John McGinn missed out on the League Cup final as the game came too early for the Scottish midfielder following an ankle injury that has ruled him out since the defeat to Southampton in December.
However, it is thought that the £2.75 million signing from Hibernian is just ‘weeks away’ from a return which should create a lot of competition for spaces.
I am sure the current players playing in his position are well aware of how important he is to Aston Villa and just how much he is rated by manager Dean Smith. This will result in someone having to make way for the energetic Scot.
The competition should be good for Villa at a time when they need results. Smith opted for Doulas Luiz and Marvelous Nakamba against Manchester City in the League Cup Final defeat. Neither disappointed.
The issue this season has been the inconsistency from so many players at the club. This has resulted in Smith chopping and changing. You could even argue that only maybe three (Tyrone Mings, Matt Targett and Jack Grealish) outfield players are guaranteed their spots when the manager names his side each week.
Conor Hourihane was introduced late on against City on Sunday but fellow midfielder Henri Lansbury had to settle for a place on the bench.
Who makes way?
So with McGinn taking up one of the available two midfield spots going on the formation that Smith opted for the weekend. Who else will get the nod?
I have a feeling it will be Nakamba. The Zimbabwe midfielder has improved as the season has progressed and may just edge it above Luiz.
I am a big fan of Luiz but I feel his inconsistency will go against him. He is a very talented player and I have no doubt that in a better side he would comfortably command a starting spot but he is what I would regard as a luxury player.
Hourihane seems to have fallen out of favour recently but we all know how dangerous he can be from a set-piece. Something the other midfield options don’t really possess. What goes against the Ireland international is that he seems to have more of an impact off the bench than he does when he starts.
Then we have Lansbury. He has struggled to get into the team despite McGinn missing for three months and I fully expect to see him move on in the summer providing there are takers.
Even fan favourite Alan Hutton believes that McGinn will return to the first team once he is fit and the others that play in his position will be well aware of it:
“Look, I think it’s one of those ones when your top players are fit, they play,”
“I think he comes straight back in, as soon as the manager thinks he’s ready to play, he’ll play, I think he gives so much and that is no disrespect to anybody else who’s playing.
“Whether it be Douglas Luiz, Marvelous Nakamba, Conor Hourihane – whoever comes in and plays, everybody knows as soon as he’s fit, he gives so much to the team that when he’s fit he has to play.”
Who do you think Smith will opt for?