Aston Villa kicked off their season with a disappointing defeat at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday afternoon, but there were many positives to take from the game alongside the obvious negatives.
The main stand out negative for me was the lack of a midfield enforcer who could put his stamp on the game and dictate play for the Villans.
Every attack that came forth from Wednesday seemed to come from either a transition or the right-hand side of the pitch.
Now, the Villans lined up in a 4-4-2 shape as such, with Gary Gardner and Ashley Westwood being the pivots of the supposed shape. Unfortunately for Gardner, play often surpassed him, leaving the defence exposed.
It was a familiar story throughout the game and it is a clear issue that needs resolving. If one for a better word, Villa were lightweight and often pedestrian in the middle.
An enforcer such as a Mile Jedinak from Crystal Palace would firm up the Villa midfield tenfold and offer an experienced professional to line up alongside the younger players in Gardner or Aaron Tshibola. And that is without even taking into consideration Westwood.
The need for an enforcer is vital in the Championship if Villa are to mount a serious charge back to the Premier League. They need someone who can dictate play, but who can also do the dirty work. Without such a figure it is pointless having a potent attack in Ross McCormack, Jordan Ayew and Rudy Gestede.
Roberto Di Matteo has promised three bids have been made for players, but as of yet, it isn’t quite clear if one of those players is a central midfielder.
After losing Idrissa Gana Gueye and opting not to offer Stiliyan Petrov a new deal, it leaves the Villans short on a dictator especially with Jordan Veretout also seemingly on his way out of Villa Park.
If you take a look at the other Championship sides, Villa will be looking to challenge with they all have an imperious figure. Whether it be Jonjo Shelvey at Newcastle United, Alex Tettey at Norwich City or Kieran Lee at Sheffield Wednesday – all promotion contenders have a player or two with a fierce bite in midfield. Di Matteo still doesn’t have that.
Jedinak for me fits the bill perfectly as the man to help Villa form some midfield shape. He is the sort of man who can hold strong and keep others in check. We have a leader in the defence with Tommy Elphick, but an extra voice in midfield who can put his stamp on the game with a nail-biting goal or classy assist is the next part to Villa’s jigsaw.
Sheffield Wednesday had 17 shots on goal versus Villa, I do not believe that half of them would have happened if we had a more solid core to the side.
It may be harsh to write off Gardner, Tshibola and Westwood, but they’re all very similar players and that is why having an enforcer will let one of those three play a more important role in a more suited position in the centre of midfield.
We can only hope that Di Matteo and his backroom team have a player in mind who can be the next line of defence to prevent players like Wednesday’s Fernando Forestieri having direct runs at the Aston Villa defence throughout the season.
The defence doesn’t seem comfortable when someone is running at them with pace if we had a bigger figure in the centre of the park it may become a little easier in such situations.