Now healthy and ready to make an impact, twenty-one year old central midfielder Aaron Tshibola should be an automatic selection in the Aston Villa team sheet.
The curious decision by Roberto Di Matteo in resting Aaron Tshibola before the 2-0 Preston defeat remains a head scratcher. The young, dynamic central midfielder was just coming off a muscle injury before he made a second-half appearance against Newcastle United.
He came on and subsequently did this, ensuring a 1-1 draw at Villa Park:
Tshibola’s omittance from the starting eleven that day was understandable–he just wasn’t quite ready to go the full ninety minutes. However, when the team sheets were announced before Preston, a collective groan was sighed on Aston Villa Twitter.
How could the hero against Newcastle not be involved from the start in what was a near must-win for Roberto Di Matteo?
But suppose that’s okay, maybe he could come on during the second-half to build up more fitness in what should have been a fairly comfortable win. Nope.
Aston Villa began the second half down 2-0–the ending scoreline–with Di Matteo instead favoring Ross McCormack, Rudy Gestede, and Jordan Amavi as the substitutes (Two of which should have been in the starting lineup, but I digress).
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The competition for central midfield spots in the Aston Villa lineup are ripe for the taking. In most systems played under Di Matteo, a double pivot midfield was utilized.
His first preference was always Mile Jedinak shielding the back line with Ashley Westwood just a little bit farther up. The problem with this system is Westwood did not have the mobility to successfully partner with Mile Jedinak, who is rather slow.
This in turn created an awkward midfield pairing that created zero space for which the front four to operate. Westwood’s lack of incisive passing only compounded this problem by creating no forward movement; Aston Villa settled for short back passes and the long-ball.
Enter Aaron Tshibola, who not only is the most mobile of the four Aston Villa central midfielders, is also the youngest and fearless with his tackling (three bookings in five matches). Tshibola’s 7.01 WhoScored rating outpaces that of Ashley Westwood’s 6.60.
The ideal Aston Villa midfield pairing would include both the young Aaron Tshibola and the experienced Mile Jedinak. Their strengths would help mask the other’s weaknesses. To climb the table, Aaron Tshibola must feature and play a prominent role in dominating the middle of the pitch.
With those two in the starting eleven, even the second-pairing of Gary Gardner and Ashley Westwood would benefit alongside differing play styles.
Gardner’s excellent passing range pairs nicely alongside the short and sweet game of Ashley Westwood. In return, Westwood’s possession game makes up for the carelessness at which Gardner turns over the ball.
It’s clear to the next Aston Villa manager: In a double pivot midfield Jedinak must play with Tshibola whereas Westwood and Gardner lay in wait.