Hourihane has a habit of scoring against the Canaries, and could make all the difference on the 26th.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Conor Hourihane must start against Norwich City on Boxing Day, despite being hauled off the pitch for Jonathan Kodjia as Dean Smith looked to salvage something from the Southampton wreckage.
In fact, it would be unfair to state that Hourihane was taken off for any reason other than the fact that he was the most offensively minded central player on the pitch.
Statistically, the Irish midfielder wasn’t having a bad game at all – and will be disappointed to have been the player that was sacrificed.
In his 61 minutes on the pitch, Hourihane registered an 88% passing accuracy, and won three of his three attempted duels. Passing wise, the midfielder was one of the moving factors in getting Aston Villa up the pitch, he made six attempts of playing balls into the final third of the pitch – five of which were accurate, as well as seven accurate forward passes.
With John McGinn injured for the foreseeable future, Aston Villa are left with senior central options of Douglas Luiz, Marvelous Nakamba and Henri Lansbury. With Marvelous and Douglas likely to start regardless against Norwich, Hourihane is the only plausible option available to Dean Smith, so the Ireland international should start regardless – but there’s also an added incentive to start him against Norwich.
Hourihane has somewhat of a habit of contributing heavily when Aston Villa face the Canaries. In the Lions first meeting with Norwich this season, a 5-1 win for Dean Smith’s side, Conor found himself on the scoresheet with a pinpoint left-footed strike – but also bagged an assist too.
In previous showings against Norwich in the Championship, Hourihane managed to grab a hat-trick.
It’s not a case of “he likes to play against said side”, but more so that “there’s no other option” in regards to boxing day, unless Dean Smith opts for a formation change – but Hourihane’s inclusion should bring nothing but positive feelings for those who can remember his contributions against Norwich in previous games.
If we look at Hourihane’s contribution in the 5-1 win at Carrow Road, the midfielder was on the pitch for 79 minutes, in which he registered a 94% pass accuracy and was involved in fifteen duels for the ball.
With a replenished Norwich now less chained by injury, it’d be worthwhile to keep their arch-nemesis in the fray.