Tom Carroll is in contention for a start against Derby County for Villa, and could provide a younger, sharp-passing engine in the holding midfield role.
Words by Regan Foy (@FindFoy)
With news that Swansea City loanee Tom Carroll has been training since last Friday, he’s in contention to start against Derby County this weekend – or at least make an appearance from the bench.
The diminutive midfielder has only played sixteen minutes of football for Aston Villa since joining on loan on deadline day, and will be looking to get more minutes under his belt at Villa Park.
In the sixteen minutes he has played in claret and blue, the Englishman managed to rack up a stellar 90% pass success rate, but also picked up a yellow card.
Throughout the season, Carroll has played just fourteen games for both clubs – but in 12 appearances for Swansea, his pass success rate was 87% – an impressive feat over 685 minutes of football.
In these appearances, he’s operated as a centre midfielder for most of it, but has been deployed as a holding midfielder too.
It’s likely that this is where he’ll play at Aston Villa for the remainder of the season, with the likes of John McGinn, Jack Grealish and Conor Hourihane all ahead of him in contention for a starting position. Inevitably, it will depend on how Dean Smith sets up, but it’s known that the manager likes to play with a midfielder in more of a holding role – where Glenn Whelan has been performing and receiving plaudits of late.
Because of Glenn Whelan’s contribution to games recently, Caroll perhaps won’t find himself on the pitch for the full 90 and may be used as an impact substitution – but what he offers will suit Dean Smith’s style of play to a tee. There’s always the debate of whether Conor Hourihane, who has made the most appearances this season, deserves a rest.
Tom Carroll’s strengths include his passing, something that the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder is relatively adept at, with the midfielder enjoying a short passing game, one-twos and laying off his team mates.
Neither Whelan or Carroll are great in the air, but with a number of towering defenders including Tyrone Mings and Kourtney Hause behind them, whoever starts should be able to play with some freedom.
Carroll hasn’t had the opportunity to impress in the sixteen minutes he’s played so far – so he’ll be eager to prove himself, much like Hause has done with two man-of-the-match performances against West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City in recent weeks.
In terms of playing style, Carroll is similar to Whelan, but more technically skilled. The only difference is that Tom can be a little shy in the tackle, which may prove troublesome. With Whelan recently turning 35-years-old, deploying a similar, but more youthful Carroll in a position which has seen four different midfielders occupy it this season may prove to be what the midfield needs.
At times, Birkir Bjarnason has looked to be this “more youthful” approach – but considering the Icelandic midfielder is in his thirties, the engine in front of the back four should be Carroll in the run in to the end of the season.