Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert believes Ashley Westwood’s solid start to the campaign is down to the midfielder being extra motivated by the greater competition for first-team places.
Westwood has retained his place in the Villa lineup so far his season despite the summer signings of Colombian World Cup veteran Carlos Sanchez and Manchester United loanee Tom Cleverley throwing some doubt over his starting spot, missing just the 3-0 home defeat to Arsenal through illness.
A £2 million buy from Crewe Alexandra in August 2012, the 24-year-old arrived at Villa Park with some hailing him as a future England regular and, after two seasons of solid progress, Lambert thinks that the club are now starting to see him realise his undoubted potential.
‘The arrival of Sanchez has made him step up which he needs,’ the Scot told the Birmingham Mail.
‘The two years I have been here he has been so consistent.
‘He’s a lad who probably doesn’t get talked about because he makes the game look so easy.
‘He’s a really clever player.
‘He makes everything look so simple.
‘He does the easy things brilliant.
‘What I mean by that is, he can pass a two-yard ball and never give it away. Some people don’t want to do that.’
With Cleverley’s September addition creating an all-English midfield which also features now-international Fabian Delph, the trio have started together over a testing run of fixtures which has featured games against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, respectively.
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While a 1-0 win at Anfield was followed by three consecutive defeats, Lambert insists that he’s been hugely impressed by their performances and is looking forward for more to come.
‘I think Tom, Westy and Delph have been great [this season],’ he said. ‘Some of their play has been excellent.
‘I think we have a resilience about us this season and the three of them are getting better and better with every game. We’re in a good place as a team.
‘We’ve played the top four teams from last year and that’s an extremely tough fixture run to get through.’