Despite Ezri Konsa having a decent start to his Aston Villa career, Bjorn Engels should return for the Leicester City clash on Sunday.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Belgian defender Bjorn Engels should be recalled from the bench for this weekend’s game at Villa Park against title-contenders Leicester City.
The former Stade de Reims stopper has gained swathes of fan love since his arrival in the summer but has missed the club’s last four games through injury or lack of fitness, and then the emergence of Ezri Konsa as a capable deputy.
Konsa has been an exceptional back-up option in Engels’ absence, performing well in all of Aston Villa’s last four fixtures – including a poor collective display against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Across his 407 minutes of Premier League football this season, the young former England youth international has averaged an 89% passing accuracy, as well as making 27 interceptions, five blocks and 14 clearances.
There is still a rawness to 22-year-old’s game though, with the centre-back caught at fault – but not to blame for – two goals in Aston Villa’s last two games. Against both Manchester United and Chelsea, the defender could be seen to be calling for offsides against Marcus Rashford and Tammy Abraham rather than watching their movement in the box, allowing both of these then onside forwards to score past Tom Heaton.
Controversially, there is no need to wave for an offside as a modern defender. The linesman will flag if they see anything, and should the assistant miss anything, the Video Assistant Referee should fix any mistakes. The focus should be on the ball or the intended target.
Tyrone Mings has looked noticeably more jittery in the absence of his Champions League experienced partner too. In the last two games, Mings has looked a little off the boil and has made obvious mistakes in the lead-up to goals – could he be missing Engels alongside him, perhaps? – it seems to be the case with Mings playing forwards onside at times.
Bjorn Engels and Tyrone Mings have played over 1,000 minutes of football alongside each other this season; and whilst there are mistakes that have happened, there are a number of positives too.
In Engels’ last performance, a 2-1 loss to Liverpool, the Belgian defender and Mings managed to keep one of the league’s most prolific front-lines quiet for 87 minutes and were unlucky not to come away with at least a point from that game. The goals came from lapses, mainly in concentration, yes – but at much later stages in the game than against Chelsea for example.
In that game he made ten interceptions, three blocks and seven clearances.
Against Leicester, the experience of Engels compared to the raw quality of Konsa will stand out – especially against the league’s most prolific forward – Jamie Vardy.
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