The bad news that Villa and England midfielder Fabian Delph is facing a spell on the sidelines following an awkward fall at Bodymoor Heath that led to a shoulder injury was confirmed yesterday. It is believed that Delph will now have surgery on his shoulder, which certainly is not positive news for anyone concerned. Delph now has a lot of time to ponder his contract offer before he plays again but I will look at the possible alternatives at the heart of the Villa midfield.
There is now a gap alongside Ashley Westwood and Tom Cleverley. Who are the candidates to fill the void left by the injured England international?
The first name that springs to mind would be our summer signing, Carlos Sanchez. He struggled in his full debut against Arsenal but, in fairness to him, he was thrown in at the last minute following Ashley Westwood’s withdrawal from the squad due to illness. Delph’s injury could be advantageous to Sanchez as he looks for some game time in the Premier League to help him settle to the pace of the English game alongside Westwood and Cleverley.
He was nicknamed ‘The Rock’ at his previous club, Elche, and has a good reputation following a positive World Cup in Brazil during the summer, where his Columbia team fell to Brazil in the quarter finals. He is yet to be given a proper chance in claret and blue but this could be the perfect opportunity for Sanchez to get some decent games under his belt and he will find the tempo slower than he experienced against Arsenal.
Another player who comes to mind is Leandro Bacuna, a midfielder who has rarely played in that position for Aston Villa. Our make-shift right back of last season could be in with a shout of playing in the middle of the park, the preferred position for the Dutchman. He proved last season that he knows where the back of the net is, scoring in games against the likes of Manchester City and Everton.
Another thing that we would get with Bacuna is pace from the midfield – something that will need to be replaced in Delph’s absence. He is an excellent free-kick taker too, which saw him hit the target on a number of occasions last term, making it tricky for opposing goalkeepers to stop his efforts. Bacuna is another possibility for Paul Lambert and Roy Keane to consider as we go into a run of ‘winnable’ games.
A possibility for the manager to consider would be making the drastic move of bringing in nineteen-year-old Jack Grealish. If Grealish does play, it is likely that Kieran Richardson would drop back into central midfield but it would be an exciting move nevertheless. What better way to show faith in someone you have recently given a four year contract to than to give him a run of games to allow him to gain some confidence in the Premier League?
The issue with Grealish is that Lambert and Keane may not believe he is ready to start games at the top level, which would be understandable. However, this may feel like a wasted opportunity for Grealish and Villa alike if he is not given a more prominent role in the first team.
Aston Villa have some good options to call on to cover for Fabian Delph while he is injured and it will be intriguing to see which option Lambert goes for. Will any of the players I have suggested be used or will Lambert come from left field with another plan? It will hopefully be exciting to see Delph’s temporary replacement but I for one can’t wait to see Fabian Delph back playing in a Villa shirt and I wish him a speedy recovery.