Aston Villa Football Club’s second signing of January, Henri Lansbury, made his debut in the 2-2 draw with Preston North End on Saturday following his move across the Midlands from Nottingham Forest.
His first forty-five minutes in claret and blue were highly impressive, with the signing showcasing all his attributes and highlighting what we have been missing in midfield for far too long.
Lansbury covered most of the blades of grass on the Villa Park pitch in what was one of the best halves of football we have seen this season from the team as a whole and the performance of the former Arsenal trainee was integral to this.
It was not only the performance of Lansbury that was impressive: the performances of those around him such as Gabby Agbonlahor, Ashley Westwood and even Alan Hutton seemed to show evidence of improvement too. This cannot all be down to the arrival of Lansbury but I suspect that his presence on the pitch had a lot to do with it.
Lansbury made an all-action start to his Villa career, which was appreciated as evidenced by the big hug that manager Steve Bruce gave him during the first half. I lost count of the number of times he came back to the central defenders to give them an option or when a throw-in was taken and he made himself available. This really was refreshing and not something we usually see from Villa midfielders as sometimes it seems they would prefer to play hide-and-seek.
There were also bursts forward with and without the ball and one or two long passes which showed his ability too.
It seems we have got ourselves a bargain here in acquiring a player who has represented England at all underage levels and who was the captain of his former club. His experience and quality shone through in the way he instructed others to move and to play the ball.
It was no coincidence that as Lansbury ran out of steam so did the Villans generally. This let the visitors back into a game that after the first half they had no right to get back into.
Lansbury’s winning mentality was exemplified by hitting the dugout in frustration when he was taken off in the seventy-seventh minute, displaying his annoyance at our throwing away of a two-goal lead.
I would describe the role of Lansbury in the side as a heartbeat which we have been missing. Please do not get me wrong: he alone will not turn us into a top-six side. However, his arrival, along with the expected signing of Conor Hourihane from Barnsley and possibly one or two others as well as the return of top-scorer Jonathan Kodjia, can certainly gives us cause for optimism.