Aston Villa are gearing up for what could be a huge season for the Midland’s club. Manager Steve Bruce invested heavily in his squad last January, not least in the midfield area.
As a result, the Villans have only made a few signings in this department during the off-season.
Midfield is a vital area in any game of football, but especially in the Championship due to the league’s rough and tumble nature.
With Villa’s season kicking off in just under a week, here’s a look at the options available to Bruce, and which players are expected to start regularly over the next nine months.
1. Defensive Midfielders
Aston Villa’s most expensive summer signing to date is Glenn Whelan, who moved to Villa Park for £1.5m. The Irish international will most probably be a regular feature in the centre of Aston Villa’s midfield, potentially in place of Mile Jedinak.
The former Crystal Palace captain is still recovering from an injury sustained on international duty this summer, and he will miss the start of the season.
At 33, Whelan is unlikely to play every game this season, so Jedinak still has a big role to play for Villa, especially if Bruce opts to play with two holding midfielders. In this case, the Australian would most probably start alongside Whelan.
Villa’s only other first team option in this area is Gary Gardner, but the 25-year-old is expected to leave Villa Park this summer, with Nottingham Forest monitoring the situation.
Should Villa require additional cover in this department, a number of the more attack-minded players could drop into a deeper role, or Villa could look to their youth squad, with players such as Jordan Lyden and Jake Doyles-Hayes available to Bruce.
2. Attacking Midfielders
Villa are spoilt for choice in this area, with Henri Lansbury, Conor Hourihane and Bikir Bjarnason all vying for one starting spot.
In all likelihood, Lansbury will claim a first team place in the centre of the park, due to his experience, determination and technical ability.
However, Hourihane and Bjarnason are both very talented and offer a slightly more creative option to Landsbury. Therefore, the duo are expected to feature heavily this season.
Midfielders Jordan Veretout and Aaron Tshibola have departed the club in recent weeks, meaning the trio face little competition from the rest of the squad.
Leandro Bacuna will most likely offer back up to in the central areas if required, as well as Villa’s various youth players, who it is believed will feature heavily over the next nine months.
There has been much speculation surrounding what shape Steve Bruce will deploy this season, with it being muted he may play a 3-5-2 shape, which could result in a lack of game time for the club’s wide-midfielders.
However, Villa have played 4-4-2 throughout pre-season and given the squad’s depth in this area, it looks likely Bruce will use wingers during the season.
Summer signing Ahmed Elmohamady is expected to start for Villa regularly this year, and unless he fills in at full-back, he could occupy the right-midfield birth.
This would likely limit the game time given to Albert Adomah and Leandro Bacuna, whose preferred position is on the right flank.
Bacuna in particular has been linked with a move away from Villa Park this summer, but his versatility could see him remain at B6 beyond the current transfer window.
On the left hand side, youth team graduates Jack Grealish and Andre Green look set to compete for a place in the first team.
Green has been one of Villa’s standout performers in pre-season, whilst Grealish’s quality is undeniable. It is likely that both will feature heavily for Villa due to Championship’s heavy fixture schedule, and the need to rotate the squad.
Assessing Aston Villa's midfield options ahead of the 2017/18 season.