Whilst John McGinn has been such an important player for Aston Villa this season, it would be a ludicrous decision to change the midfield after their stellar performance against Derby.
Words by Matt Blogg (@Blogg_Matt)
This feels very strange to write and had somebody told me this would be a title of an article two weeks ago I would’ve laughed in their face, but after the thrashing of Derby County last week where Villa limited them to an impressive zero shots on target, John McGinn really should brace himself for a spot on the bench.
Our best player throughout the season, the midfielder endeared himself to Villa fans ten minutes into his debut against Wigan with an assist and hasn’t looked back, but he can realistically only have a watching role on Sunday in the derby (to start with). Having missed the home win against Birmingham back in November through injury, McGinn will be desperate to play a part, but after that performance against Derby, you just can’t leave any of those players out.
Whelan and Hourihane are two players who have received a lot of stick over the course of the season, but the two Irishmen set the tempo of the 4-0 win and both got goal contributions in the game. Without either of them, the game would not have been as comfortable, so it is nearly impossible to drop either player. And of course no-one is going to want to see captain Jack on the bench after his outrageous return from injury, so I am struggling to see Smith making any changes for the starting line-up of the big game on Sunday. McGinn will play a part, there is absolutely no doubt about that. He is arguably one of Villa’s most important players and leads by example every week, but Whelan, Hourihane and Grealish have surely all done enough to keep their places.
Of course, we don’t know what goes on in training. McGinn might be too good in training to leave out, then leaving Smith has a decision on his hands, but it seems unlikely. Changing the system for the Birmingham game would undoubtedly raise more than a few eyebrows, so changing the personnel is just as drastic. Imagine the confidence that is coursing through those three midfielders that started against Derby, and you realise it would be detrimental to bench any of them.
But at the same time, it seems so bitter-sweet, as while you wouldn’t want to change a winning team with immense confidence on good form (based on last week’s win), you wouldn’t want to see McGinn sitting on the bench either. It is a very difficult situation for Smith but I can’t see him changing anything for the Blues game. In an interview on Villa’s YouTube channel, Smith admitted “It’s going to be hard to get John McGinn in this team”, which shows he recognises the headache he now has, but relishes it at the same time. It is the perfect situation really, having four central midfielders all good enough to play, as that means we have fantastic cover should one get injured, tired, sent off and so forth. McGinn will be desperate to play, and many fans will be equally as desperate for him to play, but you can’t underestimate the quality of those three midfielders that started against Derby.
It is a hard one to call, but realistically, I don’t think you can change the team. The Derby game and the derby are completely different prospects, but you have to trust the team that did the job last time out. McGinn will be used as an impact sub against Blues should he start on the bench, but, fortunately or unfortunately, that will be the extent of his appearance.