Having struggled to break into the line-up during his first few months at Aston Villa, summer signing Carlos Sanchez now looks to be developing into the holding midfielder the club have been longing for in recent seasons.
Signed from Spanish side Elche in mid-August for a reported £4.7 million fee, it took Sanchez nine games into the season to establish a place in Paul Lambert’s first-choice XI but, after getting more comfortable with the pace of the Premier League, the Colombia international has since proven one of the team’s most reliable performers.
In fact, the tenacious enforcer has rivalled some of the best in the division at his position in recent weeks, and would have no doubt received more recognition for his efforts were it not for Villa’s poor run of results.
|From December 1||Team||Total Key Passes||Total Passes GAME||Passing Accuracy||Total Tackles GAME||Duels Won GAME||Duel Success||Interceptions GAME||Touches GAME||Dispossessed GAME||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Carlos Sánchez||Aston Villa||6||72.13||89%||3.63||7.25||60%||1.75||85.63||1||8||685|
|Mile Jedinak||Crystal Palace||5||43.5||62%||2.17||9.17||66%||4||62.17||0.17||6||540|
|Michael Carrick||Manchester United||4||61.75||90%||1.5||2.5||54%||1.75||69.13||0.13||8||692|
Now fulfilling the expectations fans harboured for him at Villa Park after witnessing his stellar World Cup campaign, Sanchez should be one of the Claret and Blue’s building blocks moving forward, whether under the beleaguered Lambert or another manager, and there is good reason to believe that there is still much more to come from him.
“I think he's getting better," Lambert told the club's official site last month.
"Carlos has only played half a dozen or so games in England. I think he's adapted brilliantly to it.
"He's come from Spain. He's had a long year due to the World Cup. But he's a right top player. Once he finds his feet, gets the language really good - it's getting better... Carlos is a top player."
Set to turn 29 next month, Sanchez might not be a fresh-faced up-and-comer but, in Villa’s inexperienced squad that looks set to lose both Ron Vlaar and Fabian Delph at some stage over the coming months, that detail is far from a negative.
Nicknamed ‘The Rock’ due to his defensive prowess, the former Valenciennes stalwart earned comparisons to idol Claude Makelele during his six seasons with the French club before moving to Spain, and fans would be more delighted if he could come close to replicating the Chelsea legend’s top-fight performances in the West Midlands.