Aston Villa: How long will the Mile Jedinak centre-back experiment continue?

SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 26: Captain, Mile Jedinak of Australia looks on prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group C match between Australia and Peru at Fisht Stadium on June 26, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 26: Captain, Mile Jedinak of Australia looks on prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group C match between Australia and Peru at Fisht Stadium on June 26, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images) /
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Mile Jedinak faltered once more in central defense. The distinguished midfielder is struggling as James Chester’s partner while better options persist in other areas of the pitch.

Aston Villa’s 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town highlighted the struggles we saw of Steve Bruce’s team in earlier matches. Through four games, Villa continue with a perfect record of three wins and a draw, but have been outplayed or flat-out underplayed in all of them.

One of those not above criticism is Mile Jedinak. The Australia legend, midfielder-turned-defender is currently Steve Bruce’s preferred option in central defense behind captain James Chester. While not foreign to the centre-back position, this is Jedinak’s first time fully-dedicated to defense during a summer position switch.

After being rested in the opening game against Hull, Jedi returned to the starting lineup against Wigan. He proceeded to throw down one of the worst visually-appealing Aston Villa performances in a decade:

But still, Aston Villa won 3-2 via Birkir Bjarnason’s last-minute tap-in. Things were fine, even if they really weren’t. All World Cup players did not dress for the Carabao Cup tie vs. Yeovil Town, but Jedinak was reinserted to the starting lineup Saturday against Ipswich.

It did not go well, albeit, there was an improvement.

But the question remains. How much longer will Bruce stick with Jedinak while Axel Tuanzebe, a natural centre-back, splits out wide to right fullback or toils on the bench? Tuanzebe quietly impressed against Yeovil as the Manchester United loanee partnered Tommy Elphick. So far, he’s outplayed Jedinak by a wide margin in matches.

Jedinak’s strengths are well-noted. Aerially, there a few better in the entire world. That’s a quality that, in theory, translates well to the centre-back position. There’s added (hidden) attack value as well. Jack Grealish’s ability to draw 5+ fouls a match, coupled with John McGinn’s wicked delivery is Villa’s new scoring market inefficiency. That could be Bruce’s thinking for the position switch while Glenn Whelan and Birkir Bjarnason rotate in and out of the No. 6 position.

But the tape for Mile Jedinak simply isn’t there. He’s struggled mightily in most facets of the centre-back position. His passing, especially on his left foot as the left-sided CB, is non-existent. Opposing attackers dance around Jedinak – a poor defender in open space. Moreover, he’s proven vulnerable to slicing clearances back into play, as he did against both Wigan and Ipswich.

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Bruce is notorious for having a long leash on ‘his guys’ and Jedinak is certainly one of first names on the teamsheet. Will it take Villa hemorrhaging more points for a change to occur? Or will Jedinak gloss over his weaknesses and make the position his?

Time will tell. UTV.