Aside from Jack Grealish, Aston Villa’s other obvious stars in John McGinn and Tyrone Mings, have struggled of late.
Words: Mark Jirobe | @VillaMarkPGH
Sixteen games into the Premier League season, Aston Villa are far beyond the point of being under a “newly promoted side hang-over”.
The clubs most recent run of games have included fixtures against Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester City was always going to be difficult – and the fixtures were announced far enough in advance for fans to expect a few ugly performances over this period.
Aston Villa find themselves with two wins and a draw from their last eight Premier League games – and in the vast majority of these games, it’s not the fact that the side lost – it’s the way that they are losing that is bothering fans.
But nobody foresaw the downturn in form for a few of Aston Villa’s key players.
Two, in fact, need to have questions asked about their recent performances as the honeymoon period of the tail end of last season and the summer has seemingly finally worn off.
In the most recent games against Leicester City, the away side were by far the better team on the day, and if it were not for specific members of the squad, namely Tom Heaton, the scoreline could have even more humbling than the 4-1 defeat the side already suffered.
John McGinn’s recent form has been, well, mediocre. For the standards that McGinn has set in his time at Villa Park, at least. Even when Aston Villa have performed well, such as the 2-0 win against Newcastle – McGinn hasn’t really offered much in games.
Against Leicester, John McGinn struggled and at times looked as though he was unable to decide what to do when the ball was at his feet. In six of his eight last games, the Scottish midfielder’s passing accuracy has dipped below the 80% mark – which causes issues when the player in question isn’t necessarily known for making a swathe of passes per game anyway. Some may argue that there are limited options for McGinn for passes or runs.
Something is amiss with McGinn, that much is evident. The obvious, and the laughable option would be to say that recent transfer talk about a possible move to Manchester United has the midfielder in his head – but it’s more likely to be a slight injury (in which case, why isn’t he being rested) or something more. Dean Smith needs to find a way to unlock the McGinn that terrorised defences at the start of the season, as the club’s survival in the league may depend on it.
Tyrone Mings is another player for Aston Villa who has enjoyed better games this season – although, not recently.
The towering centre-back has turned to overplaying, or at times, underplaying, the ball at the heart of the defence, with zero logical or tactical reasoning.
It is vital for Aston Villa, that Tyrone Mings – upon his return to the squad in a fortnights time following a hamstring injury – gets back to the basics of what fans love about him the most. His no-nonsense approach, tactical awareness and adeptness in the air.
One may wonder whether recently international call-ups, providing a mixed standard of opposition in games, has somehow convinced Mings that he has more time on the ball than he actually does in the Premier League – which has caused a number of mistakes or issues in games of late.
The pageantry on the ball is not the only cause for concern with Mings lately, either. The long ball attempts from his own third of the pitch – often formation splitting when successful – are now all but absent from his game. Mings attempted six long-range passes combined against Manchester United and Chelsea, which is a world away from the standard at which Aston Villa fans are used to seeing from him. It looked to work during the start of the season, and it’s a head-scratcher as to why that plan has all but been abandoned.
Diagnosing the problems for Aston Villa are complicated. The side aren’t, on most occasions, playing poorly, but they aren’t playing well enough to snatch points away from Premier League mainstays. Dean Smith has a big job on his hands to ensure the players are together in their endeavours, but he must also make sure their heads do not drop after a very tough run of games.
The results may not have gone Villa’s way in recent memory, but the run of fixtures over the next four week period could be a definitive stamp on the first season back in the league being a bust, or a blessing.