Aston Villa Tommy Elphick
Aston Villa have a number of senior players out on loan, including defensive options Ritchie De Laet and Tommy Elphick – both of whom’s contracts expire at the end of the season.
Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)

Dean Smith has said at length that all of the current Aston Villa players will be starting with a blank slate of sorts as Villa move forward. The current players that Smith has selected has not been very different from what Steve Bruce utilised, but a tough run of games coming up in the next few weeks could change that. Players such as Henri Lansbury, Mile Jedinak, James Bree, Glenn Whelan and Anwar El-Ghazi could be rotated in and out of the squad in the event of injuries or a need for timely squad rotation. 

But what is the case for some of the loaned out players returning to Villa Park in the January transfer window? 

Jed Steer hasn’t had the best of times while out on loan at League One side Charlton Athletic. Through 9 League One games, Steer has conceded 13 goals but has also claimed 3 clean sheets to his name. There’s an overload of goalkeepers at Aston Villa after the acquisition of Orjan Nyland and Atletico Madrid loanee Andre Moreira. Veteran ‘keeper Mark Bunn is also still available for selection, but it remains to be seen if he will even get a sniff of a game at Aston Villa with Dean Smith in charge. 

Gary Gardner would be a tough ask to come back to Aston Villa after a loan-move to rivals Birmingham City. Not only did the location of the loan move anger Villa supporters, but Gardner’s social media posts have seemed to signify he has no care if he ever returns to Villa Park. 

Gardner seems to be relishing his time with Blues, but it would be very unrealistic to think that he makes a return to Villa and gets any kind of game time with a laundry list of seemingly better midfielders at Dean Smiths’ disposal. Gardner has played in 14 matches for Birmingham City, scoring once and boasting a 7.11 average match rating according to football app FotMob.

Tommy Elphick is another peculiar case in terms of being recalled from his loan at Hull City. Hull head coach Nigel Adkins has confirmed that Aston Villa have the right to recall the in-form centre-back in the January transfer window

Elphick has brought experience and tactical awareness to the back-line of the Tigers and Adkins is very aware of the new coaching change at Aston Villa. Former Villa gaffer Steve Bruce seemed to almost have a personal problem with Elphick during his coaching tenure and never really gave Elphick the time nor the trust to really get stuck in.  Aston Villa now has a depleted and thin back-line and one or two injuries could really derail the rest of the coming season. The idea of recalling Elphick seems more of a ‘must’ than a ‘maybe’ decision. 

Ritchie De Laet was the surprise standout performer for Aston Villa in preseason and was another head-scratcher of a loan-out by Steve Bruce and his staff. There is no doubt that some loans that had happened may have been to stave of Financial Fair Play, but it would seem as the loan-out of De Laet made no tactical or rational sense. 

Villa are quite skint on depth in the defensive side of the pitch. Alan Hutton, Neil Taylor and Ahmed Elmohamady are the only recognizable and natural full-backs in the Aston Villa first-team squad after Dean Smith had the crazy idea to try playing Axel Tuanzebe in his natural position of centreback. De Laet would greatly solidify the full-back position for Smith, and if there is a recall option in place, it seems like an easy decision to bring him back. 

There is no certainty what will happen in the January transfer window in terms of any recalling loan players, but there is definitely a rational shout for Elphick and De Laet returning with the current skeleton-like defensive depth at Aston Villa.

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