Since the turn of the year, Aston Villa has been flying and we’ve finally gotten ourselves into the race for an automatic promotion place. Manager Steve Bruce has more or less seemingly found his best eleven and the consistency we’ve been looking for may well just be coming together at the right time.However, for each mainstay in the side, someone must fall by the wayside. And perhaps none have fallen further than Henri Lansbury.
Certain players have really flourished over the last few months. For me, Robert Snodgrass has dragged us over the line in several games. Conor Hourihane has really grown into the shirt and perhaps even still remains slightly underrated by many. And Jack Grealish also seems to have finally added a work ethic to his undeniable talent on the ball and has been controlling games. Birkir Bjarnason also deserves an honourable mention for his efforts in a defensive midfield position.
Lansbury’s disappearance from the first team has been bizarre if only for the fact that it has been so far under the radar. For a player who really should be a permanent fixture in a team at this level, the truth is that the ex-Arsenal man hasn’t even really been missed.
That is, of course, due to the blossoming form of his teammates. However, Lansbury now faces a very uncertain future at Villa Park.
Injuries have hampered his progress this season. A knee injury around mid-September sidelined him until the end of November. Then a hamstring niggle kept him out for another month or so over Christmas.
Yet despite these setbacks, it is fair to say that we have only really seen glimpses of the form that had several leading Championship clubs vying for Lansbury’s signature back in January of last year.
Signing for around £3million from Nottingham Forest, it seemed that we had pulled off a bit of a bargain. A goalscoring midfielder with a tenacious work rate, Lansbury was also Forest’s captain and welcoming another leader into our fold seemed like an added bonus.
Lansbury was pretty much an ever-present for the remainder of last season after joining in January. Yet it always felt that we never really got to see the best of him. To be fair though, nobody else particularly did very well either as Villa ambled to a disappointing mid-table finish.
It’s difficult to say whether if he had been fit this season Lansbury would finally have prospered as others seemingly have done. Apart from rescuing a 1-1 draw at Elland Road against Leeds United back in December with a sweet 18-yard effort, it would be difficult to put together a meaningful highlights reel of his magic moments so far in a Villa shirt.
Now with the season drawing to a close it, appears that Lansbury’s stay in B6 may end up being a brief one. Of course, much will be determined by the division that Villa end up playing in come August. It is hard to see the former England U21 player being kept on board should we be lucky enough to make it out of the Championship.
However, if the unthinkable happens and we fail to gain promotion, then Lansbury may well find himself back in the fold. It is unlikely that Villa will have the funds to rebuild all over yet again. We’d need to utilise the existing talent at our disposal. At 27 years of age and with plenty of experience at this level, we may well do worse than holding onto a player who we know can be very capable.
It’s difficult to see exactly how Lansbury fits in though. And that has probably been the problem since arriving at Villa Park really. I’m not sure where he is best played or really what sort of midfielder he is. He’s been described as a box-to-box player. He has said himself that he prefers playing in a more advanced position, but he doesn’t quite fit the number 10 playmaker mould either. He isn’t a defensive midfielder, although he picks up plenty of bookings through his committed tackling.
This identity crisis is one of the factors that is holding Lansbury back in my opinion. For me, he is a fairly solid midfield option. But it is difficult to pinpoint his strongest position and role within the midfield. He passes the ball well, but that isn’t enough. And it’s difficult to see him being more effective in an advanced central role than Grealish or Hourihane are right now.
Lansbury has found himself back on the bench in the last few games. But with just twelve matches remaining this season, he is running out of time to really show what he can do. And if he does feature from the bench it is going to be difficult for him to get any consistency with bit part appearances.
It feels like we’re missing a trick with Lansbury though. There is talent there, but it always seems to just bubble beneath the surface rather than come to the fore. But that in itself also seems to sum up Lansbury’s career to date. There has been promise wherever he has been, glimpses of superb passing and outstanding goals. Yet, the fireworks that were expected have never really materialised.
Whispers are already beginning to circulate about his future and right at this moment, it seems very uncertain indeed. Lansbury’s time at Villa Park may end up being nothing more than another stop off in a career that promised much but ultimately failed to deliver.