I feel I so often say it when writing about a player for avillafan but the player I am writing about in the week leading up to the new season really does divide opinion among the Villa fans.

Ashley Westwood is one of my favourites at Aston Villa and it appears he is also one of our manager’s favourites. I’m really pleased with this: when Sherwood took over, it was heavily reported that Westwood would be a fall guy but he hasn’t been. As Sherwood as weened out the “losers” from the squad and others have departed by choice, Westwood, who I already felt was an important player, has become even more pivotal.

When discussing our new midfielder Jordan Veretout on AVTV, Sherwood said, “I must give a mention to Ashley Westwood. If anyone is going to get into his spot in midfield, they’re going to have be a very good player.” I see us alternating between a 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 diamond this season. Carlos Sanchez will compete with Westwood for the pivot position in both systems. I can see that Veretout and Gueye will, form dependent, be starters in both those systems.

The reason I think Westwood is going to be taking on more importance is due to the fact that the other players in central midfield are going to be adjusting. The Premier League is a different animal to any other league: the pace can be frenetic and it can also be unforgiving for a newcomer. Carlos Sanchez found out all these things early in his Villa career. Idrissa Gueye looks pretty well suited and adjusted so far but even he will need some time. Veretout, as more of a ball playing player, will certainly need time.

In a summer of upheaval, Westwood is a constant. He is entering his fourth season in the Villa midfield so his importance cannot be under estimated, especially early in the campaign. I think the same could be said for Ciaran Clark at the back, whose presence is going to be very important.

Westwood is not flashy but the good elements he brings to the Villa team often go unnoticed. He does a lot of the dirty work, his passing (particularly one touch) is effective and a lot of moves stem from him at the base of the midfield. Michael Carrick has been a player misunderstood by football fans over the years but he is one of the first picks at Manchester United when fit (well, he was until Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger arrived). The Red Devils have often struggled without him in the line-up. Like Westwood, he does not provide goals and assists in abundance but you notice how much brings when he isn’t available. I feel it’s the same with our number fifteen.

I understand those who criticise Westwood’s lack of goals and assists but in reality that isn’t his game; scoring goals in particular is not a trait you expect from a deep lying player. More assists would be nice but I believe with better players around him they may come. Ayew, Grealish and Gil should provide better movement ahead of Westwood than has been there in previous seasons, that I am sure of. Lack of movement has often let Villa down in recent years but I’m hopeful that may be about to change. If it does, some of the Westwood doubters will see what Westwood fans are able to see.

For me, Westwood’s game has improved every year and I am hopeful he will take is game up another level during the forthcoming campaign, as he has been one of our stars in pre-season. The midfield needs some stability with the new arrivals – and Westwood is the man to provide it. Despite liking Sanchez, Westwood is currently the man for that spot in the team, in my opinion.

Tim Sherwood has impressed me yet again with his actions in pre-season and his words about Westwood have gone down well. Just get Westy off set pieces: for all the good I feel he brings to the team his dead ball delivery is below par!

I am hopeful that this season every Villa fan will see the best of the West.


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