not so sure that Villa have given Bjarnason an honest chance to show what he can do. With less than 20 games remaining in the season, Bjarnason may still have role to play for Villa. In no way, shape, or form am I calling for the Icelandic man to be Villas’ saving grace of the season. But, he sure impressed a lot of the Villa supporters playing in a central-defensive role. That’s worth a look and a thought from Steve Bruce if you ask me.