Aston Villa would be wise to rebuff Empoli’s Birkir Bjarnason advances

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 16: Birkir Bjarnason of Iceland runs with the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Iceland at Spartak Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 16: Birkir Bjarnason of Iceland runs with the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Iceland at Spartak Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images) /
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Iceland international Birkir Bjarnason is a target of Serie A side Empoli. The Italian club looks to lure away Aston Villa’s midfielder ahead of Friday’s transfer deadline.

Newly-promoted Empoli are looking abroad for reinforcements to their midfield ahead of Italy’s transfer dealine on Friday. Birkir Bjarnason, 30, has been rumored to leave Villa for the better part of one year.

Alas, he’s still here, and he’s impressing in a different position after Steve Bruce brought him to Villa Park in January 2017.

A left-winger for Basel and Iceland, Bjarnason has largely fulfilled a No. 6/8 role at Aston Villa. With the central midfield depth the club currently possesses, starts have been hard to come by. This (good) problem has been exacerbated after the acquisition of John McGinn from Hibernian.

But this central midfield depth could look drastically different one year from now, and club executives would be wise to hold onto Bjarnason through this season. While a dedicated, holding midfielder isn’t a necessity in every match, Bruce has tended to assign one player to the position in nearly every game of his tenure. His current defensive midfield options consist of: Bjarnason, the 34-year old Glenn Whelan and the 34-year old Mile Jedinak. The latter two are both in the final year of their contracts and more likely than not, will not be retained next year.

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Not only that, but Jedinak’s transition to centre-back will see him in midfield less and less. Simply put, if Villa agree a fee with Empoli, or any other club for that matter, Bruce will have to rely on Glenn Whelan week in and week out. Or he’ll have to adapt tactics under a new midfield alignment

With Jack Grealish’s long-term future uncertain sans promotion, things in midfield get even murkier still.

The one constant, however, is Bjarnason, his ability to adapt positions, and his contract, which ties him through summer 2020.

Aston Villa’s best promotion push consists of Birkir Bjarnason in the matchday eighteen for every league game.

While FFP lurks over Villa like a menacing shadow, the club doesn’t need to make the numbers fit until early Spring 2019. With the squad currently constructed, Bjarnason is not a player Villa should sacrifice in order to cut numbers.