Appreciation for Bjarnason may be too late

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Since the World Cup kicked off last week, Aston Villa fans have been casting a keen eye over several current and former players making appearances for various countries. Whilst the likes of Birkir Bjarnason and Australian Mile Jedinak has impressed, the same cannot be said of ex-Villan Carlos Sanchez who was sent off for deliberate handball after 3 minutes for Colombia.

Most noticeable of all was Bjarnason’s heroic performance in Iceland’s 1-1 draw against mighty Argentina and in particular his battle with the world’s best player (sorry CR7 fans), Lionel Messi.

Bjarnason has had a strange time of things in B6. Since sealing a move from Swiss champions Basel in January 2017, he has been in and out of the team. In addition to this, when he has featured, he has been deployed in all manner of positions. Bizarrely seen as some sort of a utility man by Steve Bruce, Bjarnason was used as a left wing-back on several occasions and has also filled in at right back as well as playing on the left wing at times. This is a man who has primarily played as a centre midfielder throughout his career.

Unfairly, in my opinion, Bjarnason has received more than his fair share of the supporters disdain and was quickly labelled as not being good enough for us. There seemed to be little acceptance that he was never given a run of games and when he did feature he was constantly being played out of position. Hardly a basis to fairly judge a player on.

Jedinak is preferred over BjarnasonUnsurprisingly, the Icelander’s best form came last season when used as a holding midfielder. It is perhaps no coincidence that his most consistent run in the side in that position came during the run of games throughout January where Villa put together an impressive run of seven straight victories. Yet even still, Bjarnason was overlooked for certain games even then could justifiably feel hard done by to be dropped in favour of the aforementioned Jedinak for the 2-0 victory against Birmingham City for example.

Despite his exclusion after impressive showings, Bjarnason plugged away reliably whenever called upon. His mazy run and toe-poke finish was a delightful goal in the 4-1 rout of Wolves and he notched again in the 3-0 win against Reading in April. In fact, despite much less game time and no positional stability, he matched Jack Grealish’s tally of three goals for the campaign.

Bjarnason started just eleven games last season. I can certainly see the merit in sometimes using Jedinak at times instead. However, Bjarnason’s energy and athleticism in the middle of the park were massively underused. The playoff final especially is a perfect case in point.

Which brings us back to Iceland’s game against Argentina last weekend. Bjarnason was immense in his given task to shackle Lionel Messi. And he still carried an attacking threat himself, albeit fluffing an early golden chance to grab himself a goal.

Thor did well against MessiWhilst this was only one game, we must also look at the fact that this is a player with Champions League experience. And he’s been part of a successful international tournament team in Iceland’s incredible Euro 2016 campaign. To think that he isn’t good enough to play at Championship level for us on a consistent basis is laughable.

Whilst it is great to see Villa players doing well at the World Cup, it may be the case that we don’t want Bjarnason to be quite so eye-catching in the next couple of games. There are reports that Parma, returning back to Serie A, are looking into the possibility of making a move for him. When you’ve just done a number on the best player in the world (I’m sticking with it, Ronaldo fans), you’re going to get noticed; another impressive display in the World cup could see those raised eyebrows turn into something more.

And if an offer did come in, who could blame Bjarnason for wanting to leave? He’s currently at a club where the manager doesn’t use him correctly or consistently. And when he does play well, it still isn’t enough.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think Bjarnason is a world beater. I actually think his contribution on the ball against Argentina was fairly limited at times. But defensively he was brilliant. And he still got into excellent attacking positions despite his defensive duties.

I do believe that he is a player that could be really important to Villa if given a chance at this level and especially next season with our current financial mess we need to utilise the talent we already have at our disposal.

It would be typical of the club to lose a player through overlooking him but only realising that mistake once he’s gone. Sadly, Bjarnason may have already done enough to make that a reality.

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I'm Alex Othon; a Brummie living in London, and a realistic Villa fan. My first game was at Villa Park in 1992 against Crystal Palace. No one was available to take me except my extremely reluctant older sister. We won 3-0, and they had us hooked from that point onwards. Follow me on Twitter @lovespud83 and thanks for reading my articles and leaving any comments - always really appreciated.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve said it a few times that it was Bjarnasons goals that got Iceland into the World Cup , and some fans were too quick to judge him whilest coming back from injury
    I also think that if he had started @ Wembley we might have won

  2. Bjarnason offers far more than Whelan in my book. His contribution as a defensive midfielder may become all the more important if Jedinak gets pulled into defence.

    Bruce did not play Bjarnie in his best roll at times last season, which reflwctwd in some of his early performances. He is not a wing-back or a winger, come to that. Another example of the muddled up positioning and tactics that were employed at times last term.

    We should keep the man from Iceland, but I am not convinced Bruce would fight for him as much as some less deserved players, if truth be told.

  3. Ive been saying since the end of the season that (in my opinion obviously) its crucial for us to keep a spine of Kodjia, Grealish, Bjarnason, Chester – That spine gives you the basis for goals, creativity and a solid defence. Ideally i would have kept Johnstone too but GK is too up in the air. In fairness Bunn may prove to be decent. Then you can supplement that spine with youth we have already..i.e. Bree, Mitch Clark, Green, Blackett-Taylor, Doyle-Hayes, Hepburn-Murphy, Davis. These players will develop so much more with proper consistent 1st team football. We may just build a team to get out of this league without having to spend much. Sadly the sticking point for me is Bruce. I dont think he has the vision or bravery to use the youth players more. We could sell the likes of Adomah, Hogan, Elmo, Mccormack, Taylor, Lansbury to try and claw some money back. Lets just hope Xia can sort the finacial mess out a bit. Time will tell.

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