Aston Villa’s £5 million pound man has intermittently featured so far this campaign. Why is the 21-year old central midfielder not featuring more often?
Aston Villa currently have four central midfielders in the first team (five if one includes Leandro Bacuna’s Swiss-army knife-like versatility). Aaron Tshibola is currently last on manager Steve Bruce’s depth chart.
Bruce often deploys a 4-3-3 variant that encourages two athletic central midfielders ahead of the bearded one, Mile Jedinak. Gary Gardner and/or Ashley Westwood usually occupy those positions alongside Leandro Bacuna or Jack Grealish – depending on the formation and opponent.
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Ashley Westwood has transformed himself under a new manager in Steve Bruce. Westwood formerly played like Michael Carrick-lite. Sitting in a hole and distributing clean, tidy short passes.
Since, however, Westwood won’t stop running. His constant pressing plays well in Bruce’s system, but his season results have been less than inspiring. (6.41 WhoScored rating with zero goals and zero assists in 1360 minutes of league football).
Likewise, his partner-in-crime, Gary Gardner has had an up and down season in the middle of the park. Gardner began the season poorly under Roberto Di Matteo before picking up form. The culmination of which was the opening goal at St. Andrew’s stadium against Birmingham City.
This brings us back to Aaron Tshibola; who is easily the most mobile of the aforementioned Gardner and Westwood. Tshibola not only has not made an appearance since October’s 1-1 draw with Wolves (coincidentally, he played fairly well that day), but he fails to make the substitutes bench half the time.
Perhaps Steve Bruce simply rates Bacuna/Gardner/Westwood higher. Or, he simply does not rate Tshibola at all.
Tshibola’s limited performances this season have warranted additional looks in the first team. His rock solid play in the middle zones were only mitigated by disciplinary issues.
Aaron Tshibola’s three yellows in seven mixed league appearances might be one reason Bruce is reluctant to call upon the Englishman. If Gary Gardner and Ashley Westwood continue to struggle, the duty falls back onto Mile Jedinak to pick up the slack. Who knows how long the 32-year old’s body will hold up over the long-run.
Solution: Tshibola. Integrating “The Beast” into a more prominent central midfield role will help Bruce keep players fresh. Moreover, Tshibola’s talents complement the talents of both Gardner and Westwood. What one offers, the others do not and vice versa.
Aston Villa host Burton Albion on Boxing Day.