Villa were heavily linked with the Crewe skipper, believed to be the favourites to sign him a month or so back. This week Leeds United pipped them to it, with a good offer that took him up to the Yorkshire based club.
However, it’s a deal Villa shouldn’t be too bothered about missing out on because they have a player in Ashley Westwood who is good enough to dominate that midfield area next season.
Westwood himself was signed from Crewe and he was thrown in at the deep end during his first season with the Premier League club, making 28 starts and two sub appearances.
Early on, he looked a little out of his depth but soon got to grips with the standard of football and is now shaping up to be a very important player for the club.
On the one hand, it would have been good for Westwood to have some serious competition for his place, especially from a player that he already knows, and even renew his partnership which helped Crewe get promoted from League Two.
On the other hand, he now has the chance to grow into the best central midfielder for the club, assured of his position under Paul Lambert and safe in the knowledge that he’s going to get a chance to maintain his form from last season.
Westwood is deceptively effective in the Villa midfield, as he produced six assists last season with a pass completion rate of just under 85%.
He’s got a bit of everything, forming the image of a nearly complete midfielder; he tackles, he reads the game well and he makes sensible decisions in key situations inside the opponent’s final third.
There shouldn’t be any worries that he’s going to take his foot off the gas because he doesn’t have someone breathing down his neck for his place in the side.
He’s created an impressive early reputation, making a huge jump in the level of opposition he was facing week in week out. The fans now expect good consistent football from Westwood and he’s created that level of healthy pressure for himself.
He was even tipped by Aston Villa supporters as the player to watch next season, as this current side are expected to develop and grow, eradicating the chance of a repeat of the struggles which appeared last season.
Murphy would have been a quality signing but the fact Lambert didn’t aggressively go after that deal in the face of Leeds United’s interest, is a tribute to the impact Westwood has had and the effect he’s expected to have over the coming season.
Westwood is definitely better off for the experience he’s just gone through, as Villa struggled last season and he now has the chance to develop aided by the fact he’s not about to be replaced.
Is missing out on Murphy a blessing in disguise? How will Westwood get on next season?
image: © ell brown