There is no doubt in any Villa Fans’ mind that, for the most part, Jack Grealish is our best and most effective player. We have seen a dip in the quality of our performances, all since Jack was ruled out injured. Some Villans would argue that we are not a one-man team. While others would tell you that we just don’t tick without Grealish in the side.
During Grealish’s absence with a nasty shin injury, Dean Smith has opted to play a more defensive minded midfielder in his place. We have seen both Birkir Bjarnason and Glen Whelan come in. Neither has performed or been anywhere near as effective as Jack though.
Before his injury, we played with a deep-lying playmaker (Conor Hourihane) and a box to box midfielder (John McGinn). This setup seemed to work so much better for our side and how the manager likes us to play.
Loss of form
Another player who seemed to have been affected by the change in the system is Hourihane. A selection of the Villa faithful has pointed the finger at the Irish man and questioned his work rate. Hourihane’s passing has dropped, along with his form but I don’t think he is solely to blame. Is he just the latest scapegoat at Aston Villa?
Many others have struggled with form also. We don’t seem to keep the ball as well as we do when Grealish is in the team. This then puts more pressure on our weak defence, causing more problems at the back.
Since Jacks absence, we have only kept one clean sheet in eight games. In the eight games before his injury, we managed four in the same amount of games. Who would have thought Grealish benefits the side defensively?
Who does Smith drop?
So this leads me back to my original question. When Grealish is back fit, who does the manager drop? The defensive midfielder or an out of form Hourihane?
For me, it is a no brainer. We drop the defensive midfielder and return to a system that worked so well before his injury. We haven’t looked the same during his time away from the first team. Not only have we proved that we can keep clean sheets with him in the side like games against Middlesborough and Derby. We also proved we can score for fun.
I am hopeful that upon Grealish’s return and the return to the old system, Hourihane will return to form. On his day, Hourihane can me one of the most lethal midfielders in the division. With 8 assists and a few goals already this season, there is no reason why he can’t build on that.
Grealish will return to doing what he does best. Dragging opposition players out of position which will give Hourihane more freedom and hopefully back to his best.
Who would you drop for the return of Grealish? Hourihane or the defensive midfielder? Have your say in the comments section below.