Analyzing Conor Hourihane’s Slow Aston Villa Start

BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Conor Hourihane of Aston Villa during the Sky Bet Championship match between Burton Albion and Aston Villa at Pirelli Stadium on April 8, 2017 in Burton-upon-Trent, England. (Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)
BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Conor Hourihane of Aston Villa during the Sky Bet Championship match between Burton Albion and Aston Villa at Pirelli Stadium on April 8, 2017 in Burton-upon-Trent, England. (Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images) /
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Aston Villa’s £3 million January signing was expected to link midfield creativity to the attack. So far, results have been slightly below expectations: what is lagging in Conor Hourihane’s production?

Conor Hourihane’s production has faltered since his move to Aston Villa. In twelve appearances with the claret and blues, the Ireland international dropped his pass completion rate to 73% from his Barnsley rate of 81.3%.

Moreover, Hourihane is creating less for himself with just one goal and two assists in nearly 1,000 minutes of league play. He is shooting less, too, dropping his shots per game average to 1.5 from 2.1.

Hourihane, now 26, is expected to influence creativity in the final third. Instead, Steve Bruce has him playing slightly out of position in a tucked-in left midfield role. In that 4-4-2, Henri Lansbury plays the ball up as the main attacking midfielder.

Where Aston Villa play best, however, is a midfield three with Mile Jedinak anchoring. When Jedinak shields the backline, both Conor Hourihane and Henri Lansbury are given full license to roam as box-to-box central midfielders. Unfortunately, this scenario forces Steve Bruce to drop one of Jonathan Kodjia or Scott Hogan to the bench – much to his disdain.

While Hourihane is certainly not tearing it up like months prior at Barnsley, the creative midfielder is showing signs of growing comfort. In two of his last three starts, the player amassed a WhoScored rating above 7.0. A confident Conor Hourihane is firing shots from all sides of the pitch.

Hourihane’s lack of goals and assists are most likely a byproduct of Aston Villa itself. No one, absolutely no one, is producing offensively outside of Jonathan Kodjia and Albert Adomah.

Next: Aston Villa Must Not Sell Jonathan Kodjia

Even Henri Lansbury – a goal scoring central midfielder in his own right – has yet to fire in his first. With so many moving pieces, it only remains a matter of time before Conor Hourihane shows Aston Villa the creative, attacking midfielder they so desperately seek.