“If you’re willing to lose, then what’s the point of playing?” – Henri Lansbury
After a long drawn out process due to a pending takeover, possible incoming manager, agent problems and Nottingham Forest simply not wanting to let go of the midfielder, today is finally the day Villa have managed to bag the man their midfield has been crying out for.
The 26-year-old Henri Lansbury is Aston Villa’s first permanent signing of the January window, with the fee being reportedly a shade under the three million pound mark. Will Villa finally get value for money from a signing?
Is Lansbury the man to rally a late play-off bid, or at the very least, be part of the nucleus of a serious promotion team next season?
Something Villa fans have been starved of for so many years now is goals and assists from midfield. For some reason, claret and blue midfielders seem allergic to making runs past the striker or in support of and that’s a big reason why Villa have to rely on a prolific goalscorer like Jonathan Kodjia so much. However, Lansbury should change that.
The Englishman has got six goals and three assists from midfield this season for the other former European Cup winners in the league and three of those goals came in a single game, when they beat Barnsley 5-2. The fact that he bagged a hat-trick from midfield is an impressive stat in isolation.
In past seasons Lansbury’s gone on to get combined figures of assists and goals of nine last year, 15 before that and another nine in his first season for the Reds. Which really shows you why Steve Bruce is keen on him, just as Arsene Wenger was originally, when he was quoted saying that the midfielder would “be a big player” after he signed a contract at Arsenal aged 19. While Wenger later wanted to retain his services, Lansbury eventually moved on after a series of loan spells, due to the desire of playing first team football.
Another issue with Villa’s midfielders of recent times is that they’ve been lacking in physicality, and often bullied as a result by stronger opposition midfields. Especially during Paul Lambert’s reign, when smaller midfielders such as Ashley Westwood, Barry Bannan and Fabian Delph were regulars. Lansbury stands at six foot and is a dynamic and energetic force in the middle of the park, which was evident when he came to Villa Park back in September and ran large parts of the game.
Bruce certainly favours a more physical imposing midfielder, if his time at Hull is anything to go by with the likes of Tom Huddlestone (6 ft 3) and David Meyler (6 ft 3).
Captain’s Attitude and Experience
It’s clear to see the amount of passion Lansbury has by the way he celebrated his equaliser in the dying minutes at Villa Park (he also scored in the 3-3 preseason game between the sides in 2015). However, having made over 150 appearances for Forest and being their captain for a good stint of that, it’s good to know that we’ve got another leader coming in who’s experienced at this level. That now adds to the list of previous captains we have in our squad to support current captain James Chester, with players such as Mile Jedinak, Tommy Elphick and Ross McCormack being previous skippers as well.
On a side note, it’s also important to note that Gary Gardner played his best football alongside Lansbury when he was on loan at Forest, so hopefully the new recruit can influence him to kick on again, as he’s been far from impressive so far for Villa this season.
Despite the ex-England U21’s qualities, like every player, apart from Lionel Messi, he has his faults. Firstly, the amount of yellow cards he picks up leads to a fair few suspensions; over the last few four seasons for Forest he’s picked up 39 yellow cards. This season alone he’s already picked up eight and could potentially miss games through suspension.
There’s question marks about his temperament ala Jack Grealish in the way that he can get wound up by opposition players fairly easily. Although in Lansbury’s case it’s more due to his feisty presence, which actually is the kind of fight we need.
One key question is whether Villa have left it too late in the season to perform major heart surgery on the team in giving it a new midfield, if Barnsley’s Conor Hourihane joins Lansbury at the club. Is there enough time for Bruce to build an ‘actual’ team that plays in unison, rather than in the disjointed manner we’ve become accustomed to?
It’s okay getting a bunch of individuals in, but will they hit the ground running quick enough? Lansbury could come in and struggle just like McCormack has done so far. After all, this is a team that has created two or less shots on target in 11 games and has scored the least amount of goals from set plays with just three.
There’s a lot work to be done on the training pitch, never mind the transfer window and Lansbury may struggle with the pressure on his shoulders to lift a side low on confidence at the moment.
The move of the Bristol City game from January 28th, due to the Robins’ FA Cup committments, does at least mean that Lansbury will have 10 days to bed in before Villa’s next game after Preston.
The signing of Lansbury is an extremely positive one on paper as he’s got all the qualities to help Villa climb the table. He’s got a play-off final winners medal with West Ham and has bossed midfield battles for years in the centre of the park at Nottingham Forest. Hopefully with the addition of a couple of decent other signings, Villa can create a better ‘team’ and the likes of McCormack could kick on with players like Lansbury behind him.
However, as Villa fans know, recently B6 has a habit of seemingly draining players of their ability. When you come to Aston Villa, it doesn’t really matter what you’ve done before, you just have to get on with the job in hand and perform.
Certainly it’s fingers crossed that we’ve got the midfielder who rifled in that brilliant outside of the foot finish at Villa Park. If we’ve got that player and he performs, he’ll no doubt improve us immensely.
Lansbury will wear the number 5 shirt.
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