Jack Grealish’s shin injury comes at a most inopportune time as Aston Villa enters the festive fixture period. With a series of four league matches in ten days, the club’s other midfielders will need to step-up big time.
Jack Grealish missed Aston Villa’s 2-2 draw with Stoke City last weekend. Despite the claret and blues’ plethora of good midfield options, the absence of the club’s best player was still felt in the match.
Villa missed Grealish’s incisive, possession-laden dribbling through opposing lines. His vision and penchant for drawing fouls helps relieve pressure and create opportunities even when playing the team is lagging behind its opponent.
News that Jack is still dealing with the same injury is certainly not good news after two weeks or so of recovery. Even worse, Villa doctors are a little confused about the nature of the problem:
Dean Smith admitted as much in his pre-match press conference:
If there was ever a time for a club to lose its best player for x-amount of time, the end of December is easily the worst considering the congested schedule. Too many points are available. If Grealish is expected to miss the rest of 2018, as it seems to be, Villa’s other midfielder will need to step-up.
John McGinn has been largely excellent on the season, so too has Conor Hourihane. Manager Dean Smith will rely on that pair to boss things through the middle and create scoring opportunities for the club’s front three. Behind them, Birkir Bjarnason is back in training after groin surgery. I expect he and Glenn Whelan to rotate depending on the opponent and amount of rest between games.
The ‘X-Factor’ remains Callum O’Hare. With Grealish out, O’Hare brings a skill-set that can endanger opposing defenses late on in matches. A December with an O’Hare appearance or two can help keep both Hourihane and McGinn fresh during an important stretch.