What happened to Henri Lansbury at Aston Villa?
Photo [cropped]:James Cumberpatch, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Midfielder Henri Lansbury was left out of Aston Villa's matchday squad for Friday’s 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers. He sat out a Championship game for the 11th time this season. Yet to rack up a single minute in the division, Lansbury made Villa’s bench only five times. Clearly, he hasn’t done enough to impress new manager Dean Smith.
Nottingham Forest deeply regretted selling the 28-year-old. Local media Lansbury as a “complete Championship midfielder" by local media, albeit with the caveat that he struggles with consistency and confidence. Is that why he hasn't been appreciated at Villa?
Positional problems under Steve Bruce
Lansbury was a regular at Villa following his signing in January 2017, racking up 18 appearances from a possible 20 in the Championship. He largely underwhelmed, however. Steve Bruce may be the reason why. The ex-Villa boss frequently rotated his squad to operate in different positions. Some players aren't that flexible. It had an adverse effect on Lansbury.
The former England U21 international is an attacking mid who plays between the lines and creates opportunities in the final third. Under Bruce, he was tasked to operate in a deeper role with more defensive duties. Lansbury has been used as a box-to-box player and isn’t a stranger to tackles, but it was apparent his role needed to be simplified.
The midfielder's scored twice in 31 appearances in all competitions at Villa. It’s not a stretch to say Lansbury hasn’t hit the heights expected upon his arrival. John McGinn’s switch from Hibernian pushes Lansbury further down the pecking order.
All is not lost
Dean Smith announced he isn't closing the door to players on the periphery in the previous regime. He recently revealed he staged an intra-squad friendly so exiled stars might impress.
We had an internal game that allowed me to look at players like Henri Lansbury and James Bree, who've not had match exposure. It gave them all an opportunity to show me, Richard (O'Kelly) and John (Terry) what they're about. It was really good.
This is good news for Lansbury. he knows there's an opportunity to work his way into the starting lineup if he’s willing. The midfielder is shy of match fitness given he’s made only six appearances, all told, but Smith has included him in two of four league outings. There’s still competition for places. McGinn, Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane and Birki Bjarnason all battle for playing time, but Lansbury can yet resurrect his Villa career.
Smith favours an attractive, attacking style, encouraging his sides to maintain high levels of possession. Lansbury is a cultured footballer who should fit Smith's mould perfectly when at his best. He also represents insurance against the near-certainty that Jack Grealish will be head-hunted in the near future. That said, the talented playmaker can't afford to rest on his laurels. The work must start now. nor can he relax with the first success. Consistency is the only ticket to bigger things. Villa were meant to be getting a bargain in 2017. Bargains signal value. To date, Lansbury's just been a write-off.