With centre-backs in short supply, Aston Villa recalled Tommy Elphick on Saturday from his season-long loan at Hull City. Will he immediately slot-in beside James Chester?
Last week, Hull City manager Nigel Adkins admitted Aston Villa could recall Tommy Elphick on the new year. With Axel Tuanzebe sidelined for most of January, James Chester remains the only natural senior centre-back (and even he has been bothered by a knee problem in recent months).
The official recall happened Saturday afternoon, shortly before teams were announced during Villa’s 1-1 draw with Preston North End. Villa brought their 31-year-old defender back and he is officially eligible for the New Year’s Day match with Queens Park Rangers.
Manager Dean Smith did not mince words:
Elphick began the season with Villa, playing and scoring in the club’s first league match, coincidentally against Hull, the team he would join after two further League Cup matches.
The decision to jettison Elphick by former manager Steve Bruce was a curious one given the circumstances in which he left. Elphick played well in the three games he featured, but left on-loan for Hull before Deadline Day. That left just Chester, Tuanzebe, and the oft-injured, midfielder-turned-central defender Mile Jedinak to handle the position.
It was, at the time, strange in terms of timing, and in hindsight downright stupid. I expect Elphick to slot alongside James Chester immediately until Tuanzebe returns to full health and/or another central defender is brought in. With Elphick on-board, however, Smith and Villa executives can prioritize another position first, such as left-back.
Goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic is the only signing thus far. Villa are not expected to make too many moves this January, probably 1-2 additional signings coupled with some loan moves for a few under-23 players.