Summer signing Carlos Sanchez has had a slow start to life at Aston Villa but, with news that Fabian Delph could be sidelined for up to three months with a dislocated shoulder, the Colombian midfielder now has the chance to kick-start his Premier League career.
Signed from Spanish side Elche in mid-August for a reported £4.7 million fee, Sanchez’s impressive World Cup performances in Brazil lead to high expectations upon his arrival at Villa Park, but he has had few opportunities to showcase his worth thus far.
Making his top-flight bow as a 62nd-minute substitute in the home opener against Newcastle United, the well-regarded 28-year-old would go on to start the shock 1-0 Capital One Cup defeat to Leyton Orient, but has since seen fellow summer signing Tom Cleverley limit his first-team action.
With the Manchester United loanee an ever-present in the line-up since completing his switch at the transfer deadline, and Ashley Westwood continuing in his deeper role in an all-English midfield trio, one start in four league appearances for a total of 144 minutes is all he has to show for his efforts at this point.
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Thrust into the starting XI for last month’s 3-0 defeat to Arsenal at Villa Park after Westwood succumbed to the illness which ravaged the first-team squad, the 50-times capped international’s performance on the afternoon was somewhat concerning, and he admitted at the time that the pace of English football was a wakeup call.
‘It is strange because before I came I only saw the Premier League on television,’ he told the club’s official website.
‘Everybody used to say to me “wait and see - the Premier League is really quick.”
‘But it is only when you join it and you start to play that you realise just how quick it is.’
Having spent just two months in England, it’s perhaps no surprise that Sanchez is still adjusting but, with star man Delph going down, the time is now for him to step up.
Nicknamed “The Rock” due to his prowess in the holding role, the tenacious competitor earned comparisons to Chelsea legend Claude Makelele during his six seasons with Ligue 1’s Valenciennes before moving to La Liga last August, and that should serve as an encouraging sign for the long-term.
Paul Lambert’s side have been craving a midfielder with the South American’s skillset since former captain and fan favourite Stiliyan Petrov was forced to step away from the game after being diagnosed with acute leukaemia and, though Westwood has done a commendable job since being tasked with further defensive responsibilities last season, Villa would still like someone with more bite covering the back four.
Sanchez could no doubt be that man and, with Delph set to miss up to 11 games from now until Christmas, the coming months will be when we start to see whether he is the next Petrov or just another Yacouba Sylla, Saturday's trip to Everton being the first potential test.